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Is Lysine Good for Canker Sores?

 A woman holding a light therapy device lysine for canker sores

When a canker sore strikes, you’ll do anything to escape the pain, discomfort and inconvenience it causes. As you search for remedies to reduce your misery, you may notice the recommendation to use lysine for canker sores. 

Lysine isn’t as well known as other natural treatments such as apple cider vinegar, but is it worth a try? 

A growing body of research demonstrates that lysine can help to prevent and heal canker sores. Here’s what you should know about this up-and-coming natural remedy. 

What Is Lysine?

Lysine is a type of protein building block called an essential amino acid. Your body can’t make its own lysine, so you get this amino acid from food or supplements instead. 

Lysine combines with other proteins in your body to form macronutrients. These macronutrients help your body’s tissues to grow and recover from damage. Research suggests that other important functions of lysine include:

  • Promoting collagen growth
  • Supporting a strong immune system
  • Helping the body absorb zinc, iron and calcium
  • Producing hormones, antibodies and enzymes

L-lysine is the specific form of lysine your body can readily use. Without it, you can experience side effects like fatigue, brain fog, anemia and hair loss. 

How Lysine Works Against Canker Sores

Lysine supports human health in many ways, but it’s not widely known that lysine may help protect against canker sores as well.  

Canker sores are shallow white lesions with inflamed pink borders that occur inside the lips and mouth. Also known as aphthous ulcers, canker sores aren’t contagious like cold sores. They usually develop as a response to stress, mouth irritation, vitamin deficiency, a viral infection, or an immune system condition. 

Preliminary research suggests that 500 mg of lysine may help prevent canker sores from developing. A higher dosage of 4,000 mg daily may also reduce the length of time you have a canker sore once it appears.


Lysine Also Helps Alleviate Cold Sores

Canker sores aren’t the only painful ulcers that can plague your mouth. Cold sores, which develop from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), are also very common.

Some people infected with HSV-1 never have an outbreak, but far more people have experienced the pain and embarrassment of cold sore blisters. These fluid-filled sores develop on or around the mouth and burst to release their fluids. The healing process begins as the cold sores dry into yellow crusts and eventually disappear. 

Though no permanent cure for cold sores exists, it’s possible to prevent future outbreaks and speed up cold sore healing using lysine. HSV-1 relies on arginine-rich proteins to spread and reproduce. Arginine is another amino acid, found in certain meats, nuts and wheat. It triggers cold sores and aggravates existing outbreaks.

Research suggests that lysine works against cold sores by interfering with the absorption of arginine. With enough lysine, the virus can no longer access arginine and the duration of the outbreak shortens. 

In one small study, treatment with lysine ointment achieved “full resolution” in 40% of participants by day three and in 87% of participants by day six. This marks a vast improvement compared to untreated cold sore episodes, which can last up to 21 days. 

lysine for canker sores


Where Can You Get Lysine?

Because your body doesn’t naturally produce lysine, you get it from your diet or from a supplement. Fortunately, lysine is easy to find. 

Many Foods Contain the Lysine Amino Acid

Many common foods contain lysine, including:

  • Meats like pork, turkey, chicken and beef
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt and cheese
  • Soybeans
  • Fish, such as cod and sardines

Most people get enough lysine through their diet, but those with ongoing cold sore outbreaks may benefit from a supplement. 

Choosing the Best Lysine Product

Lysine supplements are widely available in tablet, capsule and powder forms. When searching for a supplement, be sure to select a credible NSF-certified brand with a strong Consumer Lab rating. 

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) was founded in 1944 to standardize sanitation and food safety requirements. Today, NSF International guides public health standards to protect consumers and natural resources. For dietary supplements specifically, they screen for contaminants, verify ingredients, and inspect manufacturing facilities.

Additionally, check the ingredients label to make sure you select a supplement formulated with 100% pure pharmaceutical-grade lysine. Up to 3 grams per day is considered safe for supplementation purposes. 

How To Use Lysine on Canker Sores

Aside from taking a lysine capsule or tablet, you can also use lysine powder to make your own canker sore paste. 

Follow these simple steps for improved canker sore relief:

  1. Blend 1 tablespoon of lysine powder with 2 tablespoons of water
  2. Mix until a thick paste forms
  3. Apply the lysine paste at bedtime with a Q-tip or cotton swab
  4. Keep any leftover paste refrigerated

Precautions and Possible Risks 

Lysine is considered generally safe when used in small doses. Most people can take up to 3 grams of lysine each day without any side effects. However, higher lysine doses may cause diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps and other complications

It’s also important to remember that lysine interferes with arginine production and absorption. Though arginine plays a role in cold sore outbreaks, it also helps your body with growth, wound healing and nitric oxide production.

As a result, long-term lysine supplementation can lead to arginine deficiency, which puts your body at risk for other health complications. Experts recommend caution for long-term lysine use in people with cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease, asthma or immune dysfunction. 

Since more research is still needed to better understand lysine supplementation, it isn’t recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People taking any type of antibiotic classified as an aminoglycoside should also avoid lysine. The combination of lysine and aminoglycosides could result in serious side effects, such as kidney damage.

For a safe, reliable canker sore treatment alternative, consider light therapy. The Luminance RED is a breakthrough canker sore treatment device that harnesses high-powered light technology to shorten healing time and decrease the frequency of outbreaks.

Thanks to the precise design of the Luminance RED, every use provides you with a medically optimized wavelength of light to maximize treatment efficiency.


Other Canker Sore Treatment Options

Check your medicine cabinets and pantry for these simple and effective canker sore treatment alternatives. 

OTC Anesthetics

Over-the-counter topical anesthetics like benzocaine (Kank-A) and Orajel provide safe, temporary numbing of painful sores. You can apply these local anesthetics a few times a day to relieve discomfort until your canker sore heals completely. 

Silver Nitrate

Silver nitrate is a natural chemical compound activated by contact with moisture. As soon as you apply silver nitrate to your canker sore, it binds the tissue and obstructs the blood vessels to cauterize the wound and reduce your pain. 

Keep in mind that this home remedy can damage or irritate healthy skin, so you should always apply it carefully and in moderation. If you need to quickly stop the effects of a silver nitrate applicator stick, apply 0.9% saline solution to the treated area and then rinse with water. 

Research shows that treating canker sores with silver nitrate is a simple and affordable way to decrease the pain caused by ulcers, though the healing time remains about the same. 

Natural Remedies

If you’d prefer a gentler path to canker sore relief, you can try several natural DIY remedies. 

You can apply a homemade blend of milk of magnesia, like the well-known brand Maalox®, and an antihistamine like Benadryl® to alleviate the pain caused by your canker sore. 

Chamomile, a favorite natural remedy since ancient times, has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds known to help heal wounds and ease discomfort. You can use a frozen chamomile tea bag as a cold compress to soothe angry canker sores or rinse freshly brewed chilled chamomile tea in your mouth for the same effect. 

High-Powered Light Therapy

Canker sores can cause weeks of discomfort, even with the help of home remedies. Treatment with high-powered light is a gentle, safe and reliable way to alleviate even your worst canker sores. 

The Luminance RED is an FDA-registered device that treats canker sores with medically optimized light. This therapy supplies a burst of powerful energy to your skin that can accelerate healing time by 49% and even stop future outbreaks from ever developing. 

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