In This Article
Are Cold Sores Considered Herpes?
Herpes is a virus that causes blisters and sores. There are two variants. HSV-1 is most commonly known as “cold sores” that appear on or around the mouth. HSV-2 affects the genital area. Most of the time herpes remains in a dormant state until triggers like stress, disease, or anything that weakens the immune system causes an unpleasant flare-up. This manifests as blisters and sores. The virus is highly contagious and is spread from person to person through physical contact like kissing or intercourse. It is so contagious in fact, around 90% of American adults test positive for HSV-1, even if they’ve never had a cold sore. Active sores are unsightly and painful blisters that can crack and ooze. Currently there is no cure for herpes and all current treatments try to limit the time an outbreak lasts and perhaps prevent the frequency of future outbreaks. Research shows that CBD has antiviral properties that can prevent herpes breakouts and reduce cold sores. A lot of people use CBD to fight skin conditions, even those deriving from viral infections. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how to fight herpes and cold sores.
What Triggers Cold Sores and Herpes?
HSV-1 generally stays inactive, but once an outbreak occurs, chances are it will happen again later. The reason for this is that the virus lies dormant in the skin’s nerve cells, waiting to surface when given the right conditions. Any of the following may trigger a cold sore outbreak.
- Colds or Flu
- Sunlight/UV light exposure
- Food allergies
- Dental work or other oral trauma
- Immune system deficiency
A herpes outbreak is more likely to occur during an illness such as the cold or flu, during intense stress, or as a result of taking immune-suppressants. Once the virus turns from dormant to active, it attacks cell tissues in mucous membranes, which is why outbreaks are usually in moist areas like the mouth and genitals. The cells become severely damaged, triggering white blood cells to fight the attack. This attack on the virus is what causes the inflammation and pain in the form of herpes sores and blisters.
How Long Does Herpes Last?
Even though there is no cure for herpes, the good news is that a herpes breakout usually only lasts about a week to 10 days. However, because cold sores are so painful and unsightly, there are many products that have been created to help prevent outbreaks and/or reduce the time an outbreak lasts.
Cold Sore and Herpes Treatments
Over-the-counter creams and prescription drugs are most commonly used for treating cold sore and herpes outbreaks. OTC creams act by soothing the blisters, while the prescriptions contain an anti-viral drug known as acyclovir. Antiviral drugs are very effective but require a doctor to prescribe you the medication and may have side effects. The drugs include valacyclovir, famciclovir, and acyclovir. When taken at first sign of a cold sore, these drugs can drastically reduce the severity and amount of time an outbreak lasts. The problem with these drugs, aside from being costly, is that they often cause side effects such as irritability, tiredness, diarrhea, headaches and trouble sleeping. Because of the side effects and expense many people seek alternative treatments. Unfortunately, the OTC creams are not much of a remedy and only provide a bit of moisture and pain relief. However there is real evidence that CBD is one of the only non-prescription alternatives that shortens and prevents cold sore outbreaks.
Science for CBD and Herpes
In a study from 2009, researchers concluded CBD is effective at spurring healthy cell growth and limiting the pain and inflammation often present during the healing process. On a longer-term scale, CBD can also help prevent future HSV-1 outbreaks. The key to CBD’s success is its immune-boosting capabilities, which have antiviral effects. A properly functioning immune system can fight off active HSV-1 cells, and therefore future cold sore outbreaks, better than an overtaxed immune system can.
Besides a compromised immune system, there’s one other major cold sore trigger that CBD can help reduce: stress. For many people suffering from recurrent cold sores, stress can be a major instigator. Luckily, CBD shows “therapeutic efficacy” for treating anxiety and stress in animal models, according to the National Institute of Health.
How Does CBD Help Cold Sores?
To better understand how CBD might help with cold sores, you first have to understand two types of medication used for their treatment – anti-inflammatories and anti-virals. CBD appears to have both of these properties, which is why it might be an effective option. When applying it, CBD may act as both an antiviral and anti-inflammatory to your cold sores.
