Bad news: You probably have the virus that causes cold sores. Worse news: It’s incurable. But, as with most things in life, there is a natural solution. In this article we will talk about the best cold sore treatment: lysine.

Even if you have never had a cold sore in your life, you almost certainly know someone who struggles with it and who desperately needs a solution. Imagine the joy on your friend’s face when you give them advice about lysine.

Some Background Information About Cold Sores

What is a Cold Sore?

Despite the name, when you get painful blisters called cold sores, don’t blame your cold. Cold sores are caused by a virus, but not the kind that makes you sniffle and sneeze.

Instead, they happen because of an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, can show up anywhere on your body. They’re most likely to appear on the outside of your mouth and lips, but you can also find them on your nose, cheeks, or fingers.

After the blisters form, you may notice that they break and ooze. A yellow crust or a scab builds up and eventually falls off, revealing new skin underneath.

The sores usually last 7 to 10 days and can spread to other people until they crust over completely.

Image source: WikiMedia Commons

Who is at Risk of Getting Cold Sores? continues:

Just about everyone. Ninety percent of all people get at least one cold sore in their life.

The symptoms are usually the most severe the first you time you get cold sores. Sometimes kids who are affected may become seriously ill.

After the first time you get cold sores, your body may develop antibodies, and you’ll never have another infection. About 40% of U.S. adults, though, get repeated cold sores.

Cold sores generally are not serious, but the infection may be life-threatening for anyone who has AIDS or whose immune system — the body’s defense against germs — has been curbed by other disorders or medications.

There can sometimes be serious complications from a cold sore. If the infection spreads to the eye, it could affect your vision. If it spreads to the brain, it could lead to meningitis or encephalitis.

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What Causes Cold Sores? writes:

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, either HSV-1, which usually causes oral cold sores, or HSV-2, which tend to be genital. Cold sores often get confused with canker sores, but canker sores occur inside the mouth, and they’re crater or ulcer-like sores triggered by stress, not HSV.

“Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are usually caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1),” says Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH, WebMD medical editor, over email. For the most part, cold sores usually crop up on the lips or mouth. But they can show up in other places too.”

The biggest surprise? Most people already have the virus that causes cold sores. “About 2/3 of the world’s population has cold sores, or a strand of herpes called HSV-1,” says Faisal Tawwab MD over email. As far as HSV-2 goes, a large number of people have that as well: 1 in 6, according to the Center For Disease Control (CDC).

Although many people do have the virus, not everyone gets it from sexual contact or kissing. “Most individuals are who contract herpes are first exposed to it as a child,” says Dr. David Kulbersh, MD, Medical Director of, over email. “Think of all the sharing (and oversharing) tendencies children have — sharing drinks, eating utensils, slobbery kisses for everyone, etc.”

Image source: WikiMedia Commons

It might come as a shock that so many people have the virus, but of those who have it, many don’t realize it. “You would therefore be surprised to know that many who are infected don’t know they have it,” says Tawwab. “Part of it is because symptoms, such as the sores themselves, don’t show up regularly. This makes tracking a ‘breakout’ difficult, if not impossible. This means that transferring an infection onto a partner is more likely because you can do so without showcasing an outbreak.”

How to Avoid Spreading Cold Sores

  • Don’t pucker up. You can spread cold sores simply by getting up close and personal with your loved ones. Give a kiss anywhere, but especially the mouth, and you could easily pass on the virus.
  • Don’t share. If you put it in your mouth, don’t share it. You can easily pass on your cold sores by sharing food, eating utensils, drinking straws, cups, and glasses. That goes for lip balm or lipstick, toothbrushes, and razors as well. Even towels you use to dry your face can be harbingers of the virus when you have a cold sore. “The virus can survive for a little while on non-living items like these,” Dr. Kaufmann explained. Tell your friends and family: Get their own if they don’t want your cold sore.
  • Don’t touch. “We touch our faces about a million times a day,” Kaufmann said. But, every time you touch your cold sore with your hands, you could be spreading the virus. If the virus gets on your hands and you don’t wash them right away, it could spread to whatever you touch next — your keyboard, the phone, a doorknob. “That’s why you should use a hand sanitizer a lot when you have cold sores,” he said.
  • Don’t engage in oral sex. The same virus that causes cold sores also can be responsible for blisters and sores in the genital area. When you have a cold sore, you don’t want your mouth to come in contact with your partner’s genitals.
  • Use hot water. Wash any items you use in boiling hot water to kill the virus.
  • Avoid triggers. One of the best ways to avoid spreading cold sores is to avoid getting them in the first place. Some things that may trigger an outbreak are stress, sunburn, fever, and illness. Apply sunblock to avoid getting a sunburn and lip balm to prevent your lips from getting too dry. Ease stress with meditation and other relaxation techniques.

The Best Cold Sore Treatment: Lysine

In 1981, Christopher Kagan, M.D. discovered that if he isolated herpes viruses in a petri dish, and added the amino acid arginine, the viruses would multiply. However, when he added another amino acid, lysine, the virus’s ability to multiply was inhibited. According to Kagan, Lysine blocks the bioavailability of arginine, to prevent the virus from replicating.

