Update 10/5/19. You have a cold sore. Do any natural treatments work? Odds are you may have heard about the amino acid lysine. Does it work? It seems to. Let's look at the research on lysine helping herpes cold sore infections. Let's also discuss the other amino acid you should avoid during flair ups. What amino acid is that? You may be surprised.
Lysine Cold Sore Research
Several studies have noted lysine supplements appear to decrease flare-ups of cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This is the virus that causes most cold sores. This effect is seen when lysine is taken orally or applied topically to the cold sore.
Cold sores usually get worse during times of reduced immune function, which can be caused by stress. So, to avoid flair ups you wan to keep your immune system strong. Ways to do this include
- eating well
- managing emotional stress
- getting enough sleep
What about exercise? can it help? Generally yes. exercise can help keep your immune system strong. But, ironically, too much exercise is also known to reduce immunity. Thus, one might expect cold sore flare-ups to occur following stressful and grueling athletic events like running a marathon or even a bodybuilding competition.
Lysine seems to reduce cold sores by blocking or reducing the ability of the cold sore virus to use the amino acid arginine, also known as L arginine. Just as L lysine seems to reduce cold sores, it also appears that arginine might contribute to cold sores.
Thus, to get the best results from lysine supplements, it should be combined with a diet low in arginine.
What About Canker Sores?
Canker sores are different than HSV cold sores. Canker sores form on the inside of the mouth, either on the gums or on the tongue. While too much emotional stress can cause canker sores, so too can deficiencies in vitamins B12 folic acid and zinc. Regardless of the cause, canker sores usually go away on their own. At least one study has noted lysine may help speed the healing of canker sores.
Cold Sores: Avoid Arginine
Many exercise supplements – including pre-workout drinks and nitric oxide supplements contain arginine. You want to avoid these during cold sore flareups. Both the Supplement Facts label and the ingredients list will tell you if your supplements contain arginine.
Foods that contain arginine include milk, tuna, salmon, oatmeal, almonds, and other nuts.
Unfortunately, these foods are usually on the grocery list of many athletes.
Limiting the use of nitric oxide supplements while using lysine would likely also help.
How Much Lysine Helps Cold Sores?
Generally, 1000-2000 mg per day has been used in clinical studies.
Any other Benefits?
while best known for its effects on helping cold sores, clinical research has noted lysine might improve strength in malnourished people. Still, other research has noted the amino acid may help schizophrenia.
Lysine Side Effects
Generally, lysine supplements are pretty safe. Diarrhea has been reported. This and other GI side effect complaints are common for many supplements. When in doubt, talk to your doctor if you are pregnant/breastfeeding and/or take any medications. Also remember some supplements may contain additional ingredients, other than lysine. when in doubt, check the Supplement Facts label will tell you all the ingredients a supplement contains.