19 Home Remedies for Cold Sores & How to Use Them

Cold sores are a type of blisters.

Also called herpes labialis or fever blisters, cold sores are painful and annoying blisters that appear around the mouth [1].

A prevalent viral infection, these are caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). It spreads when one comes into close contact with an infected person [2].

The difference between this and genital herpes is that herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). While this one is caused by HSV-1. Plus, genital herpes only affects the genital area.

Usually, cold sores can clear up on without treatment within seven to 10 days [3].

However, since it’s contagious and distressing, it’s always a good idea to control the viral infection as early as possible.

You can do this by using these simple but proven home remedies for cold sores. We have come up with some safe natural remedies for cold sores fast.

In the following article, you will find:

  • Natural remedies for cold sores
  • How to prepare these home remedies easily
  • Some frequently asked questions and answers

19 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Cold Sores

1. Echinacea

Echinacea-for-cold-soresThe use of Echinacea as an herbal medicine has been reported to have significant benefits for the health [4].

Most of its beneficial effects can be attributed to its ability to power up the body’s immunity [4].

American researchers explain that it works by activating the polymorphonuclear leukocytes, which in turn, leads to an “enhanced resistance to infectious diseases” [4].

In a 2009 study published in the Antiviral Research Journal, Echinacea extract was tested against several strains of viruses including influenza virus, rhinoviruses 1A and 14, adenovirus types 3 and 11, and herpes simplex virus type 1 [5].

It was found that Echinacea has potent antiviral activities that can inhibit growth and spread of all these viruses [5].

Not only did the extract inhibit viral induction, it also destroyed the viral membranes, which indicates that it has “multi-functional” virucidal activities [5].

It also helps that this herb has anti-inflammatory properties, which was through the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines [5].

Plus, with its immunological properties, Echinacea can stimulate the immune resistance to make the body less susceptible to viral infections like cold sores [4].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 teabag of Echinacea
  • 1 cup of water

Recommended Directions:

  1. Boil water in a pot.
  2. Pour water into a teacup.
  3. Add the teabag.
  4. Let it steep for 10 minutes.
  5. Drink this tea every day for one to two weeks.

2. Vanilla

vanilla-for-cold-soresMost people know that vanilla is a popular ingredient in pastries and desserts like buttercreams, sugar cookies, and puff pastries.

However, many are not aware of its medicinal value, which goes way back to its discovery in the ancient times in Mesoamerica [6].

As it turns out, vanilla is more than just a sweet flavoring for desserts, it is also a highly prized medicinal plant, which can help treat a wide range of health problems [6].

Vanilla’s active compound called vanillin is known to have anti-inflammatory and soothing properties that make it an ideal remedy for cold sores [7].

Topical application of this extract can help relieve the burning and tingling sensation caused by this viral infection.

It is a quick and safe solution for those annoying blisters appearing on the areas around your mouth.

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 drops of pure vanilla extract
  • 10 drops of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of water

Recommended Directions:

  1. Using a cotton swab, apply five drops of vanilla extract on cold sores.
  2. Repeat four times a day until full recovery.
  3. Or mix 10 drops of vanilla extract in a cup of water.
  4. Use this to wash your face three times a day for up to one week.

3. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a highly coveted herb that has been used since the early years to naturally heal acne, bruises, psoriasis, eczema, oily skin, skin sores, and so on.

The Native North Americans were among the first to use witch hazel as a treatment for swollen skin [8].

Witch hazel’s anti-inflammatory powers have been well-established in the scientific literature [9, 10, 11].

In as short as 24 hours, low dosage witch hazel cream was able to suppress UV-induced erythema among 24 healthy individuals [9].

Erythema is a condition characterized by reddening and irritation of the skin resulting in dilation of blood capillaries.

The effects of witch hazel were superior to chamomile cream and hydrocortisone cream [9].

That’s not all, it has also been proven in a 1996 study that this herb has strong antiviral activities that can ward off HSV-1 [12].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 teaspoon of witch hazel

Recommended Directions:

  1. Pour witch hazel on a cotton ball.
  2. Apply gently on the sores.
  3. Do this remedy twice a day for up to two weeks.

