Cold sores can be annoying, painful and embarrassing. You can feel people looking at the sore on your lip as you talk. You may even miss work for a few days to avoid the stares. Unfortunately, when a cold sore appears, you don’t have a lot of good options but to wait for it to go away.
Cold sores are small blisters that appear on around the mouth or the nose. They are caused by a virus, and they usually last several days. Cold sores are caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus (HSV), usually type 1. Herpes is contagious and is spread by contact with the blisters. People catch the virus by kissing and coming in contact with saliva. The most contagious time is before the blisters crust over. This virus doesn’t ever really go away, cold sores can come back in the same area over and over again. People are usually children when they have the first infection of herpes simplex virus 1, so they may not know when exactly the initial infection occurred. But if you have ever gotten a cold sore, that means that you were initially infected, and the virus keeps coming back in the form of cold sores.
The virus is usually dormant, and medical professionals are not sure what exactly causes the virus to become active. Having a cold or fever can bring on a case of cold sores, as can stress, hormonal changes, an injury, or a sunburn on the face or lips.
Cold sores are not usually a serious medical condition, but people who have a compromised immune system, like those who have been through chemotherapy, have more of a risk for severe outbreaks. In very rare cases, the virus can affect the brain, causing confusion and a fever. Either of these situations may require a hospital stay.
Most people just wait for the cold sore to go away or treat it topically. There are multiple home remedies for a cold sore, including vitamin E or other vitamin supplements, changes in diet, or other remedies that have not been proven or studied. Several over-the-counter creams and ointments are sold to combat cold sores. Most of the over-the-counter medications don’t actually treat the cold sore or shorten the length of time you have the cold sore, but they just make it feel better. Ointments like Vaseline and Carmex keep the area moist which helps the cold sore from cracking and bleeding.
There are a few treatments that can speed the healing of the cold sore. Abreva (OTC – over the counter) medication that, when applied immediately when the cold sore appears, can help the cold sore to go away quicker. It can be expensive, and it also must be applied multiple times during the day.
Because treatment choices involve a doctor visit, prescription drugs that have side effects, or expensive ointments, many people seek out alternative treatments. One of these alternatives is CBD oil.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD is often made from the hemp plant. CBD has no psychotropic effect like the more well-known compound THC. CBD has been the subject of hundreds of laboratory and clinical research studies to investigate the medical uses of the compound. Interest in the medical use of cannabinoids increased with the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the body, as well as two endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The endocannabinoid system affects pain, memory, mood and appetite. CBD interacts with these receptors in ways that may have a positive therapeutic effect on many conditions. So far clinical studies have reported positive results using CBD to treat eczema and various skin problems, PTSD and anxiety disorders, Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, as well as some types of cancer.
There are not many studies done to determine what effect CBD might have on cold sores. A small study was done in 1980 that tested herpes simplex virus HSV1 and HSV2 in a laboratory setting. When treated with a concentration of the cannabinoid THC, both viruses stopped replicating. Additional studies done in 1991 and in 2004 found that THC stopped or slowed the replication of the virus.
A small clinical study of eight subjects tested a cannabinoid cream on skin sores caused by herpes zoster (shingles). In the study, five out of eight of the subjects reported that they had 87.8% less pain, and there were no adverse side effects reported. The conclusion was that “Topical cannabinoid receptor agonists are an effective and well-tolerated adjuvant therapy option in posttherpetic neuralgia.”
There is some confusion because much of the research evidence is contradictory. Some studies show that cannabinoids such as THC can cause the spread of a virus, while other studies show that it has an anti-viral effect. And we don’t have a lot of information about the cannabinoid CBD yet.
More definitive research is definitely on the way, but until then, work with your doctor to see if treating your cold sores with a CBD preparation is appropriate.