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Condition - Cold Sores

Herpes simplex

By Cathy Robinson BSc(Hons) DipNutMed MWNMS

Cold sores are the result of the herpes simplex virus. They appear as small blisters around the mouth and lips and may last for up to two weeks. Other symptoms that can accompany the blisters include fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes and pain. After the initial infection the virus lies dormant, and can be re-activated as a result of minor infections, local trauma, stress, sun exposure, nutritional deficiencies, or any circumstance where the immune system is compromised.


  • Antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin C, zinc and selenium may help to support the immune system. Vitamin C is best taken with bioflavonoids.
  • Special immune formulations containing extra vitamin C and zinc plus extracts from bilberry and black elderberry  may be helpful.
  • The body’s supply of the amino acid glutamine, which supports  immune cells, is quickly used up when fighting infection.
  • Essential fatty acids of the Omega 3 series are converted within the body to substances that may help to regulate immune response. Fish oil is a good source of Omega 3.
  • Lysine is an amino acid known to inhibit the herpes virus. The duration of infection may be reduced with the addition of extra lysine in the diet.
  • A high potency olive leaf extract containing d-calcium elenolate may be helpful.
  • Research has shown that Aloe vera supports healthy immune function.
  • Garlic is well known for its many health-giving benefits, especially when taken  at high levels.  It may also help to support a healthy immune system.

Diet and lifestyle

  • Emphasise organic vegetables and fruits, chicken, oily fish, and plenty of fluids, including water and herb teas, particularly Cat's claw tea, which may be beneficial for the immune system. 
  • Avoid sugars, saturated fats, stimulants, additives and preservatives. 
  • Skin brushing helps to stimulate the circulation of lymph around the body, clearing waste and supporting immune function. Do this before your shower or bath. Use a natural bristle brush, and brush gently in the direction of your heart.
  • The amino acid lysine appears to inhibit the virus whereas the amino acid arginine can encourage it. A diet rich in lysine and poor in arginine may be helpful. Lysine is abundant in animal protein, whereas arginine is found in vegetable proteins such as nuts, bread, lentils and seeds as well as dark chocolate.  It is best to avoid arginine-rich foods during active infection but since these foods are largely beneficial to the immune system they may be included in the diet once the infection is over. 
  • Arginine rich foods include: almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, buckwheat, pecans, sesame seeds, lentils, chocolate, oats, cashews, walnuts and linseeds.  Lysine rich foods include: beef, cheddar cheese, chicken, turkey, halibut, salmon, sardines and tuna.  Arginine/Lysine balanced foods include:bacon, green beans, eggs, chickpeas, pork, brown rice and soya beans. 

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