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That Warning Tingle - Cold Sores

Echinacea spp. Herbal support for HSV-1
That warning tingle - Cold sores

During warmer weather, that warning tingle can be something we can feel more often. This tingle then bursts forth into a full blown blister that then bursts, leaving you with a lovely looking sore. 

This usually happens at the most in opportune of times.

To understand how we can help reduce the frequency and possibly prevent cold sores, we need to better understand the virus that causes it.

Cold sores are caused by - Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV I).

This is a virus that will hide within the nerve cells waiting until the right conditions occur for it to replicate, then it will travel up the nerve cell to the affect area. 

This type of virus is termed a latent virus. 

Once you have caught a latent virus you will always carry it.  

The virus can be easily spread through sharing cutlery, drink bottles, personal items such as razors, towels and of course kissing or facial contact.

The first outbreak you may feel like you have a virus (which of course you do, although this isn't necessarily the case in future breakouts). 

You may have a fever, sore throat, headache, achy muscles and have swollen lymph glands.  You will feel a tingle, itching or burning sensation in the affected area for a few days, prior to the blisters forming. The blisters are filled with fluid.  This can last for a few days, after which the blisters burst, with the released fluid crusting over forming a sore.

These are usually at the bottom corner of the mouth, however it can also affect other areas of the face, including near your eyes. This can potentially affect your vision and should be considered serious.

So what will cause the HSV I virus to begin replicating?

During the warmer weather, it is sun exposureEspecially if you are out in the sun to long and have sun damage. This will create a reaction within the immune system which is what allows the virus to begin replicating.

When your immune system is under load. This will usually happen during winter when you have caught a cold or flu.

STRESS and fatigue. Stress and fatigue will reduce the immune systems ability to work well. This may mean that you do not fight off colds and flu's as well as what you would if you had less stress and are well rested.

Hormonal changes.​This can be during times of pregnancy and menopause, although some women may find it can happen around their cycle, particularly if they have a combination of the above environmental factors as well.

So now that we understand about the virus and how it works, we can now look at how we can help prevent its replication.  


The HSV will use the body's arginine stores to aid in its replication processes.  Lysine is thought to interfere with viruses ability to absorb arginine making it unavailable to the virus and therefore the virus is unable to complete its replication cycle. 

In a review of clinical evidence by Venthan & Sanketh (2017), they suggest that 3g daily of Lysine may reduce the recurrent rate of cold sore outbreaks. They also said that there was no evidence to show that lysine was effective in treating an active outbreak of cold sores.  Although many do find supplementing with Lysine does reduce outbreaks.

A low arginine diet may be a help addition during time of an outbreak.  

These foods include:

Red Meat, fish and chicken

Grains, nuts and seeds

Dairy products 

Chocolate and Legumes

Foods that are higher in lysine include:

Brewers yeast, lentils and soy beans

Potential side effects of taking lysine include having abdominal pain, diarrohea, cramps, nausea, kidney issues and gallstones.  This is because the absorption happens within the intestines.

There is currently no evidence to support lysine being taken during pregnancy or while breast feeding, so it is therefore not currently recommended.  

It is otherwise generally safe when taken within the recommended dosage range.


Herbs can be both simultaneously supporting our immune system while targeting a virus within our systems.


Echinacea comes in two forms, the flower tops and the root. Ideally you would want a combination of both of these parts for it to be an effective blend.

In in vitro studies, echinacea has been shown to be an effective treatment against the HSV I (Braun and Cohen, 2010).

Echinacea also has depurative qualities which can aid in the remove of viral waste.  It also works as an anti inflammatory and has immune balancing properties which can help aid the body in the healing process (Bone, 2003).

Olive Leaf 

Olive leaf has an affinity for upper respiratory conditions as well as protecting the cardiovascular system. However, it also has anti viral, anti microbial and anti fungal abilities.

In a study done by Motamedifar et. al (2007), they put forth that hydroalcoholic extracts (tinctures) of Olive leaves has anti HSV I properties like due to its ability to help prevent it entering into the cell.  


Astragalus has the ability to help support your body during times of stress as well as looking after the immune system and its antiviral properties. So this  maybe a great herb for people that are getting reoccurring outbreaks due to stress.


Has strong properties to help fight viral infections, particularly envelope viruses such as HSV I .In an Alternative Medicine review (2005), Sambucus nigra was found to stop viral replication ​of the HSV I, however more human trials are needed.  

St Johns Wort

Usually known for its mood enhancing effects, St Johns wort is actually a very good antiviral herb (Braun and Cohen, 2010).  It is particularly good again like elderberry for envelope viruses.  The main caution/consideration with this herb is that if you are already taking anti depressant medication that you should not take this herb, unless supervised by a qualified practitioner.  


Both of these nutrients are very much needed by our immune systems.

Vitamin C is not made within the human body, therefore we must supplement.  Many people have said to me, but I eat a lot of fruit I should be OK. Fruit contains between 35-55 mg per piece. Our bodies require a lot more than this daily. Especially during times of infection or viral over load your body will require more of this vitamin.

It will help with your body producing white blood cells and having an antioxidant effect on the body's cells. Having 1-3000 mg daily can be of benefit.

Zinc is an element that we do not need a lot of but it can make a difference to how well our immune system functions. The RDI is 14 mg, however the upper limit is 40 mg daily. Zinc helps with cellular definition including DNA and RNA structure. As a virus will target these parts of our cells while they replicate, zinc is of benefit.

You may also like to consider:

  • Having one set of cutlery and a cup for the person with the outbreak so as not to spread further

  • Avoid kissing/face contact with the person.  This can be hard for children, especially encouraging them not to touch the effected area if they have picked this up from daycare. 

  • Avoid sharing pillows, towels etc, as well as taking care to wash all of these once the outbreak is over.  

I hope you have found this article helpful and it will bring some relief for you or your family.

Disclaimer: This article does not take the place of medical advice from your doctor. Always consult your GP or medical health practitioner before commencing any herbal treatments as there can be many herb/drug interactions.  


Alternative Medical Review (2005), Sambucus nigra, Vol 10, Issue1.  

Bone, K. (2003), A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs; Churchill Livingstone

Braun L., Cohen M. (2010), Herbs and Natural Supplements - An evidence based guide, 3rd edition; Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier

Motamedifar, M., et al (2007), The effect of hydroalcoholic extra of olive leaves against herpes simplex 1 virus, vol. 32, Issue 4, Pg 222-226, Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences.

Venthan, M., Rampes, S. (2017), Lysine for Herpes Simplex Prophylaxis: A Review of the evidence; Vol. 16, Issue 3, IMCJ.


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