Last Updated: February 19, 2019 | First Published: September 2, 2018
Reviewed by: Dr. Rosmy Barrios, M.D.
Introduction to Herpes
Herpes is a common and global virus. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 67% of the world’s population has HSV-1 (oral herpes which can cause cold sores) and 11% of the population has HSV-2 (genital herpes) [Ref #] It is possible to have a Herpes Simplex infection and not have any symptoms. Herpes is a lifelong disease and can be spread even when symptoms are not present. Antiviral medications like acyclovir can help relieve the frequency and intensity of symptoms, but there is no “cure”.
Types of Herpes
Herpesviridae is a family of DNA viruses, which include many types and strains but the most common include HSV-1, HSV-2, and Herpes Zoster.
Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV 1) – Oral Herpes
Herpes Simplex 1, or HSV-1, is most commonly known as “oral herpes”. HSV-1 can cause cold sores or fever blisters around the lips and mouth, but can also affect others parts of the body including the genital area. Johns Hopkins Medicine estimates that up to 80% of individuals in the United States has HSV-1, making it one of the most common infections. [Ref #2]
More Information: Explore additional details about Monolaurin and its potential impact on cold sores on the Insights blog.
Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV 2) – Genital Herpes
Herpes Simplex 2, or HSV-2, causes genital herpes and is almost exclusively sexually transmitted. HSV-2 effects more women than men globally, and affects upwards of 15% of people in the Americas. HSV-2 can be asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, meaning many people can be infected without knowing it. Generally, HSV-2 causes blisters or ulcers in the genital and anal region.
More Information: Read more about HSV-2 and Monolaurin on the Insights blog.
Herpes Zoster – Shingles
Herpes Zoster is a type of herpes virus which can cause shingles via the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (the virus which causes chicken pox). Shingles, also known as Herpes Zoster, can cause painful skin rashes and blisters.
More Information: Read more about Herpes Zoster (Shingles) on the Insights blog
Depending on the type of herpes infection, the symptoms may vary. In short:
Herpes Symptoms by Type
HSV-1 (Oral herpes)
Characterized by painful blisters on or around the lips which can be accompanied by tingling, itching, leading eventually oozing and or crusting.
HSV-2 (Genital herpes)
Similar to the symptoms of HSV-1, genital herpes can be characterized by painful blisters or sores, tingling, and or itching around the genital area.
Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
Characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters which occurs in a strip on either side of the body or face. There may also be tingling or local pain in the area before an outbreak.
An outbreak is simply the expression of symptoms resulting from a herpes virus infection. An initial outbreak may last days or weeks. There may be delays between outbreaks lasting weeks or months. Outbreaks and outbreak symptoms may diminish over time, and it is possible to be infected with a herpes family virus with little or no symptoms.
Herpes Simplex 1 and Herpes Simplex 2 are lifelong infections with no known cure. Monolaurin, a natural supplement derived from coconut, has been studied in various in vitro laboratory experiments to inactivate the Herpes Simplex virus, but this may not correlate to the inactivation of herpes virus in vivo. This section explores and highlights some academic and scientific research which may suggest Monolaurin kills herpes, however additional research is required to conclude that Monolaurin can cure herpes.
Suppressive Treatment for Herpes with Antivirals:
Controlling the frequency, duration, and intensity of herpes outbreaks is the main goal of suppression therapies and antiviral drugs. Reducing virus replication and in turn reducing the risk of transmission is another goal of antiviral therapy. Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir are common antivirals used to treat herpes, but there is growing concern that the virus may develop resistance to the drug making them less effective [Ref #3]. Furthermore, some individuals face unwanted side effects from antiviral pharmaceuticals including rash, hair loss, headaches, depression, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting (Ref #15, 16, 17)
Potentially Kill Herpes by Disintegrating the Viral Envelope:
A possible alternative to suppressing the symptoms and replication of the virus may be to kill the herpes virus. Herpes is an enveloped virus, meaning there is a fatty protective layer (envelope) surrounding the virus. Monolaurin has been shown in some laboratory studies to kill enveloped viruses, which may include herpes virus.
“The antiviral action, attributed to monolaurin (the monoglyceride of lauric acid), is that of solubilizing the lipids and phospholipids in the envelope of the pathogenic organisms causing the disintegration of their outer membrane. There is also evidence that medium chain fatty acids interfere with the organism’s signal transduction and the antimicrobial effect in viruses is due to interference with virus assembly and viral maturation.” [Ref #4]
"Antiviral fatty acids were found to affect the viral envelope, causing leakage and at higher concentrations, a complete disintegration of the envelope and the viral particles. They also caused disintegration of the plasma membranes of tissue culture cells resulting in cell lysis and death."[Ref #5]
Lipids commonly found in natural products could possibly be used as antiviral agents against enveloped viruses." [Ref #6]
Killing the viral envelope of the herpes virus might produce effects similar to traditional antiviral suppressant drugs without the risk of side effects or drug resistance common to pharmaceuticals.
