Virus? Yes, I did say virus. Cold sores are symptoms of the herpes simplex virus. The virus lies dormant in the body, usually in the spinal fluid, waiting for the immune system to drop low enough to allow it to resurface. Herpes, in particular, travels along the nervous system, which is why you may feel a tingling sensation before a sore erupts.
If you do get a warning like this, don't wait. The earlier you act, the less volcanic your cold sore will be.
Remember, that the sore is only the symptom. It is the virus you need to address.
Lemon balm, also called Melissa, is an excellent herb for treating the herpes virus. Lemon balm calms the nervous system, which reduces the stress that triggers the virus. Lemon balm also arrests the virus, and keeps it from replicating inside the cells. Because lemon balm is a mint relative, it is a wonderful leaf for making tea.
I love to grow lemon balm in pots on my deck. The plant gives off a pleasant, lemony scent, and it is always in close proximity to the kitchen. Simply snip off a few fresh leaves and pour boiling water over them in a tea cup. The aroma alone is enough to calm the nerves, but the herb is a proven medicine for stress.
Drink several cups per day of lemon balm tea when you feel a cold sore welling up from within. Then begin a topical treatment with essential oil of lemon balm to give that herpes sore the old one-two punch. One or two drops is all you need, applied neat, which means full-strength.
Another essential oil, tea tree, can be layered over the lemon balm for an even faster result. Tea tree oil comes from the Melaleuca plant in Australia. It is a known antiviral agent, and it also speeds the healing of wounds and sores. Be warned. Tea tree oil smells very strong, and it will usually numb an open sore. Place one drop on your cold sore, layered over top of the lemon balm oil.
Continue this two-fold regimen until your cold sore retreats with its little herpes hands held high in the air. I wish I could promise that it will never return, but at least you can send it back into hiding. There are ways to prevent cold sores from popping up in the future.
The main goal is to strengthen your immune system. A strong defense will keep future outbreaks at bay. Here are a few simple immune boosters:
- Establish a healthy sleep schedule
- Eat a well-balanced diet
This seems like a no-brainer, but the truth is that very few of us eat a healthy diet. Prepared foods and packaged snacks tend to rule the pantry. Toss that junk in the trash and opt for fresh, healthy alternatives. Grow more of your own vegetables and herbs, and try to steer clear of store-bought items with long ingredient lists. Most of these chemicals are harmful to the immune system.
- Avoid stress
Sure. I know what you are thinking. I may as well have told you to "just get a million dollars"! Stress is hard to avoid when you live in a fast-paced world. The trick is to create an escape from stress - a place to hide from this crazy world. I like to call that place "home". If your home is a chaotic environment, you have no daily escape from the pressures at work. Keep things calm and simple at home (as best you can, if you have small children). Don't invite over lots of company on a regular basis, and establish regular bedtime routines for your children (and yourself).
If your home is not enough of a haven, take a scenic walk each day or work out at the local gym. Find a way to diminish the stress in your life. The health of your immune system depends on it.
A cold sore myth buster: Tea bags do not speed the healing of a cold sore. Many home remedy sites list this option for cold sore relief.
If the tea bag is cold from the refrigerator, it will act as a soothing compress for any sore. But tea bags are best used on canker sores inside the mouth; not cold sores.
Canker sores are not virus related. They occur when stomach acids find a way into the mouth (through acid reflux). These acids irritate the mouth in the same manner that they sometimes affect the stomach lining. Thus, the term "mouth ulcer" has become synonymous with "canker sore".