Kagan’s preliminary research was supported by a study published in 1984. According to researchers Thein and Hurt, oral supplementation of l-lysine raised the lysine serum levels in volunteers, and reduced the frequency of cold sore outbreaks. A double-blind placebo study conducted by Dr. Mark McCune confirmed the results.

In Canada, the government allows lysine to be sold as a cold sore treatment, giving further validity to the concept.

What is Lysine?

Lysine is an amino acid found in the protein of foods such as beans, cheese, yogurt, meat, milk, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, and other animal proteins.

Proteins derived from grains such as wheat and corn tend to be low in lysine content.

The bioavailability of lysine is reduced with food preparation methods, such as heating foods in the presence of a reducing sugar (i.e., fructose or glucose); heating foods in the presence of sucrose or yeast; and cooking in the absence of moisture at high temperatures.

The average 70 kg human requires 800 to 3,000 mg of lysine daily.

Lysine has been studied for the prevention and treatment of herpes infections and cold sores.

It also increases the intestinal absorption of calcium and eliminates its excretion by the kidney, suggesting that it might be helpful in osteoporosis.

Lysine has been investigated for its effects on increasing muscle mass, lowering glucose, and improving anxiety.

How to get Enough Lysine in Your Body

Your first line of defense is always your diet. 

Although animal products are the most well-known sources of lysine, you can get plenty of it from vegan or vegetarian sources as well. Many foods that are high in lysine also happen to be staples of a healthy diet that’s rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

If you’re interested in upping your lysine intake while consuming as little arginine as possible, try eating dried apricots. On average, dehydrated, uncooked apricots have twice as much lysine as arginine per serving.

Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid, which means your body makes it in addition to getting it from food sources. You should be getting enough arginine from a well-balanced diet. Arginine is good for you but it competes with lysine for absorption. For certain conditions, and to get as much benefit from lysine as possible, you’ll want to consume less arginine.

Meat and Dairy Products High in Lysine

  • Beef
  • Yoghurt
  • Cheese
  • Butter (not margarine!!)
  • Milk (preferably raw milk).

Plant-based Sources High in Lysine shares their insights on the top plant-based sources of lysine:


This cultured soy product contains about 15 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, and 754 mg of lysine. Tempeh has a lovely chewy texture and nutty flavor. Use it in a stew, curry, or lightly browned with some tamari and minced garlic alongside some veggies and a roasted sweet potato for a simple, satisfying meal.

Image sourceWikiPedia


These quick-cooking superstars are a cinch to add to fresh salads, and play a central role in delicious Indian dishes such as dal. Just ½ cup serving contains about 8 grams of protein, and 624 mg of lysine.

Image source: Pixabay

Black Beans

This protein-packed little bean is also rich in antioxidants. It packs in about 7 grams of proteins per ½ cup serving, and 523 mg of lysine. Add it to your favorite chili recipe, or quick tacos with some quinoa, pico de gallo, avocado, and a cheesy nacho flavored cashew cream sauce.

Image source: Pixabay

Pumpkin Seeds

Tiny but mighty, just ¼  cup provides 8 grams of protein, and 360 mg of lysine. Sprinkle over oatmeal, salads, tacos, or soups; or grab a handful as a snack after a long day.

Image source: Pixabay

Lysine Cold Sore Treatment: Should You take a Supplement?

Even with superfood-charged diets, the best of us experience “off” days.

You know how it goes. You eat really, really healthy; exercise like crazy and BOOM… One day you wake up so sick you feel like you’re going to die on the spot.

The reason for this is simple: In our time, our environment are contaminated with all kinds of toxins. Most soil in which our food is grown, is deprived of essential vitamins and minerals. This means our food cannot provide 100% of what we need anymore.

Yes, eating right goes a long way. But it doesn’t go all the way.

Lysine should be kept nearby as an extra preventative measure. Kind of like a backup. If you or someone you love is prone to cold sores, then a lysine supplement can enrich your (or their) life.

Most people who deal with cold sores know in advance when a breakout will occur: they experience pain, tingling, or itching a day before it happens. Having a lysine supplement nearby in such cases could prevent the cold sore from breaking out. Moreover, a lysine supplement can reduce the healing time dramatically when a cold sore breaks out.

The only “catch” with lysine supplements is choosing the right one. You want to make sure you buy a natural product, free from any artificial ingredients and additives such as sugar and fillers.


Whether you are haunted by cold sores or not, you at least know someone who is. And knowing what you do after reading this article, you are in a position to bless them with valuable information about cold sore treatment and prevention.

Which measures have you found useful to treat and prevent your cold sores? Share your thought in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Related Products

Metabole Lysine

Metabole Lysine helps to prevent and treats cold sores naturally. Like all Metabole products, our Lysine Capsules contain NO artificial ingredients.

*Only available in South Africa.

Article Curated by Melissa Niemann Freelance Writer & Artist

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