Also Read:11 Health Benefits of Witch Hazel That You Should Know About

4. Aloe Vera Gel

Apart from its high mucilage content, aloe vera is also widely touted for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties [13, 14].

It’s also a good way to strengthen the immune system [14].

Since it doesn’t cause any allergic reactions and side effects, experts deem it safe even for long-term use [14].

If you have cold sores, you can try using aloe vera gel as a remedy.

Aloe vera’s antiviral properties can help thwart off infections caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is why it is a popular remedy for this infection [15].

Not only does it promote wound healing, it also bolsters the immune defense to make it easier to prevent viral infections [16].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 aloe vera plant

Recommended Directions:

  1. Slice the leaf into two.
  2. Squeeze out the gel.
  3. Apply it to your cold sores.
  4. Do this technique once a day for one week.

Also Read:Aloe Vera Gel for Acne: 12 Sure-Fire Ways to Cure Acne

5. Licorice

Historical records show that licorice has been used as herbal treatment since the ancient times in India, Greece, and China [17].

Today, it is widely used in Europe for inflammatory disorders, and in Japan for as an antiviral treatment [8].

Italian researchers confirm of licorice’s strong antiviral activities against herpes simplex virus, influenza A virus, arboviruses, SARS-related coronavirus and many others [17].

A study conducted in the University of Cagliari reports that licorice root can “inactivate herpes simplex virus particles irreversibly” [18].

Its active compound glycyrrhizic acid can strongly inhibit the growth and formation of this virus but not affect its ability to multiply [18].

It’s important to note, however, that licorice has been reported to elevate blood pressure so those with cardiac or hypertension issues should only use small doses, or refrain from using this remedy [8].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon of licorice root extract
  • 2 teaspoons of petroleum jelly

Recommended Directions:

  1. Combine two ingredients.
  2. Apply this mixture to cold sores.
  3. Leave it on overnight.
  4. Repeat every day for one week.

6. Garlic

Garlic-for-cold-soresDid you know that garlic has been used as a natural medicine for over 5,000 years?

With its potent pharmacological effects, it has been called the wonder herb numerous times.

Among the many viruses that are susceptible to garlic’s strong antiviral activities is the herpes simplex virus [19].

Apart from this, garlic also suppresses inflammation, making it a good remedy for cold sores [20].

It works by preventing pro-inflammatory messengers from forming and spreading, and by inhibiting the growth of viruses through its sulfur-containing enzymes [20].

Since garlic is a commonly used spice, it is one of the most accessible home remedies for this specific viral infection.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

Recommended Directions:

  1. Crush one clove of garlic.
  2. Slice in half.
  3. Apply on cold sores for 10 minutes.
  4. Do this four times a day for one week.
  5. Crush two cloves of garlic and extract juice.
  6. Mix garlic juice and honey.
  7. Apply a thin layer of garlic and honey mixture on cold sores.
  8. Repeat remedy once a day until the condition clears.

7. Milk

 milk-for-cold-soresWe all know that milk is good for the body.

It is an excellent source of calcium, and other essential nutrients that’s needed by the body to maintain optimal health.

As a beauty secret, milk has been added in baths since the time of Cleopatra.

The belief was that it can help preserve the skin’s youthful glow and appearance.

It’s also good to know that the immunoglobulins in milk have been found to have beneficial effects on the body, particularly in strengthening immunity against viral illnesses [21].

It also contains lysine, which an American study has discovered to be effective in “accelerating recovery from herpes simplex infection and suppressing recurrence” [22].

Both oral intake and topical application of milk can help in the treatment of cold sores.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 glass of milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon of milk

Recommended Directions:

  1. Drink a glass of milk every day until you’ve fully recovered from cold sores.
  2. Also, apply a small amount on the affected areas of your mouth using a cotton ball.
  3. Do this for up to two weeks.

8. Lemon Balm

Lemon-Balm-for-cold-soresIn a study that can be found in the Alternative and Complementary Therapies, lemon balm is described as the “humble but potent herb” [23].

It is one of the most underrated medicinal herbs with the highest potency against a wide array of ailments.

This plant, which belongs to the mint family, has been found to have the ability to reduce healing time of cold sore lesions [23].

