One very popular remedy for cold sores and similar viral infections has been Lemon Balm, i.e Melissa officinalis. This is a favorite herb of mine in general because of its many wonderful properties which include effectiveness against HSV (the virus that causes cold sores and herpes) and other viruses. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, calming, antiviral, antimicrobial, promotes sleep, reduces stress, and acts as a tonic for the digestive, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. Not to mention, being in the mint family, it tastes so good as a tea!
Lemon Balm as an Anti-viral
Quite a few research studies have shown that Melissa is a good anti-viral herb due to its various compounds, especially the volatile oils, phenolics, and triterpenes. It is always encouraging when several active compounds are found in a single plant, because it means that it exerts its medicinal action through several different approaches. The more approaches, the less likely that the viruses will develop resistance against it, and the more likely it is to work for a wider variety of people. Promising lab results demonstrated powerful effects against influenza, COVID-19, HSV, Hand Foot and Mouth disease, and even HIV. More human studies need to be carried out, but with an excellent safety profile, and traditional use going back centuries, Melissa may be a great option for those seeking a bit more antiviral support.
What about the Herpes Simplex Virus?
The virus that causes cold sores and herpes is one of the most commonly transmitted viruses on the planet (you can read the basics here). So many people are impacted by it that finding effective ways to manage it is important. Researchers have found that the compounds within Melissa are effective at preventing HSV from attaching to and infecting healthy cells. It also appears to be virucidal, meaning it directly interacts with the virus to kill or neutralize it. In one case it has shown effectiveness against acyclovir-resistant HSV, which is great news considering that resistance has been a concern over the years.
Another way that Melissa can be useful against HSV is through its calming and stress-reducing properties. Lemon Balm has long been known as a very useful anxiolytic, to help calm the nervous system, help with sleep, and mitigate the effects of stress. This is important because times of increased stress tend to be times when a herpes or cold sore outbreak is more likely to happen. If you can help manage stress effectively, the frequency and intensity of outbreaks will reduce.
Interestingly, Melissa may be useful again HSV not only internally, but also topically. Preparations of Melissa cream have been shown to be effective at reducing the severity and duration of an outbreak, which for anyone suffering from them knows is a big deal.
With a great safety profile, and variety of ways to find Melissa officinalis (teas, tinctures, capsules, and creams), those looking for extra HSV support should consider it. As always before starting any new supplemental products, speak with a qualified healthcare practitioner.