Herpes is an incurable and contagious condition that creates sores on the body, generally around the mouth or genitals. Oral herpes stems from a virus called herpes simplex 1, or HSV1; genital herpes stems from a virus called herpes simplex 2, or HSV2. Herpes will never go away but usually goes into periods of dormancy, during which those infected are symptom-free. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests that avoiding arginine will result in longer dormancy periods and shorter outbreaks.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Amino acids are the components of protein; arginine is one type of amino acid. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make on its own and must therefore be supplied through diet. Nonessential amino acids are ones that the body can manufacture by itself. In their book “The Nutrition Desk Reference,” authors Robert Garrison, Jr., and Elizabeth Somer, refer to arginine as a semi-essential amino acid. Most of the time the body can make sufficient quantities of arginine, but under certain circumstances, such as during periods of high growth in childhood, the body is unable to make enough arginine to keep up with the demand.
- Amino acids are the components of protein; arginine is one type of amino acid.
- Most of the time the body can make sufficient quantities of arginine, but under certain circumstances, such as during periods of high growth in childhood, the body is unable to make enough arginine to keep up with the demand.
The Arginine Debate
Lysine Herpes Diet
Dr. Andrew Weil recommends that people infected with the herpes virus decrease the amount of arginine in their diet because consuming arginine may make outbreaks more likely. Weil also recommends those with herpes eat more foods containing the amino acid lysine. The University of Michigan Health System’s Healthwise Knowledgebase notes that the strategy of increasing lysine and decreasing arginine is a common alternative treatment approach to herpes, but states that studies demonstrating its effectiveness are yet to be done 5. The American Social Health Association’s Herpes Resource Center does not advocate eliminating foods with arginine, and reports that there is no objective proof showing that consuming arginine will increase a person’s number of outbreaks 4.
Terri Warren, author of the book “The Good News About the Bad News Herpes: Everything You Need to Know,” specializes in the subject of herpes and has been principally involved in more than 80 research projects 1. Warren holds several degrees, including a master’s degree in nursing. She explains that in some older studies arginine was shown to encourage the growth of herpes in a laboratory setting, but that there have been no such studies showing the same in human subjects.
Differences Between Cold Sores & Herpes
Lisa Marr, author of “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: A Physician Tells You What You Need to Know,” Terri Warren, and the American Social Health Association’s Herpes Resource Center all encourage herpes patients to note any patterns in relation to outbreaks and food choices 123. A person infected with herpes who notices she typically has outbreaks after consuming food high in arginine should consider eliminating the food from her diet.
Sources of Arginine
Weil advises that chocolate, peas, nuts and seeds are all high in arginine. Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, author of “Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs and Food Supplements,” states that carob, coconut, dairy products, gelatin, meat, oats, soybeans, white flour, wheat and wheat germ are all arginine-rich foods.
Lysine Herpes Diet
Differences Between Cold Sores & Herpes
Worst Foods to Eat if You Have Herpes
Almonds and Herpes
Foods That Trigger Cold Sores
Foods to Eat to Avoid Shingles
Can Eating Certain Foods Help Heal & Prevent a Herpes Outbreak?
Foods to Avoid for Pemphigus
Diet for Bacterial Vaginosis
Diet for Herpes Zoster
- “The Good News about the Bad News Herpes: Everything You Need to Know”; Terri Warren, RN, MP; 2009
- “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: A Physician Tells You What You Need to Know”; Lisa Marr, MD; 2007
- “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Sourcebook”; ed. Laura Larsen; 2009
- American Social Health Association’s Herpes Resource Center Learn About Herpes: Treatment
- The Mayo Clinic: Herpes Treatment Options
- “Genital Herpes: The Facts”; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2008
- McQuillan G, Kruszon-Moran D, Flagg EW, Paulose-Ram R. Prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in persons aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief. 2018;304.
- Tronstein E. Genital Shedding of Herpes Simplex Virus Among Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Persons With HSV-2 Infection. JAMA. 2011;305(14):1441. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.420
- World Health Organization (WHO). Herpes simplex virus. Updated January 31, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed). Updated January 31, 2017
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet. Updated August 28, 2017.
- Chun H, Carpenter R, Macalino G, Crum-Cianflone NF. The role of sexually transmitted infections in HIV-1 progression: A comprehensive review of the literature. Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2012;2013(176459):1-15. doi:10.1155/2013/176459
- Heslop R, Roberts H, Flower D, Jordan V. Interventions for men and women with their first episode of genital herpes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Aug 30;(8):CD010684. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010684.pub2
- Jin F, Prestage GP, Mao L, Kippax SC, Pell CM, et al. Transmission of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 in a prospective cohort of HIV-negative gay men: the health in men study. J Infect Dis. 2006 Sep 1;194(5):561-70.
- Schulte JM, Bellamy AR, Hook EW 3rd, Bernstein DI, Levin MJ, et al. HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence in the united states among asymptomatic women unaware of any herpes simplex virus infection (Herpevac Trial for Women). South Med J. 2014 Feb;107(2):79-84. doi:10.1097/SMJ.0000000000000062
Judith Eldredge is a board-certified sexologist with a master's degree in human sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She has been teaching people about sex and helping them realize their erotic potential since 2003.