In a clinical trial featured in the Alternative Medicine Review-Journal, a total of 66 patients with recurrent cold sores were randomized to use either lemon balm cream or a placebo four times a day for five days [24].

Improvement of symptoms was observed among lemon balm users on the second day [24].

Results show that lemon balm is highly effective in curbing infections caused by the HSV-1 [24].

In another study, researchers required 116 patients with acute cold sores to apply lemon balm cream or a placebo on the affected areas of their skin two to four times a day for five to 10 days [24].

Of the patients that used lemon balm, 41 percent recovered completely from the condition [24].

Furthermore, this herb also prevents spread of this contagious infection.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 to 4 drops of lemon balm essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Recommended Directions:

  1. Blend lemon balm oil with olive oil.
  2. Put mixture in a glass jar.
  3. Dip a cotton tip into the oil mixture.
  4. Apply to cold sores.
  5. Do this four times a day for up to one week.

9. Peppermint Oil

 peppermint-oil-for-cold-soresPeppermint oil has always been the go-to solution for irritable bowel syndrome.

What many do not know is that it is also great for resolving the cold sore infection.

A 2003 study revealed that peppermint oil demonstrates “high levels of virucidal activity against HSV-1,” reducing the virus by over 90 percent [25].

In fact, it is active even against the drug-resistant strain of this virus [25].

Since peppermint oil can penetrate easily into the skin, it is an ideal topical treatment for cold sores [25].

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 drops of peppermint oil
  • Water

Recommended Directions:

  1. Splash water on cold sores to rinse of oil and gunk.
  2. Dip a cotton tip into the peppermint oil.
  3. Gently press cotton tip on affected areas.
  4. Do this every day for one to two weeks, or until the infection subsides.

Also Read:12 Uses and Health Benefits of Peppermint Oil

10. Tea Tree Oil

If your cold sores keep on coming back, you should try using tea tree oil.

While other herbal remedies are an effective one-time treatment for cold sores, tea tree oil is considered the most reliable solution for recurrent attacks, which affect up to 40 percent of the population [26].

Topical application of a gel formulation made from tea tree oil is effective in curbing and shortening the duration of cold sore infection [26].

This is not a surprise at all since tea tree oil has always been an excellent remedy for various skin infections.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 2 drops of eucalyptus oil

Recommended Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Apply oil mixture to cold sores using a cotton tip three times a day.

Also Read:11 Incredible Uses of Tea Tree Oil for Hair (With Directions)

11. Sandalwood Oil

Another effective remedy for cold sores is sandalwood oil.

Several studies show that sandalwood oil is among the essential oils that demonstrate potent virucidal effects against HSV-1 [27, 28].

This oil has also been found to stop this virus from replicating [28].

It’s a quick solution to cold sores that can provide immediate relief from the pain and discomfort that it causes.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 drops of sandalwood oil
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Recommended Directions:

  1. Combine the two oils.
  2. Spread a thin layer of cold sores using a cotton pad.
  3. Repeat every day for one week.

12. Lemongrass Oil

 lemongrass-for-cold-sores.Even at a small concentration of 0.1 percent, lemongrass oil can completely inhibit the reproduction of herpes simplex virus type 1, a study reports [29].

Not only that, this oil can also suppress viral incubation by up to 24 hours [29].

Use this herbal remedy to free yourself from the pain and stinging sensation brought about by cold sore infection.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 drops of lemongrass oil
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Recommended Directions:

  1. Mix olive oil and lemongrass oil.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in lemongrass oil.
  3. Rub gently on cold sores.
  4. Do this every day for one to two weeks.

13. Cold Compress

If you are down with a cold sore the very first sign you may experience is an itchy a burning sensation on the affected place.

Most probably the sore may pop up in another 24 hours. In this case you can use an ice compress on the inflamed area to stop the appearance of potential sore. [30]

Because a cold compress help to reduce the blood flow to the area and prevent inflammation.