HSV-1 attacks cell tissues in the mucous membranes, and this is why cold sore outbreaks often confine themselves to the mouth area. When the virus attacks the surrounding tissues, the cells are damaged. Damage to the cells triggers the release of white blood cells. It is this event that causes the inflammation, pain, blisters, and sores you would rather not have.
Humans produce their own cannabinoids naturally through what is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of a complex network of receptors spread all over the body and its purpose is to maintain the body’s internal homeostasis. Plant based cannabinoids like CBD are able to interact with the human ECS receptors, and trigger anti-viral and anti-inflammatory responses. Interestingly, human skin has its own separate ECS that can also be supported and kept healthy by topical CBD. To fight cold sores, CBD oil can be taken internally and CBD lip balm can be applied directly to the mouth. CBD stimulates our internal ECS to maintain homeostasis by fighting viruses and inflammation. Studies show that CBD binds to the CB2 receptors in the immune cells, improving the immune response. In other words, when the immune system is weakened for any reason, CBD enhances the activity of immune cells and bolsters their functioning. This action on the immune cells can prevent herpes attacks. So for those who wish to reduce their frequency of outbreaks, using CBD and CBD lip balm on a regular basis may make a huge difference.
How Does CBD Lip Balm Work?
One of the most effective ways to address an outbreak of cold sores is by using CBD lip balm. It works by acting as an antiviral, antibacterial and an antioxidant. One study reveals that CBD contains antibacterial compounds that help keep your lips protected. As an antioxidant, CBD can help skin stabilize free radicals and protect against overexposure to the elements. Used daily, it can greatly reduce the frequency of cold sore outbreaks. And if you use CBD lip balm on active cold sores, it can reduce inflammation and boost the healing process. It also helps moisturize sore lips, and can be applied as many times as needed for relief.
How Do I Treat Cold Sores With CBD?
CBD lip balm is a great way to keep lips healthy and prevent outbreaks. If you’re currently experiencing a cold sore outbreak, you can also try applying CBD oil directly to the skin using a clean cotton swab.
Can CBD Help Prevent Cold Sores?
To keep your immune system strong and stress at a manageable level, adding CBD to your daily routine is your best bet. Take a sublingual oil to keep your internal ECS in balance and use a lip balm to keep the lips themselves healthy and resilient. By supporting both of your body’s endocannabinoid systems you will greatly minimize the frequency and severity of an outbreak.
How Much CBD Should I Take for Herpes?
There are no official dosage recommendations when it comes to using CBD oil for cold sores and herpes. Currently, the only FDA-approved medication is Epidiolex, an anti-epileptic drug based on CBD isolate. The agency has promised to research the efficacy and safety of CBD products.
CBD is a natural and safe substance. There have been no reports of severe side effects after taking pure CBD oil, even in doses as high as 1,500 mg daily.
CBD companies often provide their own dosage recommendation based on the amount of CBD in the product. This is a good starting point but it might take a bit of experimenting until you find an effective dose for yourself. You can’t take too much CBD, but since it is expensive you probably don’t want to take more than you need.
Do’s and Don’ts of Using CBD for Herpes
- Purchase high-quality full-spectrum CBD products made from organic hemp.
- Combine CBD oil with a topical treatment.
- Give yourself some time; sometimes CBD may need around 2 weeks to fix your cannabinoid deficiencies.
- Don’t expect instant miracles. Although CBD is a powerful compound, it takes time to balance the body’s ECS.
- Don’t buy cheap, untested CBD oils. The market is flooded with mislabeled products that contain little to no CBD at all.
- Don’t use synthetic additives in CBD topicals. Parabens, sulfates, synthetic perfumes, and other irritants can reduce the benefits of CBD oil for herpes, and have their own side effects.
The Takeaway: Should I Use CBD Oil for Herpes?
Studies on PubMed indicate that CBD has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that may help people affected by the herpes simplex virus. By interacting with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) CBD may be helpful in preventing herpes breakouts as well as in reducing the severity and recurrence of its symptoms. The best results at using CBD oil for herpes are reported to come from a combination of sublingual and topical formulations. Whichever product you choose, make sure that it contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes to maximize its efficacy.