Side effects of lysine

Why is heart attack the No. 1 killer in North America? Ninety-nine per cent of doctors say it’s due to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and that cholesterol-lowering drugs are the primary way to treat it. But I say it’s because cardiologists have closed minds and are ignoring facts that could save thousands of North Americans from coronary attack.

History shows mankind is not kind to new ideas. In 1847, one maternity patient in six who entered the University Hospital in Vienna left in a coffin. Why? Because esteemed professors ridiculed Dr. Semmelweiss, a colleague, for showing that by simply washing hands after doing an autopsy, deaths were prevented.

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Years later, Dr. Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize winner, is ignored for reporting that large amounts of vitamin C and lysine are needed to prevent coronary attacks. Twenty-five years ago, Pauling reported that animals make vitamin C and humans do not. That’s why sailors died of scurvy during long sea voyages, but the ship’s cat survived.

Vitamin C is required to manufacture healthy collagen, the glue that holds coronary cells together, just like mortar is needed for bricks. Lysine, like steel rods in concrete, makes collagen stronger. Pauling claimed it takes a mere 10 milligrams to prevent scurvy, but several thousand to prevent heart attack.

Williams Stehbens, professor of anatomy at Wellington University in New Zealand, proved Pauling was right. Stehbens’ research showed that coronary arteries closest to the heart are under the greatest pressure. This causes collagen to fracture, resulting in the formation of a blood clot and death.

Dr. Sydney Bush, an English researcher, has now proven that vitamin C can reverse atherosclerosis. Bush took retinal photographs, then started his patients on high doses of vitamin C and lysine. One year later, additional pictures showed atherosclerosis had regressed in retinal arteries. This also occurs in coronary and other arteries.

So what has happened to these monumental findings? Bush, like Semmelweiss, has been ridiculed by cardiologists. One has to ask whether cardiologists, by ignoring his results, are condemning thousands of people to an early needless coronary heart attack.

Fifteen years ago, following my own coronary attack, cardiologists claimed it was sheer madness for me to refuse cholesterol-lowering drugs. Instead, I decided to take high doses of vitamin C plus lysine with breakfast and the evening meal, for several reasons.

I knew that Dr. Duane Graveline, a physician and NASA astronaut, had twice developed transient global amnesia from taking Lipitor. I was also aware that patients have died from CLDs. Others have developed kidney, liver and muscle complications. I also believed the research of Pauling and Stehbens irrefutable. Now, the work of Bush has convinced me my decision was prudent.

But to take large doses of vitamin C and lysine requires swallowing many pills daily. It’s a tall order for those who dislike swallowing even one pill. Fortunately, Preferred Nutrition has produced a powder containing a high concentration of vitamin C and lysine, called Medi-C Plus available at health food stores.

The dosage for the Medi-C Plus is one flat scoop with breakfast and the evening meal with either water or orange juice. Those who have had a heart attack or a family history of cardiovascular disease should take one flat scoop three times a day. If high doses cause diarrhea, the dose should be decreased.

This column does not recommend that those taking CLDs should stop them. This is a decision that can only be made by patients and doctors.

Most of today’s cardiologists are impervious to persuasion. They continue to believe that cholesterol-lowering drugs are the be-all and end-all to prevent heart attack. They’ve been brainwashed by millions of dollars worth of promotion by pharmaceutical companies. It reminds me of the saying that cautions, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s the things you know for sure that ain’t so.”

It’s time for cardiologists to have an open mind and stop ignoring this research. As for me, I bet my life on it.

Product Review: Dr Gifford Jones Medi-C Plus

Dr Gifford Jones Medi-C Plus contains Vitamin C, one of the most important vitamins for the human body. Vitamin C is responsible for building collagen that strengthens the coronary cells, vital for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system and is a natural antioxidant. Humans cannot produce vitamin C naturally and need to obtain it through food and supplements.

What is Medi-C Plus?

Medi C Plus is a special nutritional supplement, containing Vitamin C, Calcium, and L-lysine, all of which are important for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system. Vitamin C and L-lysine work together to build the collagen that maintains the walls of the blood vessels and strengthens the coronary cells. Medi C Plus produces healthy collagen, dissolves cholesterol deposits, increases blood flow and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Who Should Take Medi-C Plus?

Medi C Plus is recommended to anyone suffering from high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease or someone at risk for heart disease. If you’re suffering from high blood pressure, Medi C Plus can improve your cardiouvascular function and help you lead a healthier lifestyle. Moreover, the product also has positive effects on mood and anxiety, and helps in the process of renewing and repairing the skin. Collagen production generally slows down with age, which leads to cracks appearing between the coronary cells. Medi C Plus is recommended to people with cardiovascular problems, especially the elderly. Medi C Plus can greatly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and can effectively protect you from hearth attack. The high dosage of Vitamin C in Medi C Plus can help with a variety of other health issues, including splitting hair, dry and rough skin, and decreased immunity. If you’re a smoker, you might also consider including the supplement into your dietary plan, as smoking can seriously decrease the vitamin C levels in the body. Vitamin C also helps your body fight stress, physical, and mental, and can greatly improve your general health and well-being. Lysine cannot be produced naturally by your body and needs to be obtained otherwise.

How Does Medi C Plus Work?

Medi C plus dissolves the cholesterol deposits and lowers the blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. By strengthening the blood vessels, Medi C Plus also increases the blood flow to coronary arteries, and prevents the formation of free radicals, which are harmful for your health. Without enough vitamin C, the collagen in the cell weakens and this could lead to a variety of health problems, such as heart attack. Medi C Plus was developed by Dr. Gifford Jones and is based on the combination of Vitamin C and Lysine. The combination of vitamin C and lysine in Medi C Plus strengthens your bones and helps them grow and repair quickly after a trauma. The Lysine has also been implicated in preventing herpes outbreaks, and increasing the diameter of vessels and thus, improving the blood flow. Generally, the lysine is essential for your good cardiovascular health and it’s important part of every healthy dietary plan.

How To Take Medi C Plus

Medi-C Plus comes in powder and capsules. The recommended dosage for the Medi-C Plus powder is dissolving one to two level scoops (5g) in 250 ml of water or juice once a day. For the Medi-C Plus capsules, take 5 capsules once or twice daily or as directed by a health practitioner. Medi-C Plus powder Berry is a great option too.

What happens when someone is deficient in vitamin C?
A lot of things happen but basically, you develop atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries that can sometimes kill you.
What is Medi-C Plus?
It not only prevents but it reverses atherosclerosis in coronary arteries. Not only there, but also in the arteries that are throughout the entire body. You’re getting the benefit to the entire arterial system.

What nutrients does it contain?
A high concentration of vitamin C and lysine.
How does it work?
Basically, in two ways. One, it keeps the arterial wall open. Secondly, the addition of lysine to vitamin C makes the arterial wall stronger so that you’ll get a situation where the artery is open and if the artery’s in your brain, the addition of lysine will keep its wall from rupturing, preventing a brain attack or a stroke.

Who should take it?
Everyone except those who have hemochromatosis or iron overload but really there’s no toxic limit to vitamin C or lysine. As we know, prevention is better than cure. The sooner you take it the better. This is something you have to take for a lifetime. You will never make vitamin C and lysine. You have to be really dedicated to taking it.

How much should be taken?
If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or have had a coronary artherosclerosis or diabetes, or artherosclerosis in other arteries where then you should take 6000 mg of vitamin C a day and 3900 of lysine. On the other hand, if you haven’t had a coronary and you don’t have a cardiovascular history as well as diabetes or obesity, in other words if you’re in good health, then 4000 mg of vitamin C a day and 2600 of lysine are sufficient.
How do people feel after taking it?
There has been a lot of feedback in terms of people liking the product and knowing what it’s doing to them. However, it’s not as if you’re taking an antibiotic and the infection is cured and you’re very happy about it. It’s a slow process. These are changes that will continue occuring as each year passes and the arterial system will get better and better but it doesn’t take away pain so you can’t compare it to an analgesic or pain killer or other drugs which have an immediate effect for that matter.

What can be taken instead of the powder?
Well, the natural way to do it is to take the capsules. Take the same dose with the capsules as the powder.

What other health concerns can benefit from taking it?
Starting from the skin, since vitamin C is needed for the manufacture of collagen and collagen is the glue that holds cells together, obviously it will hold the skin cells together and you’ll get fewer wrinkles. It’s also good for teeth and gums because most of the people who lose their teeth do so not because anything is wrong with their teeth, but because the gums are not strong enough to hold the tooth structure. There will be fewer hip replacements in all probability when people have high doses of vitamin C and lysine because vitamin C is needed for the manufacture of collagen, which is largely a component of cartilage. If you have good cartilage, bones will not grind on bones and you’ll require fewer hip and knee replacements.

Is it naturally flavoured?
Yes it is naturally flavored and there’s also a blueberry flavor as well so you can take your choice.


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Poly(L–lysine)–DNA interactions in NaCl solutions: B → C and B → ψ Transitions

Thermal denaturation and circular dichroism (CD) properties of poly(L‐lysine)–DNA complexes vary greatly when these complexes are prepared differently, that is, whether by NaCl‐gradient dialysis starting from 2.0 M NaCl or by direct mixing at low salt. These differing properties were investigated in more detail by examining complexes, made by direct mixing in the presence of various concentrations of NaCl, both before and after the NaCl was dialyzed out of the complex solution. The precipitation curves of DNA due to polylysine binding indicate that such binding is noncooperative at zero salt; from 0.1 up to 1.0 M NaCl they exhibit varying degrees of cooperatively. Starting from zero salt, as the NaCl concentration used for complex formation is increased, both the CD and the melting properties of the complexes are shifted from those of directly mixed at zero salt to those of reconstitution: in the CD spectra there is a gradual shift from a B → C transition to a B → ψ transition; thermal denaturation results show a gradual increase in the melting temperatures of both free DNA ™ and polylysine‐bound DNA (t′m). The progressive shift from B → C to B → ψ suggests a close relationship between these two transitions. Large aggregates of the complexes do not warrant the appearance of ψ‐type CD spectra: ψ‐spectra have been obtained in the supernatants of polylysine–DNA complexes made and measured at 1.0 M NaCl while slightly perturbed CD spectra in B → C transition have been observed in turbid solutions of fully covered complexes made at very low salt. If the complexes are made at intermediate salts and dialyzed to a very low salt, although up to 60% of the DNA is still bound by polylysine, the CD spectra of the complexes are shifted back to the B‐type CD characteristic of pure DNA. is intended to be used for educational and information purposes only. and its Editors do not advocate nutritional supplementation over proper medical advice or treatment and this sentiment will never be expressed through pages hosted under If using any pharmaceuticals or drugs given to you by a doctor or received with a prescription, you must consult with the doctor in question or an equally qualified Health Care Professional prior to using any nutritional supplementation. If undergoing medical therapies, then consult with your respective Therapist or Health Care Professional about possible interactions between your Treatment, any Pharmaceuticals or Drugs being given, and possible nutritional supplements or practices hosted on does not assume liability for any actions undertaken after visiting these pages, and does not assume liability if one misuses supplements. and its Editors do not ensure that unforeseen side effects will not occur even at the proper dosages, and thereby does not assume liability for any side effects from supplements or practices hosted under the domain of

The same building block of protein that helps treat cold sores can also help fight cancer. It’s not a myth; it’s just science — and that’s just one of the many L-lysine benefits.

For years, people have been using L-lysine to treat the herpes virus and recover from workouts. But, as it turns out, this amino acid is good for more than just these two things. L-lysine benefits are extensive and include everything from anxiety to diabetes.

This essential amino acid is found in food as well as available in supplement form. Let me show you how very essential it is and all the wonderful things L-lysine benefits can do for your health.

What Is L-Lysine?

L-lysine is an essential amino acid. Many people know that several amino acids are known as the “building blocks of protein” and are needed in order for a huge number of proper internal functions, including growth.

Of the few hundred amino acids found in nature, 20 are necessary for protein creation and growth, and only 10 of those 20 can be produced by the body. The remaining 10 are known as “essential” amino acids because humans must consume them for proper health. Amino acid deficiencies cause a degradation of internal cells and can lead to huge problems, so it’s important to get enough of them in your diet. It’s common to be deficient in lysine and glutamine, in particular.

Essential amino acids are most often stereoisomers, meaning they exist in two variations that are identical to one another as mirror images. There are both D- and L- forms of these amino acids, and the L- form is used in protein synthesis and therefore the form found in food and supplements. Because of this, most people simply refer to this nutrient as “lysine” for short.

There are many incredible L-lysine benefits, from its use as a common treatment for cold sores to a potential anti-anxiety supplement. As is true with most nutrients available in supplement form, it can be taken orally but is absorbed best into the body when consumed through food. It’s found in large amounts in various kinds of meat, beans, cheeses and eggs.

Specifically, L-lysine is very important in the creation of carnitine, which converts fatty acids into energy and also lowers cholesterol levels. It also seems to play a role in absorbing calcium and helps the body form collagen, which aids in the growth and maintenance of bones and connective tissue (including skin). (1)

As a natural disease-fighting agent, L-lysine benefits the human body in a variety of ways, many of which are only recently undergoing research.

L-Lysine Benefits

1. May Decrease Outbreak and Frequency of Herpes Viruses

If you’ve heard of L-lysine before, it’s probably in conjunction with a natural cold sore remedy. Cold sores are a result of the herpes simplex-1 virus, also referred to as HSV-1, and around 67 percent of people under 50 are infected with the virus, even if they never display symptoms. HSV-2 is the herpes virus responsible for genital herpes, which 85 percent of carriers are unaware they even have.

While research is inconsistent on the subject, most individuals who use L-lysine to treat cold sores rate it as very effective. (2) Some studies support that L-lysine can help reduce the number of HSV outbreaks someone has, while others say that outbreaks happen at the same frequency but last a shorter period of time. Experts generally agree that L-lysine is unlikely to completely stop outbreaks altogether but may aid in lessening their severity and/or frequency.

One study using a cream combining L-lysine with herbs and zinc found that 87 percent of patients found their cold sores gone by day six of treatment, although these outbreaks usually last about 21 days. (3)

The way this nutrient may fight cold sores is not entirely clear, but one such reason may be the way that it interacts with arginine, another amino acid that’s produced in small amounts within the body. Arginine has been shown to increase the replication rate of herpes virus cells, and high amounts of L-lysine in the body decrease the activity of arginine because they work against one another.

Along with the HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores, L-lysine may potentially help alleviate genital herpes caused by HSV-2 using this same mechanism, although research is still unclear.

2. May Help in the Treatment of Cancer

One reason many scientists search for natural cancer treatments has to do with the way conventional treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, negatively impact healthy cells along with diseased ones. Amazingly, there have been huge strides recently in this area, as researchers discover more and more ways that nutrients found in our food and in nature may potentially do just what we desire — target malignant cells without killing good ones.

In 2007, scientists at Florida State University studied the effects of “lysine conjugates” on damaged strands of DNA, like the ones found in cancer. Basically, this substance can locate a damaged strand by identifying “cleavage” in it (a damaged spot) and cause the rest of the strand to cleave (tear apart) as well. The cell is usually unable to repair this damage, leading to apoptosis, the suicidal death of cells.

What’s most fascinating about the potential of this treatment is how it works alongside specific types of light. The cancer-killing ability of lysine conjugates are only activated when exposed to particular types of light, which allows researchers, and potentially doctors, to inject or place the treatment into the most concentrated location of cancer cells and activate them at their most potentially effective spots.

The scientists conducting the study found results ranging from 25 percent all the way to 90 percent of destroyed cancer cells, which is astounding! (4)

A lysine oxidase was tested against instances of colorectal cancer in mice in 2014. In this study, the injection of lysine oxidase was associated with zero deaths and shrunk solid tumors in significant amounts, signifying this may be a promising form of cancer treatment for colorectal cancer in the future. (5)

Cancers related to the bone marrow, such as leukemia, may also meet their match with L-lysine, according to preliminary research. In one study, L-lysine injection helped prevent genotoxicity (DNA and RNA damage) in cells exposed to a cancer-causing substance. (6)

3. Reduces Anxiety and Other Psychological Symptoms

Along with eating foods high in B vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, you can also try increasing your L-lysine intake to minimize anxiety. Because L-lysine may help your body absorb calcium, which is another beneficial nutrient for anxiety sufferers, this may be one of the primary ways in which it helps treat anxiety.

In addition to helping you absorb calcium more efficiently, L-lysine behaves like a serotonin receptor antagonist. That’s a wordy phrase that means it partially binds to serotonin receptors in order to partially prevent anxiety responses. This research, in particular, found that L-lysine helps reduce stress-induced anxiety responses, including diarrhea. (7)

This is especially important in developing countries in which wheat is the primary staple food. People living in these environments are much more likely than those in first-world countries to be deficient in L-lysine. Fortifying diets of people in wheat-dependent countries can help reduce both stress-induced anxiety and diarrheal responses. (8)

It’s possible that L-lysine benefits those with schizophrenia as well, which manifests in extremely serious symptoms often related to anxiety. Preliminary findings suggest that L-lysine supplementation along with conventional therapy can help decrease negative and general symptoms of schizophrenia, although dosing and long-term effects have not yet been determined. (9)

4. Increases Absorption of Calcium

Consuming L-lysine is associated with better absorption of calcium, which leads some to believe that it can help people with or at risk for osteoporosis. No studies have been done to date on the link between L-lysine and osteoporosis, but because of the important role calcium plays in bone health, logic suggests it may be a beneficial nutrient to supplement those with brittle bones.

In fact, calcium is good for more than just your bones — consuming appropriate amounts of calcium is associated with healthy weight, cancer prevention, PMS symptom reduction, dental health, nerve and muscle health, and the prevention of diabetes.

Athletes often take L-lysine as a protein supplement to improve performance. This, too, may be related to the way L-lysine causes your body to absorb calcium.

5. Reduces Diabetes-Related Problems

One of the most difficult things patients with diabetes experience is an increased risk for infection and other diabetes-related conditions. In the past several years, much attention has been given in this context to the large presence of advanced glycation end products, referred to as AGEs for short.

These AGEs are part of the aging process in the body in all people, but they’re in very high concentrations in diabetic patients. They’re implicated in many diabetes-related health conditions, leading scientists to study therapies that involve stopping AGEs from collecting in large numbers. (10)

It seems one of the L-lysine benefits for diabetics may be to prohibit the formation of AGEs in those with diabetes by preventing specific paths of glycation that lead to these products, helping to stave off infection. (11) Thus, the addition of L-lysine benefits those following a diabetic diet plan if lysine foods are included.

6. Supports a Healthy Gut

An extremely common problem that millions of people have, many of whom aren’t even aware of it, is leaky gut syndrome. This condition is the permeating of your digestive tract lining, allowing larger-than-intended particles to get out of your digestive system and into the rest of your body. This causes allergic reactions, low energy, joint pain, autoimmune diseases and thyroid disease.

A form of L-lysine known as poly-L-lysine very recently was found to have anti-inflammatory effects on the lining of your gut, hopefully leading to more extensive research on how this amino acid may help improve the health of this lining and possibly prevent leaky gut. (12)

Although not necessarily directly related to leaky gut syndrome, L-lysine has also been found to suppress pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, another important part of the digestive system. (13)

Related: Threonine: The Amino Acid Needed for Collagen Production

Dosages and Food Sources of L-Lysine

I’m definitely a proponent of getting your nutrients from food rather than supplements whenever possible. This way, your body absorbs more of the nutrients, and you don’t risk overdosing. However, supplements can be extremely beneficial in cases where you know you aren’t able to meet your daily value recommendations of specific nutrients.

The average person (around 150 pounds) should get between 800–3,000 milligrams of L-lysine in his or her diet each day. Dosage recommendations for treating herpes outbreaks are suggested at one to three grams daily of an additional L-lysine supplement. (14)

Lysine is also available in cream form, often used to apply to cold sores.

When eating lysine-rich foods, remember that conventional preparation methods can decrease the nutritive value of the lysine. These include methods like reducing with a sugar-based substance, heating foods in the presence of yeast or sucrose, and cooking with the absence of moisture.

Top 10 Highest L-Lysine Foods

The top 10 foods highest in lysine are: (15)

  1. Lean beef and lamb — 3,582 milligrams/100 grams, 171 percent DV
  2. Parmesan cheese — 3,306 milligrams/100 grams, 157 percent DV
  3. Turkey and chicken — 3,110 milligrams/100 grams, 148 percent DV
  4. Pork — 2,757 milligrams/100 grams, 131 percent DV
  5. Roasted soy beans — 2,634 milligrams/100 grams, 125 percent DV
  6. Tuna — 2,590 milligrams/100 grams, 123 percent DV
  7. Shrimp — 2,172 milligrams/100 grams, 103 percent DV
  8. Pumpkin seeds — 1,386 milligrams/100 grams, 66 percent DV
  9. Eggs — 912 milligrams/100 grams, 43 percent DV
  10. White beans — 668 milligrams/100 grams, 32 percent DV

While these are all rich in lysine, I do caution to avoid pork, soy and shrimp as much as possible, as these foods are often contaminated with toxins. As for the meat, cheese and eggs, always make sure you consume grass-fed, free-range and organic whenever possible.

History and Interesting Facts

L-lysine was first discovered by a scientist known only as Dreschel in 1889, who was able to isolate the amino acid from casein, or milk protein. The exact structure of the molecule was recorded just three years later. Research of L-lysine continued in 1928 when Vickery and Leavenworth prepared it in crystalline form, then completed by Fischer and Weigert when it was completely synthesized.

This substance has appeared in some interesting pop culture spots as well. “Jurassic Park,” both the fictional 1993 film and 1990 book, cited the “lysine contingency” as a way to prevent dinosaurs from living outside the park. This faulty scientific logic stated that geneticists creating these dinosaurs made the beasts incapable of producing lysine so they would die without supplements from their caretakers.

Of course, L-lysine is an essential amino acid not produced in any animal’s body, but which is found in nature – still, a clever plot line.

Lysine was also the subject of the largest ever U.S. price-fixing court case, garnering a massive $100 million settlement and three convicted executives who served prison time for the offense. The case was the subject of “The Informant!” — the 2009 film starring Matt Damon.

Speaking of celebrities, Sheldon Cooper shows the love for L-lysine when he names it his “favorite amino acid” on season 2, episode 13 of the nerdy science sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Potential Side Effects and Caution with Lysine

L-lysine supplements have been known to cause some minor side effects, although consuming foods rich in lysine is not proven to have the same effect. These side effects include stomach pain and diarrhea. There has also been one report of kidney disease linked with lysine supplements, so patients with kidney and liver impairment should use caution and consult with their health care providers before beginning to take lysine supplements.

Because its effects on pregnant mothers has not been researched at length, those who are pregnant and/or nursing should avoid taking L-lysine supplements.

While L-lysine benefits those with a large number of diseases, there is evidence that it can increase the viral load of HIV patients. For this reason, those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS should not take L-lysine supplements and consume high-lysine foods only (which probably do not produce the same results). On the positive side, scientists discovering this phenomenon are now able to use this to speed up testing of HIV-fighting treatments. (16)

Final Thoughts

  • L-lysine is the L- form of lysine, which is the form absorbed by the body to build proteins.
  • This essential amino acid cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed in food and/or supplement form. It’s also found in topical cream form.
  • The most commonly practiced use of L-lysine is in the treatment of the herpes simplex virus.
  • It has various mechanisms and variations through which it may be able to fight cancer, reducing tumor size and causing cell death in cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells.
  • Other L-lysine benefits include increasing calcium absorption, reducing diabetes-related illnesses and improving gut health.
  • Eating foods high in lysine is the most effective way to absorb this nutrient and obtain those L-lysine benefits.
  • The average person needs between 800 and 3,000 milligrams of L-lysine each day.

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Lysine for Cold Sores?

The herpes virus, an ancient and unwelcome human companion, comes in more than one form. Herpes simplex 1 is almost always the culprit in cold sores or fever blisters that erupt around the mouth; herpes simplex 2 is generally responsible for genital herpes. But, in fact, both forms of the virus can cause eruptions on the genitals and around the mouth.

Herpes outbreaks are usually painful and unsightly, as well as contagious. Anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of us carry herpes simplex 1, probably as a result of childhood infection. Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Once you have the virus, you have it. It may lie dormant, but it doesn’t go away. And it can be spread, even if you have no signs of the infection.

In the 1980s, before there were effective drugs for herpes, the amino acid lysine was regarded as a potential treatment and preventive. One of the building blocks of protein, lysine is supplied by many foods—notably red meats, fish and dairy products. You can certainly satisfy your needs for lysine from dietary sources. But to fight herpes, you would need more, the thinking ran.

The idea that lysine might work against herpes has some plausibility. In order to replicate, the herpes virus requires arginine, another amino acid that’s common in foods and necessary to human life; lysine is thought to interfere with the absorption of arginine in the intestine.

However, it’s a long way from this observation to a herpes treatment, and most studies on high doses of lysine as a preventive or treatment have been inconclusive. While a few studies have found that lysine decreases the severity or duration of an outbreak, others have not. In any case, most of the studies have been small and poorly designed. What’s more, serious side effects (notably kidney problems) from long-term use have been reported; high doses can cause abdominal pain and diarrhea.

We do not recommend lysine. Its effect is unproven, at best, and there are medications that work. A caution: If you do take lysine supplements, don’t take them continually, but only when you feel cold sores coming on.

Medication options for cold sores

Fortunately, there are safe and effective drugs for herpes. Commonly used for genital herpes, they can also be used to treat cold sores as well as to suppress future outbreaks. The oral prescription drugs are acyclovir (brand name Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir), all available in generic form. Acyclovir is also available as a cream, as is another prescription drug, penciclovir (Denavir); the creams do not work as well as the oral medications. The cream docosanol (Abreva) is sold over the counter. These do not cure herpes in the sense that antibiotics cure bacterial infections, but do reduce the severity of outbreaks and have few, if any, serious side effects. And long-term daily oral doses can cut down on recurrences.

Final note: To head off cold sores, a sunscreen, applied to the lips daily, can be useful. Sunlight seems to activate herpes simplex 1 in some people.

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