Moreover, this simple process can ease discomfort, redness and swelling of an already developed cold sore. [30]

What You’ll need:

  • A few ice cubes
  • A washcloth

Recommended Directions:

  1. Take the ice cubes and wrap them in a washcloth
  2. Hold the cold compress on the inflamed area for 15 minutes.
  3. You can repeat the process multiple times a day.
  4. After each session, apply a lip balm or petroleum jelly on the sores.

14. Apple Cider Vinegar

There’s no parallel to apple cider vinegar in home remedies. There’s a versatile practical and therapeutic benefits of ACV or apple cider vinegar. From time immemorial vinegar is a potent remedy for hundreds of health problems. [31]

This cure-all home remedy is very efficient for relieving common cold, flu, heart diseases, diabetes, bacterial and viral infections, etc. Apple cider vinegar is a powerful combination of alcohol and acetic acid.

There are numerous medical research on the positive effects of ACV on viral infections such as herpes simplex virus type 1(HSV-1) and cold sores. [32]

You can topically apply ACV to reduce the symptoms of cold sores such as irritations, itchiness, and swellings.

A regular consumption of ACV can boost your immune defense and help you defeat the virus responsible for cold sores. [32]

Method 1: Topical Application of ACV

What You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoon of ACV
  • 4 tablespoon of water
  • Cotton ball

Recommended Directions:

  1. Mix ACV with water and stir well.
  2. Now, soak a cotton ball in the solution.
  3. Apply and hold the ACV soaked cotton ball on the cold sores.
  4. Continue pressing it for 10 minutes.
  5. Let the solution air dry on the sores.
  6. You can repeat the treatment multiple times a day.

Method 2: Consuming ACV

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon of raw or mother ACV
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 glass of mineral water

Recommended Directions:

  1. Pour ACV and honey into a glass of water and mix well.
  2. Drink the potion twice daily to boost your immunity against HSV.

Also Read:How Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help You Get Rid of Your Acne

15. Baking soda paste

Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate has versatile practical and medical uses. This cost-effective kitchen ingredient is full of antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Sodium in baking soda help to dry out the sores naturally. [33]

In the meantime as a natural exfoliator baking soda can remove the dead and dry skin from your skin.

Since baking soda is alkaline based, it balances the pH level of the skin. Baking soda is effective in killing the virus responsible for cold sores and prevent an outbreak of the condition. It can reduce itch and swellings of cold sores as well. [33]

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or water
  • Cotton ball

Recommended Directions:

  1. Dilute baking soda with fresh lemon juice or water to make a paste.
  2. Take some of the mixtures with a cotton ball and apply on the cold sores.
  3. You can hold the cotton ball on the sores for some time or fix it there with a medical tape.
  4. Repeat the process thrice daily for a speedy remedy of cold sores.

Also Read:Baking Soda for Acne: 12 Easy Ways You Can Use

16. Honey

Honey is not just a natural sweetener. There are endless therapeutic benefits of honey. It is one of the most important ingredients in Ayurvedamedical practice.

The medicinal use of honey goes back to thousands of years back. People have been using honey as a home remedy for a number of health problems such as common cold, cold sores, asthma, fever, flu, congestion, digestive problems, etc. [34]

Honey has the potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to kill off HSV infection. It blocks the virus to survive and reproduce. Moreover, you can use honey as a moisturizer to rejuvenate your skin after the infection is gone. [34]

What You’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon of raw honey

Recommended Directions:

  1. Simply take some honey on the fingertips and apply on the sores.
  2. Let the honey layer stay on the sores.
  3. When the sores feel tightened rinse off with clean water.
  4. Repeat the simple treatment 3 times daily.

Also Read:Honey for Sore Throat: Good or Bad?

17. Green Tea Bags

Using tea tags for cold sores is probably the simplest home remedy.

Tea is not just a popular drink or morning ritual. It has a wide range of health benefits you didn’t know. The bioactive compounds of tea such as astringent, flavonoids, catechins, and phytonutrients can relieve the symptoms of HSV infection and cold sores. [35]

You can topically apply green or black tea bags on the cold sores to stop inflammations. Consumption of tea on a regular basis can boost your immunity against HSV. [35]

What You’ll need:

  • 1 green tea bag
  • 1 cup of warm water

Recommended Directions:

  1. Heat the water and place the tea bag in it for a minute.
  2. Now remove the bag from the water and let it cool down for some time.
  3. Apply and hold the moist tea bag on the sores for a couple of minutes.
  4. Repeat the process multiple time a day.

