Lysine and Other Remedies for Cold Sores
Non-Prescription Cold Sore Medicines
There is only one non-prescription cold sore medicine that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This over-the-counter medication is Abreva® (docosanol). Abreva is available without a prescription and has been shown to decrease cold sore symptoms and to help cold sores heal more quickly.
Abreva works by altering the cell membranes (the outer covering) of lip cells. This helps to protect healthy cells from the herpes virus, helping the cold sore to heal faster.
Cold Sore Supplements
Lysine is a commonly used supplement for treating and preventing cold sores. It is available in a variety of forms, including oral forms (tablets, caplets, or powders), creams, and ointments.
Lysine is an amino acid found in many foods, including meat, cheese, and yogurt. Theoretically, it may work to treat or prevent cold sores by "competing" with arginine, another amino acid that is essential for the cold sore virus to multiply. A few studies suggest that lysine may be an effective cold sore treatment. These studies tend to suggest that lysine may work better for preventing cold sores, rather than treating them once they occur. It is important to note that these studies used the oral forms of lysine (taken by mouth), not the creams or ointments.
At this time, it is not known what the best dose of lysine may be or exactly how it should be taken. As with any supplement, it is important to choose a brand of lysine that is made by a reputable manufacturer, as supplements are not as tightly regulated as medications. Your pharmacist can help you choose a lysine supplement from a reputable manufacturer.
Although there is no cold sore cure, several options are available to help treat cold sores. Some cold sore medicines are more costly than others, and some are more effective than others. Your healthcare provider can help you choose a medication that is right for you.