Cold sores are no fun—they're painful, itchy, and embarrassing. But if it's any consolation, if you struggle with cold sores, you're definitely not alone. In fact, there are over 3 million cases every year in the United states alone, and 90 percent of us get at least one cold sore in our lifetime, with 40 percent of us having recurring chronic cold sore infections. So what are they exactly, and more importantly, what can you do about them?
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are painful infections that show up as blisters mainly on the lips (not to be confused with canker sores, which are only on the inside of your mouth). These nasty little guys are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). For context, HSV-2 is what causes the STD genital herpes outbreaks. Cold sores are also very contagious and can spread to other parts of the body such as the lips, cheeks, eyes, and, yes, the genitals.
So far, there are actually eight identified members of the human herpes virus family recognized by mainstream medicine. And interestingly, it's the same group of viruses that cause mono, chronic fatigue (Epstein-Barr virus), chickenpox, and shingles! Herpes is one rough family. The name herpes comes from the Greek word "herpein" or "to creep" and that’s exactly what these suckers do. They can stay dormant for years until an opportunity to strike occurs. The great news is that there is so much you can do naturally to knock out cold sores for good. Here are my 21 top functional medicine tips to deal with those unsightly and painful cold sores: