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Herpes simplex is a virus. That means that there isn’t a known “cure” that will prevent symptoms from returning. But there are things you can do to find relief during an HSV-1 or HSV-2 outbreak.
You may be able to reduce inflammation, irritation, and other symptoms through a mix of lifestyle changes and dietary supplements. However, these remedies aren’t a replacement for a clinical treatment plan.
You should always talk to a doctor or other healthcare professional before you try any alternative treatment. They can discuss possible dosages, side effects, and interactions.
These tried-and-true home remedies may help ease outbreak-related swelling, itching, and stinging. You probably already have what you need for these remedies in your kitchen cabinet or medicine chest.
You can make a dry warm compress by filling a sock halfway with rice and microwaving it for just under a minute.
You can also use a cold compress to reduce swelling. Apply an ice pack or a clean, soft washcloth filled with ice to the affected area. Repeat as needed every 4 hours. Be sure to never place ice directly on the skin.
Baking soda paste
Applying a baking soda paste may help dry out lesions and relieve itching. To do this, dip a wet cotton ball or Q-tip into a small amount of pure baking soda and dab it on the sore.
Corn starch paste may also dry out lesions and relieve itching. Dip a wet cotton ball or Q-tip into a small amount of cornstarch and apply it to the affected area.
Older research suggests that garlic may have antiviral properties against both strains of herpes. Crush up a fresh clove of garlic and mix it with olive oil to dilute. You can apply this mixture to a sore up to three times per day.
Topical apple cider vinegar (ACV)
ACV is known for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. To reap some of these benefits, mix one part ACV with three parts warm water and apply to the affected area.
Eating the right foods and avoiding certain ingredients may boost your immune system and, in turn, help your body respond to the herpes virus.
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that changing your diet could help prevent outbreaks.
Although more research is needed, clinical evidence does support some of these claims.
Eating vegetables rich in antioxidants
Omega-3 fatty acids
Consuming a healthy level of protein is vital to the body’s immune response to the herpes virus and other pathogens. Eating a diet high in protein and low in saturated fat by eating lots of almonds, eggs, and oats.
Researchers have demonstrated that vitamin C can efficiently speed the healing of herpes outbreaks. It may also help prolong the time between outbreaks.
Colorful fruits and veggies like bell peppers, oranges, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Mango and papaya fruits also contain the vitamin, without adding a high amount of lysine to your diet.
Vitamin B complex
B vitamins can boost your immune system to help your body respond to the herpes virus. You can get vitamin B from green beans, eggs, spinach, and broccoli.
Acidic food may break open cold sores before they’re healed. Fruit juice, beer, sodas, and processed foods all tend to be more acidic. Limit these foods and consider water or sparkling seltzer instead.
Avoid foods that contain high levels of arginine whenever you can. Chocolate is particularly rich in this amino acid, which some people claim can trigger herpes symptoms. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a vitamin-dense option like dried mango or apricots, instead.
Avoid added sugar
Your body converts added sugars to acid. Avoid foods high in added sugar and consider naturally sweet treats, like bananas and oranges, for your desserts.
Avoid processed or preservative-heavy foods
Processed food contains synthetic preservatives that may contribute to oxidative stress. Keeping oxidative stress levels low may help promote healing during outbreaks.
Try cutting highly processed foods like freezer meals, refined grain products, and candies from your diet.
Alcohol breaks down in your body to the equivalent of a sugar. High sugar consumption is linked to white blood cell suppression — which can make outbreaks more likely. If you’re going to consume alcohol, do so in moderation, and choose a less acidic beverage, like wine.
Supplements may help by supporting your immune system and helping your body suppress outbreaks.
But important to note that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements like drugs. You should always talk with a healthcare professional before taking any supplement. Some supplements may interact with over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex supplements contain all of the B-class vitamins. These vitamins boost your energy, help your metabolism, and support healthy cell growth. These functions are essential when the virus is attacking the body in during active outbreak.
Different supplements on the market will vary in how much of each B vitamin a B-complex product contains.
Lysine is an amino acid that your body uses for digestion and healthy cell growth. Research on lysine’s potential to prevent herpes simplex outbreaks is ongoing. Some reports suggest that a daily dose of 500 mg to 3,000 mg of lysine may be beneficial.
Certain strains of probiotics
Probiotic supplements containing strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosus are known to improve immune function.
When used correctly, certain topicals can help speed up healing, relieve itching, and numb discomfort.
Many topical ingredients such as essential oils can burn through your skin barrier if they aren’t diluted. Carrier oils, like jojoba and coconut oil, are important for using topical ingredients safely. All of the topicals listed below should be used with a carrier oil unless otherwise noted.
You should also do a patch test before performing a full application. This is the only way to ensure that you’re not applying an irritating substance to an already sensitive area.
You can do a simple patch test by following these steps:
- Apply the topical to your forearm.
- Wait 24 hours.
- If you experience itching, inflammation, or other irritation, wash the area thoroughly and discontinue use.
- If you don’t experience any adverse symptoms within 24 hours, it should be safe to apply elsewhere.
Shop for topicals that do not need to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as:
Purchase a carrier oil for the following topicals:
- essential oils (tea tree, chamomile, ginger, thyme, eucalyptus)
- witch hazel
- lemon balm extract
- neem extract
Aloe vera has proven wound-accelerating properties. These properties