Herpes, or cold sores, are those pesky little sores on the mouth that cause a lot of pain and discomfort. What is more, they often affect us at vulnerable times when we are under stress. Herpes is a virus. After the first infection, the herpes either becomes dormant in the nerve cells and is easily reactivated by one of many triggers. What are these triggers? First there is stress – emotional stress, dietary stress and environmental stress. Other factors are trauma, sun exposure or a lowered immune system.

Herpes is characterized by itchy, burning blisters that are filled with clear fluid and often develop into yellow crusts. Mind you, even though they are painful, they usually don’t leave any scars when they heal.

Herpes have a long contagious period – from the first tingling sensation until all the sores have healed completely. When treating herpes, it is important to first strengthen the immune system. Supplements such as Echinacea and thymus extract can help to do this. Zinc can increase the immune response and be effective in decreasing the frequency and duration of herpes symptoms. Vitamin C can shorten the time it takes for the ulcers to heal.

Argenine, an amino acid, can feed the virus so it is important to decrease the foods high in this protein. Those foods are chocolates, peanuts, seeds and other nuts. Lysine, another amino acid, helps to inhibit the virus. Foods containing lysine are most vegetables, legumes, fish and poultry. Lysine as a supplement is often added to the regime. Two to three grams per day will help to inhibit the replication of the virus.

Since B vitamins are particularly important for the health of the nervous system, add a B complex to your herpes regime. There are many topical applications that can also help to heal herpes. All of them work better if they are applied immediately on the first day of an outbreak. Some of these healing topicals are licorice root, vitamin E, tea tree oil, and lysine.

Lower your stress by making spaces in your life for relaxation. Change your attitude toward stressful situations and do at least 15 minutes per day of abdominal breathing. The treatment for genital herpes is exactly the same. Cold sores, or herpes, are often a wake-up call. Use this wake-up call wisely to improve your health.

Dr. Paulette Roscoe is a naturopathic physician who practices in Nanaimo. She welcomes your calls at 754-1733.