How to Beat Cold Sores

I used to get cold sores regularly, until I discovered a simple natural way to prevent them happening ever again! And no, I'm not sellng it, it's not expensive and it's easy to find - and it's not an old wives' tale or a home remedy either (like the ones in the video below).

OK, so every now and then, maybe once a year, a sore does manage to sneak through - but now I also know how to stop it in its tracks while it's still just a tingle.

You see, the one good thing about cold sores is that they have an early warning system - that strange tingling sensation that you feel just before they erupt. If you can start treatment then, you can prevent the sore even forming.


How to Kill Cold Sores

My secret weapon - and it's a very powerful one - is Lysine. And the good news is, it's completely natural. You'll find it at any local health food store. You need 500mg tablets (lower doses are not effective).

The proper name for lysine is L-Lysine hydrochloride. It may sound like a chemical, but actually it's an amino acid, one of the basic building blocks our food is made of. Buy it in its pure form and it's an amazing cold sore fighter, blocking the virus from multiplying.


Take one tablet every hour for up to 8 hours. The sore won't disappear, but it should flatten and become less angry. If it doesn't, you can repeat the treatment next day.

After that, take one tablet 3 times a day for a week - whether or not the cold sore has disappeared - to avoid another flare-up.


Some unscrupulous people are selling ointments containing Lysine. They do not work! Lysine works ONLY if you swallow it in a tablet or liquid form

Source Naturals L-Lysine, Free Form, 500mg, 200 Capsules (Pack of 3)
Source Naturals L-Lysine, Free Form, 500mg, 200 Capsules (Pack of 3)

You'll find plenty of cold sore tablets on Amazon but I like this pure Lysine. It's the right dose and you're not paying extra for added ingredients (which are usually just marketing hype).


Why Lysine Works

Cold sores are caused by the Herpes virus. The virus feeds on arginine, which is an amino acid found in many foods.

Lysine blocks the supply of arginine to the virus - and if it can't feed, it can't survive.

How to Prevent Cold Sores

You can use Lysine as a preventer, by taking one or two tablets per day. Most authorities say it's safe, but others say long-term use isn't advisable. If you're getting frequent attacks for no apparent reason, it's worth trying to modify your diet to see if it helps.

Even when you don't have an active cold sore, the Herpes virus is sitting dormant in your system. It feeds on arginine, so if you eat a lot of arginine-rich foods, that can stimulate the virus into action and trigger a cold sore. So it makes sense that avoiding the following foods may avoid an attack:

  • chocolate (sorry!)
  • most nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
  • most seeds (flax, sesame and sunflower)

Note that many protein foods (e.g. turkey) are high in arginine BUT they are also high in lysine, which prevents the virus from feeding. So you can eat those without worrying.

You can also try boosting your lysine intake naturally by eating plenty of the following foods:

  • Dairy products (including yoghurt and cheese)
  • Apples, mangoes, apricots, pears (and many other fruits).
  • Fish (especially flounder)

First Aid

It's always a good idea to carry an emergency treatment with you wherever you go. It's hardly practical to carry a supply of Lysine tablets, but there is one thing that can kill a cold sore stone dead, IF you start using it as soon as you notice the tingle.

It's acyclovir (or aciclovir), and you'll find it in ointments like Zovirax. These creams come in a tiny tube that will fit into the smallest pocket or purse, so it's perfect to carry with you for emergencies.

Don't just dab a little on and forget it - that's not enough to arrest the virus. Keep using the cream for a day or so, even if the tingling's gone. And of course, you should start taking a "preventer" dose of Lysine as soon as you get home, to be on the safe side.

Originally, acyclovir creams were useless once the cold sore had developed, but the newer formulas do make a difference. Read the packet: if it doesn't claim to have an effect on established cold sores, it doesn't.

Zovirax is easy to carry with you!
Zovirax is easy to carry with you! | Source

Natural Remedies for Cold Sores

If (for some strange reason) you don't want to use Lysine, I have bad news for you - there isn't another natural remedy that works. Sorry!

Natural creams generally contain moisturisers to prevent cracking, and soothing ingredients that will make the cold sore feel less painful. But let's face it, it's not the pain that worries most of us - it's how gross it looks! And the trouble with softening the sore is that it can actually make the sore last longer, because the virus seems to like being moist.

You'll get a better result by dabbing the cold sore frequently with alcohol (e.g. methylated spirits, surgical spirit, rubbing alcohol). This will help dry it out, which can speed up healing.

If you really want to try some alternative remedies, you can find a list in this article - but I would advise you not to waste your money!

Sores In Your Mouth

If you have painful ulcers inside your mouth, those are not cold sores - they are canker sores. Unfortunately Lysine will not work on canker sores, because they have a different cause.

There isn't much that can be done for canker sores. You can try rinsing your mouth with a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1/2 cup of warm water: it will soothe the sting and may help kill bacteria so it heals faster. Milk of Magnesia dabbed directly on the sore also soothes irritation.

Reminder - Hygiene

If you're a cold sore sufferer, you probably know this already - however it bears repeating.

Please wash your hands every time you touch your cold sore!

Anti-bacterial wipes and gels are NOT enough in this situation. And when I say wash your hands, I don't mean a quick swipe under the tap.

The Herpes virus which causes cold sores is extremely contagious, so you need to be very careful while you are suffering an outbreak. It's a myth to say the sores aren't contagious if they're not weeping - they are contagious from the moment they begin until the scab disappears.

Because you may touch your face unconsciously, it's wise to wash your hands at frequent intervals during an outbreak, not just when you touch the sore.

