Posted on: May 30, 2016 at 11:26 am
Last updated: September 25, 2017 at 9:50 am

This awesome guest post was written by Kelly Agnew, a marketer by day and a wellness blogger & nutrition student by night. You can check out her website here!

Who here likes a cold sore? Nope. No one… I mean, what’s there to like anyway? They’re painful, uncomfortable, and not exactly pretty. Wouldn’t it be great if they could magically disappear forever? Why do we get cold sores, anyway?

What is a cold sore?

Cold sores are small blisters that appear on the lips or around the mouth. Characterized by red, swollen and blistered skin, they are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1). The virus can enter the body via broken skin or inside the mouth, and often is spread through saliva while kissing, sharing utensils, etc.

Some people have the virus and are asymptomatic, but others find that symptoms are triggered by stress, poor eating habits, illness and more. Frequently an unhealthy gut and an imbalance of beneficial bacteria can further trigger symptoms.

How can I get rid of them?

There is no known cure for cold sores, but there are some things you can do to prevent them, or at least help them heal quicker when they rear their ugly heads.


Overall, a healthy and proper diet is very important to maintain a positive and balanced gut flora. Saying goodbye to refined sugars and carbohydrates, and other junk foods, can do wonders for your body in more ways than you know. In addition to improving your diet, there are other things you can do to prevent cold sores.

Lysine and Arginine

Lysine and arginine are amino acids – the building blocks of protein that we eat and the protein found in our body. Interestingly, they play a role in HSV-1 and the activation of cold sore symptoms.

The way that a virus typically works, is that it invades a health cell in your body, and hijacks it. HSV-1 really likes living in an environment where there is more L-arginine than lysine, because this protein helps it thrive. Conversely, the healthy cells in our body need more of the amino acid L-lysine.

Arginine and Lysine compete in the body. If the virus prefers arginine, and our cells prefer lysine, we should ensure that we eat more lysine than arginine – in other words, have a higher lysine-to-arginine ratio in our diet. Having more lysine in our bodies can help us prevent cold sores.

Foods with higher lysine-to-arginine ratio:

  • Select fruits, such as papaya, mango, apricot, apple
  • Select vegetables like beets, tomato, turnips
  • Butter
  • Fish like salmon, haddock and tuna
  • Chicken

Foods with lower lysine-to-arginine ratio:

  • Nuts and seeds, including walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, sesame seeds
  • Select fruits like blackberries, blueberries, grapes
  • Fruit juices
  • Grains, such as wheat and oats
  • Chocolate

The role of Vitamin C

Vitamin C also plays a role in cold-sore management. Since vitamin C is immune-boosting, it helps to keep you healthy and can reduce the effects of viruses. Vitamin C is also known to help improve the skin and can heal the skin more quickly. This is especially beneficial if you have a cold sore developing and want it to heal.

Since your body doesn’t store vitamin C, it’s important that you consume it on a daily basis. Foods that are high in vitamin C include red peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, brussels sprouts and strawberries.

Top 3 Home Remedies for Cold Sores

Lysine supplements

As we know, our bodies prefer lysine as opposed to arginine which is preferred by the virus. If we supplement with lysine on a daily basis, we may prevent cold sores from arising. According to this study, 1000 mg of L-Lysine, 3 times per day for 6 months, was successful at reducing the occurence, severity and healing time of cold sores. Lysine can also be applied topically, directly to the cold sore, to speed up healing time.

Zinc support


Like vitamin C, Zinc is an immune system booster. In this study, participants were treated topically with varying doses zinc-sulfate. In conclusion, the use of zinc-sulfate 0.05% reduced the recurrence of cold sores by 60% over 6 months. Zinc-sulfate 0.05% was concluded to be a viable treatment for cold sores.

Tea tree & Lemon balm oils

The use of essential oils can be an effective way to treat cold sores. Essential oils are known to be able to permeate cell membranes, allowing them to attack the virus head-on. As seen in this study, some compounds in essential oils have the ability to inactivate the virus. According to the results, tea tree oil was the most effective of these oils.

In an additional study, lemon balm was shown to be effective at treating cold sores if applied during early stages of the infection. It can help to reduce redness and swelling within a couple of days.



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Kelly Agnew
Health Expert
A holistic nutritionist in the making, Kelly is a marketer by day and a wellness blogger + nutrition student by night. She is passionate about inspiring women to take control of their lives by balancing nutrition, exercise and general well-being. She shares her stories in hopes to inspire others to live holistically and fully.

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