Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, manifest themselves on the outside of our bodies, but are really an internal problem. They are caused by a virus called herpes simplex and are usually activated by fever, stress, trauma and intense exposure to the sun. Though generally found on the lips, they can also crop up inside the mouth, nostrils, eyelids and on the fingers. At their worst, cold sores are pus-filled blisters that cause a burning and tingling sensation and eventually develop a painful crust.
One of the best vitamins for cold sores is lysine, which helps to prevent outbreaks and lessen their growth if they do appear. Lysine suppresses argenine, an element that helps viral cells reproduce. Thus, taking lysine internally or in the form of a topical ointment can be helpful in reducing herpes simplex cell production. In fact, a study done at the Southern California University of Health Sciences found that by giving lysine to 30 people who had cold sores, 40 percent had full recovery by the third day of treatment, and 87 percent recovered fully by the end of the sixth day, with no ill effects. Some foods containing lysine are brewer's yeast, milk, beans, potatoes and farm-raised chicken.
Vitamin C With Bioflavenoids
Activating the white blood cells, which produce interferon, a natural anti-viral substance, is a benefit of vitamin C. When combined with bioflavenoids, the effect can be more powerful, helping the body to fight stress and fatigue and increase oxygenation, which contributes to the healing process. Foods containing vitamin C and bioflavenoids include fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, strawberries and kiwi. Parsley and other dark green vegetables are also high in these compounds, as are nuts and seeds.
Found in brewer's yeast, vitamin B6 is responsible for producing antibodies that fight infection and disease. Because B6 helps to fortify the immune and nervous systems, it can be helpful in fighting cold sores from the inside out. You can find B6 in foods such as garlic, bananas, cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, grains and shellfish.
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Vitamin A helps the body resist infection while strengthening the immune system. Foods rich in A are carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, dried apricots, mangoes, cantaloupe, egg yolks and milk.
This vitamin is an antioxidant that protects cells against free radicals. Vitamin E helps to increase the production of white blood cells, especially when you use it in alpha-tocopherol form, which has the most active properties. You can take vitamin E internally, and also open up a capsule and apply it directly to the sore to soften the crust and promote healing. Be sure you consult your health-care provider before applying it to your eyes if you have a cold sore there. Foods containing vitamin E include wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, kiwi and mangoes.
A natural healer found over the counter, when applied in ointment form directly to a cold sore, zinc oxide will help to accelerate the healing process. By drying up the sore, zinc oxide is a popular antidote that is also soothing.
Michele Kadison has been writing professionally for more than 25 years. Her blog, The Body in Form, focuses on vitality, balance and wellness as a way of life. Other publications include Next2Eden, Chefs Without Frontiers, Rockies Travel and more. Kadison has a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Hamilton College.