Monday, April 7, 2008

Cold Sore Care

Well, I took a little break from blogging, first because we had an intensive training here at ISM and then second because I came down with a cold for a week. It was a typical cold, sore throat, a little coughing, a little achiness and stuffiness. I never like getting sick, but it's always fun to be able to try different herbal allies. I drank a lot of elder tea and made some slippery elm lozenges that I learned about from herbmentor.com.

The worst of the sickness actually came at the end of the cold - the dreaded cold sore. I was thinking about it the other day and I think cold sores are the first things that I started treating naturally when I was a teenager, so I've learned a few things over the years. This time around I even learned a few more tricks.

It's best to head off a cold sore before it starts. I've done this in several ways. The first less herbal approach is to take a lot of lysine at the very hint of the tell tale tingle that says a cold sore is on it's way. I take as much as 3,000 mg every hour until it is gone. It is usually quite effective. I've heard it explained that cold sores occur when there is an imbalance of the amino acid arganine to lysine. Arganine can be found in beer, chocolate, peanuts, and grains, so I limit my intake of these foods as well.

I've also used St. John's Wort oil, again at the very onset of a cold sore. I've used both the oil straight as well as a lip balm that I made. This tends to work some times, but isn't as effective as the lysine. I've heard that lemon balm can be effective against cold sores, but I have never had this work for me.

The last thing I use, right at the onset, is tea tree oil. I apply it with a Q-tip straight to the spot that is tingling. This is also very effective.

In my past experience, once a cold sore has formed a blister, there is very little you can do to help it go away. At this point it just has to run it's course. I have a special salve I made up of cottonwood, plantain, and St. John's Wort that does help to alleviate pain. If my lip becomes swollen I use an ice cube to get the swelling down.

I first got the virus about 12 years ago. At first I would get cold sores often and seemingly for no reason. I was in high school at the time and terribly self conscious about having the herpes virus. At first I just stayed home when I had one, but later I went on prescription drugs to control the outbreaks. (Obviously I was a little different back then.) Over the years I tend to get them less and less and now only when I am sick.

Well, as I said the worst part of the cold this time around was the cold sore. I've never had one this severe before. My lip started tingling so I start my usual regimen, but nothing worked! Not lysine, or tea tree oil, or anything. It soon became apparent that this was not an ordinary cold sore. Instead of a small sore on my lip it was going to cover my entire lower right lip and part of my chin. I watched in horror as it grew in size and pain. My lip felt like a softball it was so big. I iced it to shrink it's size, but then of course the blisters started. I can't really explain to you how incredibly gross this thing was. It was so huge and puss was literally weeping down my chin. I was applying my favorite salve, which helped with the pain, but felt like I was going to have this monstrosity for a long while.

Finally, I thought, enough is enough. I am an herbalist, the plants will help me. I started getting ideas about wanting to create some kind of bandage around the wound. I experimented a little and here's what I came up with.

I grounded red clover flowers, chamomile flowers, and rose petals into a powder. I then added a little white clay and mixed it well. To this I added a little St. John's Wort Oil and a little water to form a nice paste and then applied this to the entire area. Immediately I felt better psychologically. Instead of having this horrible gaping wound on my face I now had some beautiful plants - just like a facial. :)

I chose the herbs for what I had on hand. Red Clover for it's alterative properties and because I always think of it as nourishing for the skin (probably due it it's action on the liver, but it felt like the right thing to put in there), chamomile for it's anodyne properties, and rose petals because I needed a little beauty at that point. I really wished that I had plantain, but unfortunately I had run out.

I let the mixture stay on my face for half the day, I wiped it off, and then re-applied. I slept all night with another application, which was great because it really helped to protect it while I was sleeping. The next day I was absolutely amazed. The cold sore had all but disappeared. I had expected this to last for a least a week, so it was shocking to me to see most of it completely gone.

This cold sore made me feel very grateful to be on the path that I am. It was empowering, once again, to be able to help myself heal.

I'd love to hear other people's remedies for cold sores.

6 comments:

Jen said...

Rosalee that sounds AWFUL!!! We all manage to spread them back and forth in our little family. My son and daughter get them the worst. I recently had my 5 yo son chew up some lemon balm and hold it on the spot where he told me he felt one coming on and I started to see a red bump. The cold sore never erupted. My 14 yo daughter had one on one side of her lip then felt another coming on the other side I had her take a regular lipton tea bag dunk it in hot water and hold it on the upcoming sore. She held it there an hour and it never erupted. I heard the tannins in the lipton tea kill the sore. When she was a baby whenever she got a fever she would get a cold sore that stemmed from her lip onto her chin or between her lip and under her nose (on the skin though) and the doctor would tell us that they were more of a bacterial infection brought on by sickness. They lasted like 6 weeks and left scarring for about 6 months!!! We take lots of lysine, the tea tree doesn't work for us. I have noticed the healthier our immune systems are the less we get them. :)

Rosalee de la Foret said...

Thanks for sharing your story Jen. I've heard of tea bags before but have never tried it myself. I definitely agree that a strong immune system is the best offense!

Shamana Flora said...

rosalee, that is a great remedy you've got there. Will keep that one up my sleeve. What we've had the most success with is topical application of liquid zinc. Trace Minerals Research brand works well, along with a lot of elderberry internally. my next experiment is with chaparral leaf, internally as tea and topically as an oil or powder. I'll let you know how it goes!

Rosalee de la Foret said...

Topical zinc, very interesting. Please do let me know how the chaparral leaf works out. Thanks!

Tammy said...

Wow, that was a monster of a cold sore! I don't get them very often, but when I do St Johns Wort oil has worked very well. I rub it on and it takes away the pain immediately. I usually keep massaging it in until it loses the oily feeling, then I immediately reapply and massage some more. I repeat the application 3 or 4 times or whenever it starts to hurt, and usually it will be gone or significantly on its way to healing by the next day. Some of my online friends say to use lemon balm tincture directly on the sore. I have some of that tincture brewing so will try it next time.

Rosalee de la Foret said...

That's great to hear how you use your St. John's Wort oil - thanks for sharing about the Lemon balm as well. I am going to tincture some this summer and try that out.

Heather from the Village Herbalist series on herbmentor.com said that she got rid of the virus completely by drinking regular infusions of St. John's Wort and Lemon balm. She said it took a couple of years, but she's sure it's gone and has used this successfully with others as well. So, that's an interesting idea as well.