Cold Sore Supplements
Treating cold sore outbreaks with creams or devices is one thing; but what if you could prevent them completely by using supplements? There are plenty of guides and reviews online that claim a particular cold sore supplement, vitamin or mineral can stop outbreaks before they start. But is there any truth to the idea? Read on to find out!
Amino Acids (L-Lysine)
First up are lysine amino acid supplements. Amino acids are building blocks that the body uses to make essential proteins. You can find lysine naturally in beef, chicken and other meats; it’s not something synthesized by a researcher in a laboratory.
Lysine is incredibly important for human health. You have to get it from your diet or from supplements, because you can’t make it on your own. It helps the body absorb calcium and create collagen, which is an important component of skin. But where does the idea come from that they can get rid of cold sores?
How Do Amino Acids Work?
Scientists think that it works by interfering with the absorption of another amino acid, arginine, which the cold sore virus needs lots of in order to replicate. Arginine is normally absorbed through the intestine, and then transported around the body through the blood stream. With enough lysine in your system, your intestine can’t absorb arginine anywhere near as much.
With less arginine on tap, the herpes virus is more easily defeated by your body. A study in the Alternative Medicine Review found that it sped up the healing process for 87% of people tested, and shortened recovery time after an outbreak to just 6 days instead of 21.
Pros & Cons
However, it’s also expensive relative to other supplements, and less widely available. You therefore have less choice when it comes to picking a lysine supplement. It can also cause a few side effects because of its interaction with the body. These include diarrhea and abdominal pain, as well as cramps and nausea.
Aside from lysine, there are plenty more supplements you could use to prevent or treat cold sores. The one most commonly used, as is often the case with vitamins, is vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts immune system response, so it can help the body fight off an infection on its own. You can find vitamin C in plenty of foods like oranges, lemons, strawberries and green leaf vegetables. But if you struggle to find vitamin C in your diet, supplements are widely available.
Vitamin C isn’t the only vitamin that can help. Vitamin B6 helps the body to produce antibodies, which fight infections like herpes simplex. Vitamin A and vitamin E also help the body’s immune system to function.
And while vitamins are certainly effective, they’re not the only thing that can boost the immune system. There are minerals that can do the same. One is zinc, which is a trace mineral that’s great for health. Most general supplements contain at least some zinc, but you can find zinc-specific supplements too if you aren’t getting enough. Aside from supplements, zinc oxide creams can also help.
How Do Vitamins Work?
Vitamin C fights infections by encouraging the body’s cells to produce interferons, or IFNs. These are a group of proteins that the body uses almost like flares or signals—cells that are attacked by viruses or bacteria release them, so that nearby white blood cells can come and fight off the infection. At the same time, nearby cells increase their anti-viral defences, making it harder for herpes (or any other virus) to spread.
Pros & Cons
The main drawback is that your immune system doesn’t just rely on vitamins to keep ticking over. There might be other reasons why your immune system isn’t working; you could be getting more than enough vitamins already. You therefore might see no improvement after you start taking vitamin supplements. In the same vein, the improvements you do see might take some time to manifest.
Homeopathic Cold Sore Supplements
If you’re a big fan of homeopathic remedies, then have you considered homeopathic supplements for cold sores? There are plenty of brands on offer, each of which has different active ingredients. If other supplements don’t work for you, then these might be worth a go.
In terms of scientific research, the evidence is lacking for the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies. The idea behind them is that ‘like cures like’; so, a substance that normally causes a particular symptom can in fact be used to cure it. The substance is very heavily diluted, until almost none of it remains. Homeopathic practitioners claim that this diluted substance can then be used to heal the body. Homeopathic remedies for cold sores therefore contain diluted substances that would usually cause itching, stinging and pain—like a cold sore.
While scientific evidence does not support the use of homeopathic remedies, plenty of people use them anyway. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may have an effect, and many homeopathic cold sore remedies have good reviews online. It’s up to you whether you’d like to try them.
How Do Homeopathic Supplements Work?
It’s currently unclear how a heavily diluted substance could have a genuine effect on the herpes virus. A review of homeopathy in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that no study, as of yet, had managed to convincingly show that homeopathic remedies could have any effect on the body.
Pros & Cons
The main drawback of homeopathic remedies is that they are unproven, and there is no clearly understood way in which they might work. This is in direct comparison to vitamins, minerals and the like, for which there is clear clinical evidence of their effectiveness.
That being said, judging online reviews, they do seem to work for some people. Whether this is because they have a genuine effect or because they are an effective placebo is unclear.
Cold Sore Supplements vs Creams
Of course, supplements and vitamins aren’t all that is available to treat cold sores. You can also choose from cold sore creams, cold sore devices and over the counter/prescription medication. Given that there’s so much choice available, which should you pick? First, let’s take a look at the advantages of using supplements to manage cold sores:
- Supplements aren’t for tackling existing outbreaks. They’re for managing cold sores long-term. So, if you’d like your future outbreaks to be less severe and less painful, they’re a good choice.
- Unlike other methods of treating cold sores, supplements are broadly beneficial. Vitamins and minerals, for example, are good for your general health.
- If you already take tablets, it’s easy to remember to take supplements too. This will help you regulate how you manage cold sores more easily.
However, some other methods of managing cold sores do have certain advantages. For example:
- Cold sore devices are reusable, and are therefore cheaper in the long run.
- Cold sore creams (and devices) are more effective since they’re applied directly to the area.
- Cold sore supplements do very little to manage existing outbreaks. Other methods can, although not as much as if you treat an outbreak before it starts.
On balance, then, your best bet is to combine supplements with other things like creams and tablets. That way, you’re covering all your bases.
Which Supplements Should You Pick?
On the whole, supplements are an excellent way of preventing and treating cold sores. You should definitely consider using them before your next breakout. But which one should you choose, and why? Consider the following:
- Do you already have a varied diet, that’s most likely rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients? If so, there may be little point in buying vitamin or mineral supplements. Contrary to popular belief, the body simply gets rid of the majority of excess vitamins and minerals.
- Do you prefer to take all-natural remedies, and have you tried other supplements already? If so, you might benefit from trying something homeopathic for a change. Whether or not they’re proven in a lab, they seem to work—at least for some.
However, the best cold sore supplement simply has to by L-lysine. It’s backed up by real, hard evidence. Plus, the way it works is clearly understood. Studies show that it can dramatically cut down on the amount of time it takes for a flareup to die down, too. So, if you’ve not tried them yet, you should definitely give them a go.
If you’d like to know more about the best cold sore supplements on the market today, take a look below. Underneath this guide, there’s a section where you can see all of the latest reviews and suggestions.