This post is copied from our older, original blog. Original post date 10/18/2012.
By Marcie Bower, Lic.Ac.
Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are painful blisters that form around the lips and mouth. If you are one of the millions of people who experience cold sores now and again, you’ll be delighted to know that acupuncture and herbs can help to cut the duration of the sores and also lessen the intensity of symptoms. Regular treatment can even prevent the sores from occurring!
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. When the herpes simplex virus causes sores on the lips and mouth, we call them cold sores. When the virus causes sores on the genitals, this is genital herpes.
Cold sores can feel painful, numb, tingling, or hot and burning. They usually pop after a few days and then crust over as they heal for the next 1-2 weeks. Cold sores are very contagious as the virus is spread through the fluid contained in the blisters.
From an acupuncture perspective, cold sores are a good example of toxic heat in the body forcing it way out. Acupuncture treatment focuses on releasing this heat to relieve the symptoms, and also boosting the immune system to help the body recover more quickly. There are numerous Chinese Herbs that are very good at shrinking the size of cold sores when applied topically. These herbs are often also used in external washes for genital herpes, and can cut the duration of an outbreak significantly.
Once someone has caught the herpes virus, the virus lives in the body permanently, but lies dormant much of the time. When our immunity is compromised or we are subject to hormonal fluctuations, this allows the virus to become active as our natural defenses are not as strong as they usually are. For this reason, many people experience cold sores when they are stressed, sleep-deprived, or coming down with another sickness. Women also may experience cold sores around their periods with the hormonal fluctuations.
As mentioned, acupuncture and herbs can build up the body’s natural defenses so that you can fight off the cold sore more quickly, and can also moderate pain associated with the blisters. My favorite herbal product that I most often recommend is called Yin Care Oral Wash, and it is super effective at reducing cold sores. Patients report instant relief when using it. Yin Care contains a dozen or so Chinese Herbs that focus on relieving toxicity in the body (ie, a virus), clearing heat (the redness signifies heat) and reducing dampness (ie, the fluid in the blister.) Other topical applications can be specifically designed for more severe cases of cold sores.
Even better, longer-term acupuncture treatment can boost the body’s defenses to the point that you don’t experience cold sores anymore, even when stressed!
Because cold sores tend to appear when your immunity is compromised, here are some other things to do to avoid an outbreak of cold sores or herpes:
- Get enough sleep.
- Boost your immune system during periods of stress with vitamin C and echinecea, or see a Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner for herbal formulas focused on boosting immunity.
- Drink enough water, which helps your body flush out toxins.
- Minimize stress reactions as much as possible – try things like yoga and meditation to calm your body’s nervous system.
- Exercise every day – this is shown to decrease stress and boost immunity.