Posted on

Managing Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex)

If you are a sufferer of cold sores you will know how unsightly and painful they can be. Not only that, they often tend to appear during times of stress and that might be right when you have a job interview or are going to a wedding!

Cold sores appear either as a cluster of tiny blisters or one large blister on or around your lips or nose, although can appear in other places as well. Often they will start with a tingling, burning or itching sensation and it can seem that no matter what you do, those sores will appear. After the blisters break a crust forms and it can take up to 7-10 days to heal.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) which is closely related to the virus that causes genital herpes (HSV-2). Both of these viruses can produce blisters around the mouth or on the genitals.

Cold sores are very contagious so infection can easily be passed by sharing towels, razors and eating utensils, as well as by touching or kissing. Oral sex can spread HSV-1 to the genitals and HSV-2 to the lips. The sores are most contagious when they are open, so you should avoid close contact with people with weakened immune systems, such as newborn babies and people undergoing chemotherapy.

What triggers outbreaks?

There are many factors that can trigger a cold sore outbreak, and really we’re talking about anything that lowers the immune system, so:

  • An acute illness
  • A period of stress or exhaustion
  • Around the menstrual cycle
  • Some people are very sensitive to sunlight, which can also cause an outbreak

Management of Cold Sores

As I always say, ongoing bouts of anything require constitutional treatment with your homeopath, to address the underlying susceptibility and strengthen the immune system. The focus of homeopathy is not on treating the herpes infection as a separate problem, but on treating the person as a whole. This is because the cold sores are often just one symptom suffered by an individual and there are usually other physical or emotional symptoms which also need to be addressed in the scheme of things. The remedy you are prescribed by your homeopath will match the whole picture of your symptoms, not just the cold sores, and will strengthen your overall health.

Acute remedies can be very helpful in that first stage when you are freaking out because you’re off to a major social function, and also during the healing process.

There are a number of remedies that can bring fast relief from cold sores. For best results it is important to pick the remedy that most closely fits your symptom picture. Again, if this is not working for you, you need to contact your homeopath for a more individualised remedy, as I’ve listed a very small selection from thousands (at official last count 7700!) of possible remedies!

Other Tips for Cold Sores

Essential oil dabbed on the sores can be helpful, although occasionally painful. EO experts will no doubt point you in the direction of a particular oil, but experience says that any oil will do if you don’t have the right one at that point in time! Suggested oils are broad: Tea tree, Melissa, Lavender, Bergamot, Rose, Hyssop, Myrrh, Geranium and, my favourite for everything, Peppermint.

Lysine, an amino acid, can be helpful generally and particularly during outbreaks, if taken as soon as symptoms appear. Some people take this supplement most of the time if they are a chronic sufferer, but this says a more indepth look with your homeopath is required.

Some foods are naturally high in Lysine, so feel free to increase at this time, if appropriate:

  • Most Vegetables and fruits
  • Fish, Chicken, Lamb and Beef
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Sprouts
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth

Arginine, another amino acid, is something to avoid if you are prone to cold sores or having an outbreak. Which foods are high in Arginine?

  • All nuts, nut butters and nut products
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Seeds (except hemp and flax)
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown Rice
  • Raisins
  • Whole Wheat and White flour
  • Carob
  • Lentils
  • Wheat germ
  • Dried beans including soybeans and tofu
  • Protein shakes, multivitamins and body building supplements that contain arginine
  • I’d also recommend avoiding dairy because of its tendency to suppress immune function

Boost your Immune System with our Immune Boost Combination, vitamin C, Zinc, Colloidal Minerals or whatever your preferred support protocol is.

Homeopathic Remedies for Cold Sores

The first remedies I tend to think of for cold sores are Natrum Mur, Rhus Tox and Sepia. There are lots more and you do need to match the remedy to the picture for best results, so I’ve listed some other remedies below.

At the first sign of symptoms, take your chosen remedy every 10 minutes for five doses, then reduce as symptoms improve. If things are still progressing after five doses, consider another remedy or call your homeopath. Don’t forget that the constitutional remedy your homeopath has chosen for you is often your best bet, as it fits you as an individual and will boost your immune system at this time. However, speak to your homeopath before self-medicating!

Our Cold Sore Combination – is an easy go-to oral dose if you don’t want to work out a single remedy. There are many dab on products, but there is always the risk of cross contamination with cold sores and I do think that the internal immune stimulation of a remedy is better than a balm or cream.

Main Remedies

Nat Mur – This is the first remedy I always think of for cold sores and if it fits the picture it can be really helpful. Sores are transparent, sometimes described as pearly. They are painful and often appear around the lips, on the chin, at the corners of the nose or in the beard area. They may be worse from emotional stress, exposure to the sun and during an acute illness.

Rhus tox – Small burning, intensely itchy lesions, containing a clear, yellow fluid. The lesions may be swollen and look angry. They have a tendency to break open, suppurate and leave a yellow crust. They may appear on the lips, nose, behind the ears and on the hands and may be worse for cold or cold/damp weather.

Sepia – These lesions may be accompanied with chapped, raw or cracked skin, particularly on the lower lip. The vesicles may crust and also crack. They may be worse with the menstrual period, may appear on a regular basis and can be worse in the spring.

Other Useful Remedies

Apis mellifica – Swelling (like a bee sting) with stinging and burning, where pain is better for cold applications.

Arsenicum Album – These blisters may be intensely burning but feel better for heat. While you won’t be treating this at home, the herpes may spread into the eye so the remedy can be a useful adjunct to other support. The sores may break open and cause small ulcers which may be worse at night.

Cantharis – Blisters may be large or small and always burning, filled with clear liquid, often appearing on the nose or between the fingers. They are worse for cold bathing.

Dulcamara – is an under-used remedy and is for “cold sores” from catching cold and from exposure to cold. The sores may present as yellow vesicles or crusts. They may appear on the lips/face and on the breasts of nursing mothers. They tend to be worse for cold air, cold damp weather and before the menstrual period.

Hepar Sulph – is useful for extremely sensitive and painful herpes outbreaks of crops of small, whitish vesicles on a red base. They may appear about the mouth and on the lips with sharp or stitching pains. They are worse for the slightest touch and for cold air.

Mezereum – These present as clusters of tiny blisters containing dark brownish fluid, which break producing thick yellowish scabs. They may appear around the mouth or on the scalp.

Nitric Acid – These painful vesicles may progress to ulcers with burning or stitching pains and may become dry and cracked. They may appear at the corners of the mouth, corners of the nose and in the beard area.

Sulphur – Small transparent itchy vesicles appearing in patches, which join together and form painless or burning ulcers. Often appear at the corner of the mouth and are generally worse at night and always worse for heat.



Murphy, R; Nature’s Materia Medica

Morrison, R; Desktop Companion to Physical Pathology