If you have an active cold sore, wash your hands frequently AND THOROUGHLY with soap, throughout the day
If you have an active cold sore, wash your hands frequently AND THOROUGHLY with soap, throughout the day

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Comments 21 comments

Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

I began getting terrible cold sores when I began having my monthly periods at 13. I would get 4 or 5 of them at one time. You feel a bit sick when they come, sore throat, tired, body aches. I was often in the hospital as a child, and had never even kissed a boy, so thought maybe I picked the virus up at the hospital. The sores open when you try to eat, and bleed, so can be gross for days. I finally got Zovirax when I broke out badly after delivering my son. So hormones have to do with it. Now I just take l-lysine along with my daily vitamin, and even if I get one sore, they are much less, and go away fast. Zovirax needs a prescription in the US, and even with a co-pay for insurance, it's expensive. But it's worth it for someone who has bad outbreaks. The l-lysine is good too, but as soon as you feel the burning lips or chapped lips, take it immediately, before they get a chance to come out!

john 5 years ago

brilliant write up thank you for this , i have been searching for ever to find this info .

Jen 5 years ago

I won't leave home without my acyclovir. It have saved my lip SO many times and I swear by it. I even have the pills now, so they don't even appear.

If you're a teacher, I love having the pills because you don't have the white cream on your face.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney Author

@readingteacher, sounds like you're a good candidate for taking lysine regularly.

readingteacher 6 years ago

I kissed a boyfriend in 9th grade that had a fever blister. From that year forward....all the time. When I go in the sun a lot, I get one. When I get sick, I get one. When I get stressed or don't sleep, I get one. I teach school so it is embarrassing. Kids say the darndest things! They always stare at it!!

Mom of four 6 years ago

I've been getting cold sores for years.The best treatment I've found is by using the L-Lysine 1000mg (x6 the first day, then decrease it as the days go on), Zovriax cream as directed, and prescription Acyclovir 800mg as directed. Using all these asap will decrease the severity of the sore; cutting the breakout time to 1 week compared to 2-3 weeks. As soon as I get a cold and I'm blowing my nose a lot, I make sure I start the L-Lysine immediately and also making sure I have the Zovirax and Acyclovir where ever I go so I can apply/take when the tingling starts. I feel for us all who have these sores... totally embarrassing.

Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

I take Lysine as soon as I feel the itch start. I take 2 at a time 3x a day for the first day or two then one 3x a day for about a week. I get mine at the dollar store.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney Author

@frogyfish, thanks for the tip - I must look into Lomatium. Zovirax is available over the counter in Australia, it hadn't occurred to me it would be prescription-only elsewhere.

frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

Lysine is great like you said. But I believe other anti-viral 'herbal products' help get rid of them faster too. My favorite helper is Lomatium, maybe seconded by some of the flu combinations - because they are anti-viral also. Zovirax is only available by prescription and is expensive but I think it should be more easily available because it works so well. We can wish... Another experimental method is treating the forming sores with electricity. There are a couple of mini-machines to treat blemishes that would also treat the sores - small with a battery. That is worth researching too. Thank you for sharing your hub!

marieryan profile image

marieryan 6 years ago from Andalusia, Spain

I suffer terribly from cold sores but i'm so excited to hear about the existence of TABLETS! Never heard of them before! I'm going to try the tablets as soon as I find them.Thanks!

David DuBose 6 years ago

Great Hub! I really learned a ton.

Thanks. Keep up the good work. This cold sore thing effects a lot of people and sites like this provide quality information.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 7 years ago from Sydney Author

Love red, the rule is that you should always keep a little tube of Zovirax in the house at all times, just in case. If you can get to the store and buy some, do it right now, even if the blister is starting to show - it can still make a difference. If you can get some Lysine from the health food store and take one every hour today, that will take some of the heat out of it too. Good luck!

love red 7 years ago

i have been getting fever blisters since i was 10 how i don't know i sufferd a lot in my teens im 25 now i have been with my husbant for 8 years and he has never gotten them thank god!,this year i have been fever blister freee till today i just got rid of an ugly horrable cold and this morning i woke up with a tingle, omg im getting a blister and to top it off i got a new job and i start on tuesday HELP what can i do?

Dao Hoa profile image

Dao Hoa 7 years ago

Thanks. My husband gets it every year. It's annoying.

devendar 7 years ago

i am devendar i have astamma when it is coming first cold is more two to three days&after that breathing problem is more no walking no talking

please give sugessions.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 7 years ago from Sydney Author

Jade, you sound like a good candidate to take Lysine all the time - just one tablet a day. It won't do you any harm and will keep the sores at bay!

Jade 7 years ago

my problem is I don't catch the tingling because more often than not I wake up with the sore in the morning

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 8 years ago from Sydney Author

Joanna, that's the downside. Once the sore has developed, acyclovir creams are far less effective and so are the lysine tablets. They do shorten the duration but they don't make it go away.

I find anything that dries up the sore is a good thing - you can try neat alcohol, or even brandy, whisky or vodka.. Clearasil helps too. But the trick is really to recognise the tingling so you can catch it before it starts - or take Lysine all the time, just in case (it won't do you any harm)

joanna ridum 8 years ago

ummm, i tried this and it doesn't quite do the job!!! what can i take WHILE i have the damb sore on my lip?? any suggestions for that one??

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 9 years ago from Sydney Author

Eileen, I have no clue what helps mouth ulcers. Maybe someone else could write a Hub!

Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Good information. and helpful. I get more ulcers than cold sores though.

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