More Information: To learn more about enveloped viruses and Monolaurin, please see the Insights Article called Fighting Enveloped RNA and DNA Viruses
Monolaurin for Herpes – Does Monolaurin Kill Herpes?
Monolaurin has been the subject of numerous clinical studies which test if Monolaurin kills herpes, if Monolaurin is effective for herpes, and if Monolaurin can eradicate herpes. While the majority of the tests are in vitro (in the lab) and not clinically supported, the results are provocative with regard to Monolaurin’s ability to kill herpes.
Some studies and publications report success with Monolaurin to kill herpes in the lab:
"In studies performed at the Respiratory Virology Branch, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia, Monolaurin was found effective against 14 human RNA and DNA enveloped viruses in cell culture. These included influenza, RSV, Rubeola, Newcastle's, Coronavirus, Herpes Simplex types 1 & 2, Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and cytomegalovirus. Monolaurin removed all measurable infectivity by disintegrating the virus envelope." [Ref #7]
“We have shown that a variety of fatty acids and fatty acid derivatives have potent antiviral effects against the lipid-containing bacteriophages PM2, ø6, and PR4 and against at least one enveloped mammalian virus, herpes simplex virus type 2.” [Ref #8]
"Unsaturated monoglycerides and alcohols of chain lengths of 16 or 18 carbons were found to be extremely potent inactivators of two enveloped viruses, herpes simplex virus type 2 and bacteriophage phi6 " [Ref 9]
These publications suggest that Monolaurin kills herpes in the lab. However, more research is needed to establish if Monolaurin cures herpes in the body.
More Information: Read more about Herpes family viruses and Monolaurin in the Insights Blog post by Dr. Zayed here.
Monolaurin Dosage and Protocol for Herpes
Monolaurin is generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration [Ref #10], and some choose to take it as a dietary supplement with the goal of using Monolaurin against herpes.
A Monolaurin dosage for herpes will generally be separated into three areas, as explained below.
For more detailed dosing information, see the Monolaurin Dosage Guide.
1. Build Up
People respond differently to dietary supplements, so it’s recommended to start slow and build up to a level you are individually comfortable with. In some cases, the strong antimicrobial properties of Monolaurin may trigger a reaction called the Herxheimer (Herx) Reaction, or “die off”. A Herx Reaction may occur if Monolaurin is taken at high doses in a short period of time, causing a die-off of more viruses and bacteria than your body can effectively filter. This may trigger an inflammatory response ironically similar to the flu, called the “Herx Reaction”. To avoid this, you may want to start with a low dose of monolaurin and slowly build up to a therapeutic dose over time.
More Information: To learn more about the causes and symptoms of the Herx Reaction / Die off, please see the Insights article : Monolaurin Die Off Symptoms.
2. During Outbreaks
During a herpes outbreak, many increase their dose of Monolaurin in response to the increased viral load. The monolaurin dosage during a herpes outbreak will depend on the individuals’ physical characteristics (weight, etc) and the severity of the symptoms. It may be best to increase monolaurin intake at the very beginning of symptoms to try and stop an outbreak before it becomes an issue. Some people will find taking 2-3 600mg capsules 3 times per day helpful during a herpes outbreak.
In-between outbreaks, some people find it beneficial to maintain a daily dose of Monolaurin to promote general health and prevent future outbreaks. A routine dose might include 1-2 capsules 2 or 3 times per day.
More Information: For more detailed information on monolaurin herpes protocols and dosing guidance, including monolaurin during a herpes outbreak, please see the Monolaurin Dosing Guide.
Monolaurin Side Effects
As mentioned in the Build Up section above, the most common symptoms individuals may encounter is a “Herx Reaction” which may be attributed to the rapid die off of virus and bacteria caused by Monolaurin. To avoid this, a slow introduction of Monolaurin at low doses might help.
Other side effects are those similar to an increased intake of coconut oil. The medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil have been linked to side-effects like stomach discomfort, irritability, vomiting, diarrhea, and intestinal gas. [Ref #11]
More Information: Additional details on the health benefits and potential side effects of coconut oil is available in the blog post on Coconut Oil.
Monolaurin and L-Lysine
Monolaurin is not the only supplement which has shown promising results in laboratory studies against herpes. When combined with L-lysine, synergistic benefits may be realized.
