It's virus season.
Colds and Flu get the headlines, but right along with them comes that sidecar of discomfort - cold sores and fever blisters. As we've all probably heard by now, these painful, watery little blisters are the result of a virus (usually herpes simplex type 1). At first, infection comes from skin to skin contact or contact with droplets of fluid from an infected person. Once you are infected the virus moves in and takes up permanent residence. Fortunately, it doesn't cause symptoms unless it is re-activated by stress, illness, dental work, or even too much sun. Some estimates say nearly 1/3 of all people have been exposed to the virus. How often the virus becomes active varies from one individual to another.
Allopathy, or mainstream medicine certainly has a place here, especially if the virus involves the eye or other sensitive areas. Analgesics to reduce the pain and antiviral medicines can help, but are not a permanent cure. Anything you do works best when used as soon as possible. After a time or two, most people with the virus can feel when it is starting to become active, which is the time to do something. Medications, even over-the-counter balms and products that "protect the healthy cells from the virus" (www.abreva.com), can be expensive. Any medicines or remedies have potential side-effects.
The holistic approach is, of course, avoid getting the virus in the first place. The prevention advice here is the same as in mainstream medicine: wash your hands, avoid contact with active lesions, don't share toiletries and so on. For those already infected, it is wise to avoid triggers such as too much sun or stress. Avoid cold and flu as much as possible through all the common sense, stay-healthy things everyone should be doing anyway: wash your hand / use hand sanitizer, stay home when you are sick, vaccines when appropriate, and did I mention wash your hands??
Prevention also includes keeping your immune system as strong as possible through proper sleep, exercise and nutrition. Mind and spirit come into play through keeping stress under control.
Despite our best efforts viruses happen. If you do nothing at all, the common, uncomplicated, pain-in-the-lip cold sores / fever blisters will heal on their own in a few weeks. There are probably as many home remedies for them as there are for the common cold. I've gotten the darned things every other year or so since I was a kid, and have experimented with just about every home remedy that crossed my path. No surprise, my favorite remedy is aromatherapy.
Undiluted Melissa Officianalis (lemon balm) essential oil is the "gold standard" or at least the most studied, fastest and safest oil to use - if you can survive the sticker shock . It takes a huge amount of the plant to get tiny amount of oil, so real, unaltered, undiluted Melissa oil is hard to find and more expensive than prescription medications.
I like to use a blend of good quality, but abundant, inexpensive essential oils instead. In my experience, this blend smells nice, gives no problems, and cuts the healing time by 1/3 to 1/2. I like equal parts lemon, eucalyptus, and peppermint oil. In the beginning, apply just a drop of full strength blend to the affected area with a cotton swab 2-3 times a day until the blisters dry and the area begins to feel tight. Then add 15 drops of the blend to 1/2 tsp of grape seed, apricot kernel sweet almond or even olive oil to soothe and soften the skin. Continue to apply the diluted blend until the area is healed.
Lemon and eucalyptus are both anti-viral. Since the blisters are often brought on by a cold, the decongestant properties of eucalyptus right under your nose is a bonus. Lemon boosts the immune system in general, another bonus. The peppermint eases the pain and sting. The oils are easy to find and inexpensive as oils go, so you can make this blend for literally pennies. And no, not any old lemon oil will do. Use real, therapeutic grade essential oils.
Avoid sun exposure to the application area until 12 hours after the last use, which is true of any citrus oil. Also avoid use in pregnancy, lactation and in small children except under supervision...like anything else. Babies and mamas deserve extra-special care.
An oil blend isn't a cure any more than the mainstream medicines are, but aromatherapy can give us a pleasant, inexpensive way to reduce a royal pain in the lip.
LeVebre, M. (1990) The Aromatherapy Workbook
Schnaubelt, K (1995) Advanced Aromatherapy
Tisserand, R. (1977) The Art of Aromatherapy
Ronda Snow holds a Ph.D in Natural Health, a B.S. Med. Sci., and is a Reiki Master-practitioner. She is author of "Modern Oracle Tarot" blog, "The Vampire Diet" blog and "Baihu's Haikus" blog all available on amazon.com for Kindle. Her writing has appeared in "Kindred" magazine and FYP e-zine. For more information, please visit www.RondaSnow.com.