L-Lysine and Shingles

When I was diagnosed with shingles, I searched for any information I could find about it. Many of those searches landed me on bodybuilder forums. I was curious as to why so many weight lifters seemed to be coming down with shingles. More research pointed to the amino acid arginine which a lot of bodybuilders apparently supplement with. I'm no bodybuilder but while I wasn't knowingly supplementing with arginine, I was drinking protein shakes that had a high amount of arginine in it, plus using almond milk (which turns out to be another high source of arginine).

Now, there's nothing wrong with arginine per se. It's an essential amino acid and offers some important health benefits. The problem is that arginine encourages the herpes family of viruses, of which chicken pox / shingles is a part. So while you definitely need arginine in your diet; you may need to offset its virus enhancing effects. Nuts and shellfish are particularly high in arginine.

On the flip side, L-Lysine is an essential amino acid that suppresses the herpes family of viruses. Dairy is the best source of L-Lysine. The trick is to consume more L-Lysine than L-Arginine. Since I love shellfish and nuts (especially almond milk), I decided to go with supplements instead.

Originally, I took five 500mg doses of L-Lysine a day. I did that until my shingles was gone - which happened pretty quickly after I started on the L-Lysine. Now, I take at least one a day. If I eat nuts or shellfish (or drink Almond Milk), I'll pop an extra.

Obviously, it's entirely possible shingles just went away on its own and the lysine was just a coincidence. But I've also talked to several other people that had their shingles disappear after starting on L-Lysine. In all cases that worked, they did the five 500mg doses throughout the day for the first few days, then dropped to one or two per day after shingles subsided. The one person who told me it didn't work, admitted that he wasn't actually taking the lysine regularly. He took one or two doses and then stopped. And he was still suffering from shingles.

I plan to keep taking lysine supplements for the rest of my life because I never ever want to endure the pain of shingles again. 


  1. I find l-lysine excellent for cold sores. It stops them in their tracks if taken as soon as I feel any sensation. I have recently been eating a lot of cashew nuts and I have developed shingles. I started taking l-lysine and the later-occurring shingles rash outbreaks seem to have been attenuated in the same way as the herpes rashes. The shingles rashes look as though they will not get to the point of developing scabs or at least not much.

  2. Thank you very much for posting this. I'm going through my first experience with shingles. About 6 days into it, the rash was pretty pronounced through my left side and the pain, while not unbearable, had prevented sleep for two days.

    After I saw this post last night, my wife graciously went to the store and picked up a bottle of l-lysine. I took 1000mg before bed. That actually intensified the pain in my abdomen for an hour, before it relaxed enough that I could fall asleep. But I stayed asleep for 5 hours, then got another 3 hours a little later. When I got out of bed, the pain was about 1/20th of what it was the prior day. More, it feels isolated to the skin, and not nearly as deep as it was. I was able to do several hours of yardwork with just a bit of fatigue. I observe no noticeable effect on the rash, but to be fair, it's only been 12 hours since that first dose. Needless to say, I'm impressed that all this suffering could be caused by what looks like a nutritional deficiency.