Almonds and Herpes

Almonds have a reputation as a great source of fiber, protein and healthy fat. However, almonds' low lysine-to-arginine amino acid ratio has caused many who suffer from the herpes simplex virus to shun them. Herpes simplex is a virus that causes sores or lesions on the mouth and genital areas. Now, preliminary evidence suggests that almond skin extract may be beneficial to those suffering from the incurable, recurring disease.

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Dietary recommendations for herpes most often focus on the lysine:arginine ratio. Lysine and arginine are two of 10 essential amino acids required by the body to build proteins required for normal functioning. Arginine is found in large quantities in nuts, grains, legumes and beans. In vitro (test tube) studies demonstrated that arginine is a food required for the growth of the herpes simplex virus, while lysine blocks the action of arginine, thus reducing viral replication 2. As a result, some say including more lysine in the diet and less arginine, effectively increasing the lysine:arginine ratio, will reduce herpes outbreaks.

Significance of Almonds

Almonds have a low lysine:arginine ratio, causing some to recommend their restriction, along with other nuts. However, dietary studies have not shown any reduction in herpes symptoms related to eating more foods with lysine while reducing arginine intake. Several small double-blind trials demonstrated reduction in either frequency of herpes outbreaks or herpes symptoms. However, no large-scale randomized controlled trials to date have confirmed the findings of smaller studies. In general, avoiding one particular food rich in arginine, such as almonds, is not recommended, according to the American Social Health Association. Furthermore, a physician should always be consulted prior to taking any dietary supplements.


Recent research by Giuseppina Mandalari and colleagues at the Institute of Food Research in the United Kingdom suggests a role for almond skin in reducing herpes outbreaks. The in-vitro study demonstrated a reduction in viral replication when natural almond skins were added to cells infected with herpes simplex. The authors suggest that an almond skin extract preparation may be beneficial to those with herpes. However, still recommends avoiding almonds during an outbreak until further research confirming this finding is completed.

Expert Insight

Currently, evidence from research studies is not strong enough to recommend avoidance or supplementation of almonds for those with herpes, according to the American Social Health Association. Almonds can be part of a balanced diet. Additionally, those interested in supplementing their diets with L-lysine should discuss this alternative treatment with their physicians.


Dietary supplements are not meant to replace medicine or treatment for those with herpes. Alternative treatments should be discussed with a physician prior to their use.