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What Is Herpes Simplex 1?

Herpes simplex 1 is one of the most common viruses in childhood and young adulthood. Also known as cold sores or fever blisters, hsv 1 is very contagious but usually not dangerous or serious.
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Herpes simplex 1 is a virus which forms small, painful blisters or lesions in the mouth. These blisters are an oral infection commonly known as either “fever blisters” or “cold sores.”

The first infection of herpes simplex 1 usually occurs in childhood or adolescence, and can reoccur in adults. According to the New York Times, herpes simplex 1 is so common that up to 90% of adults will have had the virus at some point in their lives.

Herpes simplex 1 is not the same virus as herpes simplex 2. Herpes simplex 2 is a virus known as genital herpes.

According to the National Institute of Health, herpes simplex 1 is very contagious. The virus is transferred by kissing or other personal contact with someone who is infected.

A person may also be infected with oral herpes by sharing towels, dishes, shaving razors, drinking straws, and other personal items with someone who has the virus.

Stress, hormone changes, or a high fever from a viral infection can trigger an attack of herpes simplex 1. Exposure to sunlight or a suppressed immune system may trigger an outbreak in some individuals.

Symptoms of herpes simplex 1

The University of Maryland Medical Center states that many people mistake canker sores for herpes simplex 1. Canker sores look like red “craters” with a white or yellowish interior. HSV is also sometimes mistaken for impetigo.

Herpes simplex 1 causes ulcers or blisters in or around the mouth, most commonly on the outer edges of the lips. It takes between one and three weeks before the ulcers appear.

Before the blisters appear, an affected person may complain of a sore throat or may notice swollen lymph glands as the body tries to fight off the infection. There may be some difficulty in swallowing or a fever. In some cases, there may be tingling in the area where the blister will erupt, or itchy skin.

Herpes simplex 1 can look like a red rash around the mouth or lips. Small, red and white blisters can appear in the mouth or throat, or on the lips or gums. The blisters fill up with clear to yellowish fluid, break open, and ooze.

Once drained, the blisters turn yellow, and form a crusty scab. Eventually the ulcer heals, leaving healthy pink skin. This usually takes between one and two weeks.

How is herpes simplex 1 treated?

Unless herpes simplex 1 gets into the eyes, it is not a serious condition. However, the virus is painful, annoying, and can be embarrassing. To bring relief, try the following treatments:

Relief for Herpes Simplex 1
1) Alternate ice and heat packs on the affected areas. If the blisters are inside the mouth, try sucking on ice alternated with sipping hot tea or soup
2) Rinse the mouth with warm water mixed with sea salt
3) Avoid spicy foods, citrus, ketchup, or any other food which might sting the herpes sores
4) Doctors often recommend an over-the-counter pain medication and fever reducer such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
5) Topical antivirals such as acyclovir may be prescribed

Is herpes simplex 1 ever serious?

For most people, common cold sores or fever blisters are nothing to worry about. However, if the herpes lesions occur near or in the eyes, the virus can cause blindness. Herpes simplex 1 can also lead to meningoencephalitis, a viral infection in the lining of the brain.

The herpes simplex virus never leaves the body once infection has occurred. The initial outbreaks can be quite painful, but future eruptions will be less severe. Over time, outbreaks of oral herpes become much less frequent, and eventually seem to disappear.

Proven natural remedies for herpes simplex 1


The immune-boosting herb echinacea purpurea has been clinically proven to exert an antiviral action against the herpes simplex 1 virus. The medical journal Intervirology published a clinical study performed in 2009 in which scientists at Golestan University of Medical Sciences and Health Care in Gorgan, Iran used echinacea purpurea to prevent the spread of the herpes simplex virus to the eyes during the latent stage.

The scientists were able to demonstrate that echinacea does boost the immune system and does reduce the latency rate of the herpes simplex 1 virus. If echinacea purpurea is taken on a regular basis, the herb will reduce the effects of a herpes outbreak.

In an earlier experiment published in the September 2002 issue of Planta Medica, Canadian scientists found that echinacea purpurea root extract and echinacea pallida variation sanguinea root extract in a 70% alcohol base were most effective at inhibiting the viral activity in herpes simplex 1.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil, also known as Melaleuca alternifolia, was demonstrated to have antimicrobial properties in vitro (in a test tube) against the herpes simplex 1 virus. A study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy stated that a 6% solution of tea tree oil gel or a placebo was given to adults between the ages of 18-70 who had recurring bouts of herpes simplex 1 virus. The participants applied the gel five times daily, and reported to the clinic six days a week to check their progress until their symptoms were gone.

In this clinical trial, the tea tree oil recipients experienced healing in nine days, whereas the placebo recipients experienced healing in 12.5 days. Viral titers were lower in the tea tree oil group than in the placebo group, but not by a significant margin.

The scientists recommended a larger study to further study tea tree oil as a topical treatment for herpes simplex 1 virus.


Garlic has been a well-known anti-viral herb for centuries in the natural health community. Clinical science has been able to confirm garlic’s ability to kill viruses such as herpes simplex 1.

One such scientific study was performed in 1992 at Brigham Young University. This study showed that the natural plant chemical allicin in fresh garlic extract had virucidal properties.

Lemon balm oil

Another clinically proven herbal treatment for herpes simplex 1 is lemon balm oil, also called by its Latin name, Melissa officinalis. Phytomedicine reported in 2008 that the essential oil of lemon balm inhibited the viral activity of herpes simplex 1 in monkeys.

Non-toxic concentrations of lemon balm oil killed 98% of herpes simplex 1 cells, while higher concentrations of lemon balm abolished the virus completely.

