On today’s Self Care Sunday, I have a bit of knowledge for you passed down from my parents. My family happens to be prone to fever blisters. Fever blisters, or cold sores, are the outbreak generally caused by herpes simplex 1. It is a virus that lays dormant most of the time, but when it recurs, a fever blister will show up.
Some people are just more prone to fever blisters than others. Chris has never had a fever blister in his life. For me, if my immune system is running really low, my first sign is that twinge in my lip that a fever blister is coming. At the low point in my battle with Stage 4 endometriosis after my first surgery, I was getting a fever blister every month on almost the exact same day in my cycle. To try to make light of the situation, I would name each one after an island, mountain or similar places. Okinawa, Maui and Kilamanjaro have each visited us without a long plane ride. Interestingly, that is also around the same time that I had another painful viral outbreak, shingles. Since those dark days, with a lot of work and help, my health has greatly improved, which is part of the reason that we were ready for a big life change when fulltime RVing crossed our radar. However, I still occasionally find myself in the fever blister battle.
Fever blisters are painful, embarrassing and take a long time to heal; so we want to do our best to avoid them, which is where my parents come in. When they would feel a fever blister coming on, they would load up on lysine and felt that if they caught it early enough, they could avoid the fever blister entirely; or at the least, lessen its duration. Since they had so much success using lysine, they naturally passed their knowledge down to their children, and now I am passing it along to you.
What is lysine and how does it work against cold sores?
Lysine is an essential amino acid in humans. Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body needs but can not produce internally and therefore must be obtained through food daily. Lysine is naturally found in higher levels in the following foods: chicken, wheat germ, cottage cheese, wild game, pork, avocados. While there have not been nearly enough studies done on lysine deficiency, it has been shown that low levels of lysine are found in patients with Parkinson’s, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, asthma and depression. While the significance and associations of these facts have not been determined, they are interesting facts. Additionally, lysine has been found to help reduce calcium loss in urine, which may prove helpful in osteoporosis treatment. While there is a lot that still needs to be studied; one thing that some lysine studies have shown is that it is effective against cold sores. In cultures, lysine has stopped the growth of herpes simplex, and clinical studies have shown that supplementing with lysine has lessened the recurrence of cold sores. Lysine competes with arganine (another essential amino acid) at receptor sites. The virus herpes simplex 1 needs arginine, but if lysine is present to prohibit the arginine, the cold sore outbreak may be avoided or lessened. (PubChem)
How do I use it?
I do not take lysine regularly, just when I feel I need it. For me, that usually ends up being a couple times a year. If I am feeling really run down, or get that familiar twinge in my lip; I will take lysine for a few days, or until I feel that I am in the clear.
Also, if I eat a lot of nuts; I make sure to take lysine at the same time, to balance the high arginine levels in nuts. In fact, the last time I had a fever blister, I had been binging on sweet & spicy cashews over Christmas (honey & cayenne deliciousness), and I did not take the precautionary lysine. I paid for that one with a monster fever blister. If I get a fever blister, I make sure to take lysine right away, which helps to lessen the duration in my opinion. I will take a lot the first day, 2-3 500 mg pills with each meal. Then, I cut back to 1-2 pills per meal the second day; and then gradually decrease as the fever blister heals. If I pack a snack of nuts, I will put one or two lysine pills in the bag with it; so that I take them at the same time that I eat the nuts.
When looking to supplement with lysine, you want to find L-Lysine. The pills that my parents had were huge, terrible tasting, dry, horse pills that were very hard to swallow. I have since found a much more palatable option, which my family now uses. Here is the big bottle if you prefer to buy in bulk…
Some essential oils that I have also found to be helpful in soothing and cooling the skin are rosemary and eucalyptus.
And that is why, thanks to my parents, lysine is always a part of my natural medicine cabinet, and you may want to consider adding it to yours!