Cold sores play an essential role in this anthology of remedies because they are responsible for starting the project off.
They cause no symptoms, but periodically they track down a nerve to the surface of the skin where initially they cause a tingling sensation followed by the appearance of one or more blisters.
These last several days before scabbing over. An attack may come out of the blue but more usually is precipitated by one or other of several types of stress - including a respiratory infection or exposure of the skin to cold or sunlight.
The standard treatment for the last ten years has been the antiviral drug Acyclovir either in the form of the cream or, for those with severe recurrent attacks, taken in the form of tablets. The best results are obtained when Acyclovir is used at the tingling stage of the attacks, but it is most commonly prescribed once the blisters have already appeared, by which time its efficacy is much less convincing.
Professor Graham Worrall, writing in the British Medical Journal, maintained that Acyclovir is only of 'marginal benefit.' If the pills are taken regularly, it reduces the frequency of episodes in those severely affected. Several contributors commented that Acyclovir had been of little use and as it is costly - at $10 for cream and $60 for a course of tablets - their alternative remedies are of great interest.
Essential oils: According to researchs, tea tree oil for cold sores is the best essential oil. Just read how good is it. Alcohol and spirits; Mr. R. W. Sanders from Suffolk commended the after shave lotion Tabac Original. This does not entirely stop the cold sores but is a tremendous boon. The previous the application, the more significant and better the relief. The active ingredient is almost certainly the alcohol base of the aftershave as indeed must be the case with several other recommended remedies, including perfumes, whiskey, spirits of camphor, surgical spirit, vinegar, and TCP.
Dr. Svante Travenius explains how alcohol works: The herpes virus (that causes the cold sore) needs a high humidity to be efficient and capable of multiplication. If the water content in the tissues sinks under a specified minimum, the virus becomes inactivated. Alcohol is a dehydrating agent. This reduces the available water content in the sites affected by the illness, with the result that it is made ineffective and the sores heal.
Coffee: Caffeine, the main constituent of coffee has been shown to inhibit the herpes virus which may account for the excellent results reported by Mr. W. I. Drysdale from Devon: 'When you get that telltale tickle, just dip your finger into the residue of a cup of instant black coffee and rub on the affected part. The coffee must not be decaffeinated.
It need not be unnecessarily strong.' Mr. Drysdale reports that fellow sufferers to who he has commended this remedy have been equally impressed but 'when I have mentioned it to a variety of professional people including pharmacists and doctors I have been greeted with a half-closed eye and a suggestion of a smirk.'
Earwax: Sailors are particularly prone to cold sores as the combination of sun and wind is well recognised to be a significant precipitating factor, so this suggestion from Mr. K. E. Smith from Gwynedd is of particular interest: 'Fifty years ago a sailor (before the mast!) suggested I use my earwax.
Distasteful maybe, but I have never had any trouble since and neither has anyone to whom I have passed on the tip.' The rationale for this remedy is presumably a mixture of the protective effect of the wax and its anti-infective properties.
Vaseline: The opportunity to prevent cold sores from emerging is limited, but as just noted, exposure to the elements is a frequent precipitant so those prone to recurrent attacks should when outdoors or on the beach on holiday, make sure they cover their lips with generous doses of Vaseline.