Scientists found that topical pretreatment with lemon balm oil before eruptions was significantly more effective than treating the cells after they had become infected with herpes simplex 1 virus.

Olive leaf extract

Olive leaf extract has also been clinically demonstrated to have antiviral properties and an “interesting effect” on herpes simplex 1. The European Medicines Agency states that olive leaf extract acts as a virucide when applied to cell cultures in vitro one hour before infection with herpes simplex 1 virus.

This is attributable to olive leaf’s ability to prevent virus entry into host cells, either by protecting host cell membranes or by having a chemical effect on the HSV-1 envelope.

Bee propolis

WebMD suggests bee propolis as a possible treatment for herpes simplex 1. Bee propolis is a sticky substance bees make from tree sap. Bees use it to help build the hive, along with beeswax.

Propolis contains antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties as well.

A 3% propolis ointment improves healing time and helps reduce pain from cold sores. WebMD recommends applying propolis ointment five times a day to the affected areas.

The Israel Medical Association Journal says it is the flavinoids in bee propolis that offer antiviral protection. In vitro, scientists found that a 0.5% solution of propolis extract caused a 50% inhibition of herpes simplex 1 virus.

Applying the propolis solution before or at the onset of the herpes outbreak created the most significant results. However, even when a 10% propolis solution was administered two hours after a herpes eruption, there was 80-85% protection.

When using propolis on HSV-infected rats and rabbits, using as little as 5% propolis solution prevented symptoms and eruptions. There were no toxic reactions to propolis at 10% and 20% solutions.

Dietary supplements for herpes simplex 1


The Journal of Clinical Microbiology suggests zinc salts such as zinc gluconate and zinc lactate to reduce the symptoms of herpes simplex 1 virus. The HSV-1 virus was reduced by 98% in two hours after applying zinc gluconate to the virus in vitro. Herpes simplex 1 virus was reduced by 97% in two hours after applying zinc lactate in vitro.

A solution of 50 mm of either zinc gluconate or zinc lactate was able to 100% deactivate the herpes simplex 1 virus in vitro. 15 mm of either zinc salt deactivated the virus by 98%, and just 5 mm of either zinc salt deactivated HSV-1 by at least 63%.

Although not an oral dietary supplement, zinc in the form of zinc oxide cream, commonly used as a sun block, has been proven to have some benefit for herpes simplex 1. The medical journal Canadian Family Physician reported that if zinc oxide cream is applied to the skin before going out in the sun, it prevents herpes outbreaks triggered by sunlight to a degree.


L-lysine has also been clinically proven to regulate the immune system and help treat herpes simplex 1. The Journal of Medical Virology published a study in 1989 stating that guinea pigs treated with L-lysine stayed symptom-free, while the untreated control group were symptomatic for three days after all of the guinea pigs were inoculated with HSV-1.

L-lysine is an essential amino acid which the human body does not produce on its own. Lysine can be taken as an isolated dietary supplement, but is best assimilated in food.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, foods rich in L-lysine are:

L-lysine Rich Foods
1) Meat and dairy products
2) Fish, especially cod and sardines
3) Eggs
4) Raw nuts (an excellent source of lysine specific to preventing herpes outbreaks)
5) Spirulina (a blue-green algae “super food”)
6) Fenugreek seeds
7) Legumes (beans, lentils, peas)
8) Nutritional yeast

Vitamin A

Vitamin A-treated rabbits which were infected with herpes simplex 1 developed milder symptoms that rabbits which were left untreated in a 1979 clinical study published in Archives of Ophthalmology. Some of the rabbits showed no symptoms of herpes-related keratitis at all after taking Vitamin A.

The Office of Dietary Supplements with the National Institute of Health offers a long list of Vitamin A-rich foods. While many people know that carrots and sweet potatoes contain high amounts of Vitamin A, there are many other dietary sources:

Foods High in Vitamin A
1) Beef liver
2) Spinach
3) Pumpkin
4) Cantaloupe
5) Peppers
6) Mangoes
7) Broccoli
8) Salmon

Vitamin E

As mentioned briefly above, on rare occasion herpes simplex 1 can spread to the brain. This condition is called meningoencephalitis, a serious, and often fatal viral infection affecting the lining of the brain.

In 2008, the Journal of Nutrition reported that Vitamin E in the form of d-alpha tocopherol functions as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger. It boosts the immune system, and is commonly believed to protect the neuromuscular system as well as other body systems.

In this study, mice were placed on Vitamin E-deficient, adequate, or high-Vitamin E diets for four weeks. Mice on the Vitamin E-deficient diets suffered a much more severe case of encephalitis than the other groups of mice.

The mice with adequate amounts of Vitamin E definitely limited the symptoms of herpes simplex-related encephalitis. However, a high Vitamin E diet did not make any significant difference beyond that of the Vitamin E-adequate diet.

To maintain a diet which has adequate levels of Vitamin E, be sure to include the following foods:

Food Sources of Vitamin E
1) Wheat germ oil
2) Nuts, seeds, and their oils
3) Olive oil
4) Broccoli
5) Spinach


Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences published a study in 2005 which was able to clinically demonstrate that the antimicrobial protein lactoferrin acts as a blocking agent to keep the herpes simplex 1 virus from entering a host cell.

Lactoferrin is a protein found both in human and cow’s milk. It provides protective antibodies and probiotics, helps deliver iron to cells throughout the body, and helps boost the immune system.

Lactoferrin- rich Food Sources
1) Whey protein powder supplements
2) Yogurt
3) Cheese
4) Milk


Medline Plus.gov, “Herpes- oral”

Health.New York Times.com, “Herpes Simplex” 

University of Maryland Medical Center.edu, “Herpes Simplex Symptoms” 

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