Cold sores or fever blisters are small skin infections that typically bread out in or near the mouth and nose. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1). They cause pain and burning and then typically crust over after about a week. Cold sores are very common with up to 90% of adults experiencing them at some point. Most people initially become infected with this virus as children. An act as simple as drinking from the same glass of an infected parent, even when they are not showing signs of an infection, can transmit the virus. Various types of stress such as minor infections, trauma, emotional or psychological stress, excess exposure to the sun or ingestion of certain foods and drugs can cause recurrent cold sores.
Although a physician may prescribe an antiviral medication such as acyclovir to treat a cold sore, they can be effectively treated with several herbs. Melissa or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia, or E. pallida)), sandalwood (Santalum album), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) have all been found to be toxic to the herpes virus. It is also important to keep the skin at the cold sore clean and dry to prevent the virus from spreading and to reduce the chances of bacterial infections. Decreasing sun exposure or using a lip balm containing sunscreen can also reduce your risk of getting a cold sore.
A simple lip balm can be made from lemon balm. This herb is widely used in Germany to treating cold sores and clinical studies there have shown that lemon balm can both relieve the symptoms of a cold sore and decrease the size of the skin lesion. The use of a lip balm containing lemon balm speeded healing to 4 days from the typical 7-10 days. Drinking lemon balm tea as well as using a lip balm made from lemon balm can help.
How to make a Melissa lip balm:
1. Make an oil infusion from lemon balm. To do so, put a handful of lemon balm leaves, dried or fresh, into a glass jar. Cover the leaves with one cup of almond oil and shake daily. Make sure the leaves are completely covered with oil. After two weeks strain the oil through cheesecloth to remove the leaves.
2. Heat one ounce of beeswax in a pan until it is just melted (being careful not to overheat it).
After this melts, add the infused almond oil stirring until mixed. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of vitamin E oil. The vitamin E oil is not only good for your skin but acts as a preservative.
You can pour this balm into small jars for storage. Keep one out to use and put the rest in the refrigerator to increase shelf life or give them away to your friends as gifts.
For more information on antibiotic resistance and how you can use herbs to treat infectious disease please see “The Antibiotic Alternative“, Published by Healing Arts Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT 05767 Copyright c 2000 Cindy L.A. Jones