L-Lysine has been shown to potentially reduce the symptoms and duration of a herpes infection [Ref #12]. L-Lysine has also demonstrated the potential to reduce the recurrence of herpes outbreak [Ref #13]. Yet another study showed L-lysine could help with reducing the replication of the virus in the lab [Ref #14]. These studies suggest that while Monolauin may help disable or destroy the Herpes virus, L-Lysine can play a potential accompanying role in reducing the symptoms, duration, recurrence, and replication of the herpes virus.
More Information: For additional information on L-Lysine and Monolaurin for herpes, check out the article: Monolaurin and L-Lysine – Better Together.
More Information: Lean more about 16 additional helpful supplements which have been studied for their antiviral properties on the Immune Support page.
Additional Information and Help
There is a lot of information available to those looking to learn more about monolaurin and herpes. When researching monolaurin and herpes, be mindful of personal opinion and always look for appropriate scientific references and citations.
NCBI is a free online database of over 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintains the database, which is a great way of getting direct access to many of the studies cited on this website.
Forums and support groups are a good way to find peer-to-peer support. There are also secret groups on various social media sites (like Facebook) to meet others with similar questions and concerns. It is highly recommended to get involved in your local sexual heath communities - the empathy and support they provide is genuine and many find it helpful.
More Cited Research
The Research Page of this site contains a list of curated studies featuring Monolaurin and herpes studies, all containing original NCBI or DOI links for further reading and fact-checking.
Ready to Try Monolaurin, but Not Sure Where to Start?
There are many factors which should be considered when purchasing Monolaurin, which include:
What Monolaurin source is best - Coconut or Palm Kernel
What is the recommended way to take Monolaurin - Capsule or Pellet
What is an Excipient, and why does it matter - Synthetic or Natural
What hat to look for to ensure manufacturing safety - Certifications and Location
All of these questions can be answered in the comprehensive Monolaurin Buying Guide.
World Health Organization, 31 January 2017, http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/herpes-simplex-virus
Oral Herpes. (n.d.). Retrieved from Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/infectious_diseases/Oral_Herpes_22,OralHerpes
Frobert E, Ooka T, Cortay JC, et al. Resistance of Herpes simplex virus type 1 to acyclovir: Thymidine kinase gene mutagenesis study. Antiviral Res 2006 Aug 30
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Thormar H, Isaacs CE, Kim KS, Brown HR. Inactivation of visna virus and other enveloped viruses by free fatty acids and monoglycerides. Annals of the New York Academy of Science. 1994 June 6, 724:465–471.
Hierholzer JC and Kabara JJ. In vitro effects of Monolaurin compounds on enveloped RNA and DNA viruses. Journal of Food Safety 4:1, 1982
Kabara JJ. The Pharmacological Effect of Lipids. Champaign, Ill, USA: American Oil Chemist’s Society; 1978. Page 92
Sands J, Auperin D, Snipes W. Extreme sensitivity of enveloped viruses, including Herpes Simplex, to long chain unsaturated monoglycerides and alcohols. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. 15; 1:67-73, 1979.
FDA : 21CFR184.1505 ; https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=184.1505
Nakatsuji, T., Kao, M. C., Fang, J.-Y., Zouboulis, C. C., Zhang, L., Gallo, R. L., & Huang, C.-M. (2009). Antimicrobial Property of Lauric Acid Against Propionibacterium acnes: Its Therapeutic Potential for Inflammatory Acne Vulgaris. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 129(10), 2480–2488. http://doi.org/10.1038/jid.2009.93
Griffith R.S.,Norins A.L., Kagan C. A Multicentered Study of Lysine Therapy in Herpes simplex Infection. Dermatologica 1978;156:257–267
Griffith R.S., Walsh D.E., Myrmel K.H., Thompson R.W., Behforooz A. Success of L-Lysine Therapy in Frequently Recurrent Herpes simplex Infection. Dermatologica 1987;175:183–190
Milman N, Scheibel J, Jessen O. Lysine prophylaxis in recurrent herpes simplex labialis: a double-blind, controlled crossover study. Acta Derm Venereol. 1980;60(1):85-7.
Everyday Health Acyclovir (Zovirax) Side Effects http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/acyclovir
Web MD, Drugs & Medications Valtrex http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-14126/valtrex-oral/details#side-effects
Sharma A, Mohan K, Sharma R, Nirankari VS. Alopecia following oral acyclovir for the treatment of herpes simplex keratitis. Middle East Afr J Ophthalmol. 2014 Jan-Mar;21(1):95-7. doi: 10.4103/0974-9233.124131.