Does lysine stop viral shedding and prevent cold sores?  

Does lysine stop viral shedding

Lysine is the building block of several proteins, which performs numerous vital functions in the body. It is an essential amino acid that your body can’t synthesize and is, therefore, required in the diet.

Cold sores is a nuisance and needs antiviral therapy to prevent its relapse. However, dietary changes and supplements are the first line of therapy if you’re seeking for prophylaxis against cold sores. So, the patients with recurrent herpes infection wonders, does lysine stop viral shedding and prevent cold sores? To answer this question, let’s first see why does cold sores occur and how supplements containing lysine stop viral shedding.

why are cold sores and why do they occur?

Cold sores are blisters or ulcers caused by the activation of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV 1). The primary HSV 1 infection often affects children leading high-grade fever, severe blistering inside the mouth and enlarged lymph nodes. The virus hides in the nervous tissues after the first infection and becomes dormant.

It is estimated that by age 50, 90% of the US adult population is infected with HSV 1. The virus remains dormant in the nervous tissue until the relapse is triggered by factors such as stress, infection, excessive ultraviolet radiations exposure, injury, hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, or depressed immune system. 

Also, the loss of lysine-arginine equilibrium leads HSV activation. The arginine-rich proteins are thought to promote the reproduction of HSV, whereas lysine hinders its replication. Alternative health practitioners prescribe lysine to prevent recurrence of herpes infection. 

what do lysine do in the body?

Lysine performs several important functions in the body. It is essential for collagen formation that is an integral part of your bones, cartilage, skin and tendons. Lysine is converted to hydroxylysine in the presence of vitamin C and forms stable cross-links between the collagen molecules.

It also decreases the risk of heart disease by removing fatty acid deposits from the vessels. According to a study, there is 48% reduction in lipoprotein A, a fatty acid, from the blood vessels when lysine is given in combination with vitamin C at the dose of 3g/day.

It also plays a vital role in calcium absorption from the intestine.

Role of arginine in the bodya lysine competitor

Arginine plays an essential in the transport, storage, and removal of excess nitrogen and ammonia. In the patients with small intestine and kidney disease, an arginine deficiency may cause increased ammonia in the blood leading to disturbed consciousness. It is essential for growth, wound healing, endothelial (blood vessel) function, and nitric oxide production. 

Does lysine stop viral shedding and prevent cold sores  

Yes, lysine reduces viral shedding and prevent cold sores. L-lysine is biologically active isomer of lysine added in the lysine based supplements.

Lysine inhibits the multiplication of the herpes virus and stops viral shedding. However, arginine, a non-essential amino acid, promotes the replication of HSV virus. Lysine competitively interferes with arginine absorption from the intestine, making arginine unavailable for the virus. 

Although lysine supplements may not completely heal the infection, it can help slow the process or prevent HSV-1 replication.

In a study, L-lysine supplementation showed less viral replication, and a reduction in the occurrence of infection by 63% in the first year. Furthermore, lysine accelerates the healing process and reduces the healing time from 21 to 6 days.

What are the natural sources of lysine?

Lysine is an essential amino acid and must be taken in diet to avoid its deficiency. However, arginine is a non-essential amino acid, and the body can make it and is, therefore, not essential in the diet.

As increased arginine levels are associated with cold sores, so it’s essential is to reduce the arginine consumption and increase the consumption of lysine-rich foods. Lysine supplementation is also recommended to tip the scale toward the lysine side. 

lysine rich foods for cold sores

Fish, chicken, beef, lamb, milk, cheese, beans, brewer’s yeast, mung beans, and sprouts are rich in lysine. Fruits such as mango, avocado, dried apricots, pears, etc., and vegetables such as bell peppers, beets, potatoes, leeks, etc., contain higher lysine than arginine.

It is also critical to avoid foods rich in arginine, such as gelatin, chocolate, coconut, oats, wholewheat, white flour, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat germ.

How much lysine should you need to stop viral shedding and heal the acute infection?

Most people tolerate doses of up to 3 gm daily of lysine with no side effects. Clinical evidence suggests that the benefits of lysine supplements are obtained between 500mg to 3000mg dosages and can be taken up to 9000mg at max. It is recommended to take 1000mg of lysine three times a day for six months. At this dosage, a 74% reduction in the occurrence, severity, and healing time for recurrent Herpes infection was noted.

How often should you take lysine for cold sores?

It is recommended to take 500 -1000 mg of lysine daily for prevention and higher doses (3,000 mg/day) for active outbreaks.

Is topical lysine effective for cold sores?

Application of lysine-based cream or ointment decreases the time required to heal blisters and ulcers, and other associated signs and symptoms.  

What are the side effects of lysine?

  • Lysine supplementation may cause arginine deficiency in the body. 
  • A recent study shows an increase in the occurrence of heart disease in individuals who consumed high doses of Lysine (>3g/d). An increased lysine concentration in blood causes large amount of calcium absorption from the gut. The absorbed calcium settles in the arteries and veins, narrowing their lumen. These calcium deposits impede the blood flow and lead to a cardiac episode later in life. 
  • The large doses of lysine (10-15g/day) may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Animal studies also show that short-term use of high dosages of lysine can be toxic to kidneys and the liver. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Take Lysine Daily To Prevent Cold Sores?

Yes, it is safe to take lysine supplements daily. You can either take the whole dose at one time with food or in two or three divided dosages. To reduce the occurrence of cold sores, it is recommended to take 500mg of lysine daily. To relieve the symptoms of cold sores, take three tablets of 500mg three times a day and can be increased up to 3 grams per day.

Can arginine supplementation may make you prone to cold sores?

People requiring arginine supplementation may develop cold sores. Infants and people with kidney or small intestine disease require arginine-rich foods and supplementation due to the reduced ability of the body to make arginine. 

Arginine becomes essential in conditions such as sepsis, burns, trauma, or surgery. Low levels of arginine in blood plasma are a hallmark of sepsis and also a feature of sickle cell disease.  

Does Lysine Prevent Herpes Outbreaks?

Yes, lysine prevents herpes outbreaks. For that, you must take 500 mg of lysine daily with food and diet restricted in arginine. It is best to consult a physician for the dosage estimation. The infection often recurs within 1-4 weeks of discontinuation of lysine supplementation.

Do oral shedding of the herpes virus occur?

Reactivation of the herpes virus is expected in the mouth but often shows no symptoms. Oral shedding of the virus frequently occurs in the mouth and increases the risk of viral transmission through saliva. Moreover, it is rarely found in the tears and nasal secretions.


Supplements containing lysine stop viral shedding and prevent cold sores. However, a relatively higher is required to treat active infections. 

Lysine competitively interferes with the absorption of arginine and helps in preventing cold sores. Lysine inhibits the viral replication, and arginine promotes it.  

Daily intake of lysine supplementation and consumption of lysine-rich foods aid in preventing the occurrence of cold sores.

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