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Herpes and Zinc

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Zinc has been clinically proven to be up to 100% effective against oral herpes and 92% effective against genital herpes, at least in the laboratory.

Herpes simplex virus- 1, oral herpes, and herpes simplex virus- 2, genital herpes, are two different viruses which produce painful outbreaks of blisters and sores on the skin.  

Herpes sufferers want relief from their symptoms, and they want to know if anything treats or cures herpes.

While there is no cure for herpes, and the virus stays in the body forever, zinc is one trace mineral that has been clinically proven to kill the herpes virus and reduce healing time during outbreaks.

Does zinc help herpes?

Many herpes sufferers want to know if they can use zinc for herpes. According to medical research, the answer is “yes.” Using zinc for herpes does work to a degree.

The Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine performed a clinical study to observe the effectiveness of zinc for herpes labialis, also known as oral herpes, cold sores, and herpes simplex virus- 1.

In the study, twenty patients who had greater than six outbreaks of herpes per year were given 22.5 mg zinc sulfate by mouth twice a day for two months in the spring and two months in the fall.

The patients were followed for a year. The results showed that outbreaks of oral herpes were reduced to an average of three per year. Healing time was reduced to less than a week.

The Journal of Clinical Microbiology reported in 2000 that zinc gluconate and zinc lactate were both effective in treating herpes simplex virus- 1 (oral herpes) and herpes simplex virus- 2 (genital herpes) in the laboratory.

Here, scientists observed that seven randomized samples of the herpes simplex virus were inactivated by over 98% with 50mm zinc gluconate for two hours. Nine samples of the herpes virus were destroyed by over 97% in two hours by using 50mm zinc lactate.

The microbiologists in this study found that the results were concentration dependent.

The scientists experimented with 50mm, 15mm and 5mm concentrations of the two zinc salts. They found that for oral herpes, both zinc gluconate and zinc lactate completely deactivated all traces of herpes simplex virus- 1 when the 50mm concentration was used.

For genital herpes, zinc gluconate was 30% effective at both 50mm and 15mm concentrations. However, zinc lactate was 92% effective against herpes simplex virus- 2 in both the 50mm and 15mm concentrations after two hours.

Even short, five minute exposures to zinc salts showed between 0 and 55% inactivation rate for both kinds of herpes.

What is zinc?

Zinc is an “essential” trace mineral, primarily used to treat diarrhea in children and to reduce wound healing time. Zinc is an immune booster, making it a popular over- the- counter supplement for colds and other upper respiratory infections.

Zinc has been used to treat eye diseases, diabetes, AIDS, and skin conditions. Other uses for zinc include ADHD, a number of chronic gastric and intestinal issues, and men’s health issues. Some athletes take zinc supplements to improve performance.

One caution in selecting a zinc product is to find one with a low cadmium level. Web MD.com states that long term use of products containing cadmium can cause kidney failure. Zinc gluconate appears to have the lowest levels of cadmium.

Dietary sources of zinc for herpes patients

The Office of Dietary Supplements for the National Institutes of Health recommend 11mg of zinc daily for men and pregnant women, 8 mg zinc for non-pregnant women, and 12mg zinc for breastfeeding women.

Zinc is easily obtained in the diet of both meat- eaters and vegetarians.

Animal Sources of Zinc for Herpes Sufferers Per Serving
Oysters 74 mg
Beef 5-7mg
Crab 6.5mg
Lobster 3.4mg
Pork loin 2.9mg


Vegetarians with herpes do not have to look far for sources of zinc in the diet, either.

Vegetarian Sources of Zinc for Herpes Sufferers Per Serving
Canned vegetarian baked beans 2.9mg
Low fat yogurt 1.7mg
Cashews 1.6mg
Chickpeas 1.3mg
Swiss cheese 1.2mg
Oatmeal 1.1mg


Herpes and zinc supplements

If a zinc supplement is desired, zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate are recommended by the National Institutes of Health.

When shopping for a zinc supplement, check for the amount of elemental zinc listed on the Supplement Facts panel listed on the bottle or package.

No clinical studies have been performed to determine which form of zinc supplement is the most bio-available or best tolerated for general use.


Pubmed.gov, “Recurrent herpes labialis: a pilot study of the efficacy of zinc therapy.” F. Femiano, et al. Journal of Oral Pathology Medicine. August 2005; 34(7): 423-5.

Pubmed.gov, “Zinc salts inactivate clinical isolates of herpes simplex virus in vitro.” Max Arens and Sharon Travis. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. May 2000; 38(5): 1758-1762.

Web MD.com, “Zinc”

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