Also Read:Green Tea for Acne: How Effective?

18. White Toothpaste

Yes, your favorite toothpaste has more to do other than your oral hygiene. The primary ingredients of white toothpaste are SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. [36]

Researchers have confirmed the positive germ-fighting ability of this compound. Moreover, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol in toothpaste can reduce itch and swellings of the sores.

A layer of toothpaste on the cold sores can terminate the virus and prevent an outbreak of the condition. [36]

What You’ll need:

  • White toothpaste (as per requirement)

Recommended Directions:

  1. Simply take a little toothpaste on your fingertip and apply on the sores.
  2. Cover the sores with toothpaste layer.
  3. Leave the paste to dry on the sores.
  4. Rinse off using clean water after 30-45 minutes.
  5. Repeat the process thrice daily.

19. Yogurt

Ever heard about the importance of yogurt for a healthy lifestyle? Yogurt is a wonderful immune boosting food item that is greatly beneficial for your health. [37]

There are many reports that show the usefulness of dairy products in preventing cold sores. Of these products, milk and yogurt are two of the best options. [37]

Yogurt contains an amino acid named lysine which is the key player here. Lysine is an essential element in the making of many medicines. [38]

Yogurt has quite a high content of lysine that makes it a natural relief for cold sores. Therefore, you can consider yogurt as an effective home remedy for cold sores.

What You’ll need

  • Two cups of non-fat yogurt

Recommended Directions:

  1. The best way is to consume at least two cups of non-fat yogurt daily when you are suffering from cold sores.
  2. You can also put some plain yogurt directly on to the affected skin.

Some Frequently Q&A About Cold Sores

Q. How does a person contract cold sores?
A. According to Encyclopedia.com, about nine out of ten Americans contract cold sores for once in their lives. Usually, cold sores are contracted when a person either shares food or kisses someone who already has it. In fact, it is also possible to contract cold sore from a person who is a passive carrier of the virus. Even so, oral sex can also be a cause of cold sores.

Q. What is the difference between cold sores and canker sores?
A. The difference between cold sores and canker sores is in their outlook and how they function. Canker sores are usually red-ring white sores. And on top of that, they differ from cold sores, in this manner that they are not contagious like cold sores. A common cause of canker sores includes stress, vitamin, and mineral deficiencies.

Q. Is it possible to prevent cold sores?
A. Yes. It is possible. The best thing to do to prevent cold sores is to keep your immune system health. Outbreaks of cold sores usually occur when your immune system is weak. So, it is best suggested that you have a healthy diet, regular and enough sleep. It is also suggested that you make lifestyle changes in order to keep your immune system healthy.

  • You can exercise regularly also.
  • For those who still have a weakened immune system after bringing these changes, you should consult your doctor for antiviral drugs.
  • Plus, it is always good to stay out of direct sunlight. It is because the Ultraviolet (UV) rays can harm your immune system. So, always carry an umbrella when you go out in the sun. You can also use sunscreen too.
  • And, always eat protein-rich food, especially food, that have a high number of the amino acid lysine. You can find this amino acid in dairy products and eggs.

Q. Is poor hygiene a cause of cold sores?
A. Not really. It is because viral infections cause cold sores. Then again, maintaining good hygiene is always known to contribute to good health.

Q. Can children get cold sores?
A. Yes. They can. Unfortunately, they can get their cold sores through you. As it is very normal for children to share your towels and utensils or even a kiss. If you have cold sores, then always avoid coming in contact with your child until or unless you get well.


Cold sores or herpes labialis is common around the globe. In fact, a global study on young adults presented some astonishing results. The study found that thirty-three percent male and twenty-eight percent female had herpes labialis or cold sores more than once in the year before they took part in the study[30].

So, cold sores are recurring infections that can make life a bit painful for you. It is not life-threatening, thankfully, but you should treat them right away as they’re contagious and painful.

The above home remedies for cold sores can help you get rid of this condition for good.

Read Next:19 Essential Oils for Cold Sores Remedy with Directions