Iron stops recurring cold sores and herpes

This blog post looks at the relationship between iron and herpes and how improving your ferritin levels (should you have a deficiency) can stop recurring cold sores and herpes.

Herpes and Cold Sore Outbreaks

Painful herpes blisters and cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2 and HSV-1). There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. Conventional topical and oral treatments are widely available and can treat herpes and cold sores with various degrees of success. But why do some people get mild occasional outbreaks while others suffer from more severe and frequently recurring outbreaks? Why do some people with the virus get no outbreaks at all?

Iron’s relationship to the herpes simplex virus

A 1995 study in the “European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases” looks at the impact of ferritin levels (iron stores) on recurring herpes simplex outbreaks compared patients with cold sores to those without cold sores and found that patients with cold sores had lower ferritin levels.
A 2010 medical study in the journal “Cell Biochemistry and Function” suggests that the reason why some people get cold sores and others do not can be partly explained by genetic differences in the way our bodies handle iron. This is due to differences in the protein haptoglobin which is important to iron metabolism. There are three types of haptoglobin two of which lead to lower levels of iron in the blood. People with one of these two kinds of haptoglobin are more likely to get herpes outbreaks.

How iron prevents herpes outbreaks

In order to infect new cells and cause an outbreak, the herpes virus needs an enzyme called ribonucleotide reductase. Iron is an essential component of this enzyme.  Our immune system (T-cells and B-cells) also relies on iron to fight the herpes simplex virus. Unfortunately, the herpes simplex virus binds iron more effectively than our immune system so when iron stores (ferritin levels) are low, the virus wins out, and we get herpes and cold sore outbreaks.

Iron treatment for herpes

Iron treatment for herpes is simple and straight forward: take iron to improve your ferritin levels. Because it can be dangerous to take iron when you don’t need it, we urge you to get a blood test to determine your ferritin levels and take advice from a health practitioner about how much and what kind of iron you should take to improve your ferritin levels.

If you suffer from recurring herpes or cold sore outbreaks and your ferritin is low, you will very likely experience a dramatic improvement when you increase your ferritin levels. Be sure your doctor checks your ferritin levels as opposed to your hemoglobin, the level of iron in your blood.

Many find relief from the pain of herpes blisters by applying DMSO. For more on this click here.


“Cell Biochemistry and Function”; Iron Metabolism Markers and Haptoglobin Phenotypes; Luisa Gennaro, Ph.D. et al.; Mar. 2010

“European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases”; Relationship Between Iron Status and Recrudescent Herpes Labialis; Philip-John Lamey, D.M.D. and Paul A. Biagioni, D.M.D.; Jul. 1995

7 responses to “Iron stops recurring cold sores and herpes

  1. This is a really serious article, not the nail polish remover stuff that’s written in other places. Thanks a lot!

  2. Thanks. I had never heard of ferritin until I was diagnosed as having very low levels. When this was corrected (simply and cheaply BTW) with high dose iron tablets a range of seemingly benign issues disappeared. Like recurring cracked corners of my mouth, recurring cold sores and insatiable cravings for ice cubes (pica – or cravings for non-foods)!

    I’m glad you find the article helpful!

  3. I did not know this, I’ll post it on my website, very good information

  4. The body controls entry of iron into the body via the intestine but there is no controlled exit from the body. Unless you have iron deficiency or eat a very poor diet, you probably don’t need extra iron supplements. If you take in much more iron than is recommended, you may develop haemosiderosis , which causes a rise in blood iron and ferritin levels. If you have an inherited disorder called haemochromatosis , where there is failure of control of absorption in the intestine, taking extra iron can cause more rapid iron accumulation and possibly accelerate the rate of damage to your organs.

  5. Serum ferritin Serum ferritin is the most useful measure of iron status as it accurately reflects body stores and is the earliest laboratory measure to reflect iron deficiency. It can be used to detect iron deficiency and excess. Normal serum ferritin levels are 40 to 160 mcg per liter, with iron deficiency anemia indicated by a level of 12 mcg per liter.

  6. Nelda U. Rosa

    Iron supplements (most often ferrous sulfate) are needed to build up the iron stores in your body. Most of the time, your doctor or nurse will measure your iron levels before starting supplements.

  7. Heavy periods can cause iron deficiency anemia and ferritin levels to drop, your iron stores. A lot of women have an outbreak during their menstrual cycle. I’ve been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, low ferritin, and haveHSV2. When I take my iron pills I am unable to control the anemia. My periods are so heavy that I have to take birth control pills and receive infusions with a hematologist. I’ve been told it will take a few weeks to see the results. Iron pills do not work for everyone. Having both the symptoms of anemia (fatigue, swollen tongue, sore mouth and gums, back pain, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, twitching muscles, hair loss) along with the HSV2 symptoms of (prodrome, tingling, sore in area, swollen lymph nodes, flu like symptoms, back pain) is a horrific combination. Being seriously anemic I’ve noticed really makes the symptoms of HSV2 much worse.

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