Cold sores! One of the most painful and irritating disease anyone could ever have.

You can also call them herpes labialis or fever blisters. Cold sores are irritating and painful blisters that occur around the mouth [1].

It’s a common viral infection, 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].

Do not confuse this with  genital herpes. The reason behind genital herpes is the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). But, HSV-1 causes cold sores. Plus, genital herpes only affects the genital area.

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

It’s contagious and distressing. So, 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.

22 Home Remedies for Cold Sores

1. Echinacea

The use of Echinacea as an herbal medicine has significant benefits for the health [4].

Most of its beneficial effects are proves of its ability to power up the body’s immunity [4].

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

In a 2009 study, scientists tested echinacea extract against several strains of viruses. These were influenza virus, rhinoviruses 1A and 14, and adenovirus types 3 & 11. They also tested herpes simplex virus type 1 [5].

A study shows that Echinacea has potent antiviral activities. Thus, it can inhibit the growth and spread of all these viruses [5].

The extract inhibited viral induction and destroyed the viral membranes. It indicates that Echinacea has “multi-functional” virucidal activities [5].

It also proved that this herb has anti-inflammatory properties. It did so through the inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines [5].

Plus, Echinacea has immunological properties. So, the herb can stimulate the immune resistance. It makes the body less susceptible to viral infections like cold sores [4].

How to make Echinacea tea for cold sores:

Boil water in a pot. Pour water into a teacup. Add one Echinacea teabag. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Drink this tea every day for one to two weeks.

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2. VanillaVanilla

Vanilla is a popular ingredient in desserts like sugar cookies, and puff pastries.

But, many are not aware of its medicinal value. It 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 popular medicinal plant, which can help treat a wide range of health problems [6].

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

This viral infection may cause burning and tingling sensation. Topical application of this extract can help soothe this sensation.

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

Ways to use vanilla to treat cold sores:

Method 1:

Using a cotton swab, apply five drops of vanilla extract on cold sores. Repeat four times a day until full recovery.

Method 2:

Mix ten drops of vanilla extract in a cup of water. Use this to wash your face three times a day for up to one week.

3. Witch HazelWitch-Hazel

Witch hazel is a famous herb that people have been using since the early years. It can  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].

Its 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 [9].

Erythema is a condition that reddens and irritates the skin. It results in dilation of blood capillaries.

Witch hazel’s effects were superior to chamomile cream and hydrocortisone cream [9].

That’s not all. A 1996 study proved that this herb has strong antiviral activities that can ward off HSV-1 [12].

Try this simple method of using witch hazel for cold sores:

Pour ½ tsp of witch hazel on a cotton ball. Apply on the sores. Do this remedy twice a day for up to two weeks.

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

4. Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe Versa is popular for its high mucilage content. It is also touted for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties [13, 14].

It’s also an excellent way to strengthen the immune system [14].

It doesn’t cause any allergic reactions and side effects. So, 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.

Its antiviral properties can help soothe infections caused by the herpes simplex virus. That’s why it’s a popular remedy for this infection [15].

The gel promotes wound healing. Besides, it  bolsters the immune defense to make it easier to prevent viral infections [16].

The easiest way to treat cold sores using aloe vera:

Slice an aloe vera leaf into two. Squeeze out the gel. Apply it to your cold sores. Do this technique once a day for one week.

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

5. Licorice

Licorice has been famous as an herbal treatment since the ancient times in India, Greece, and China [17].

Today, people in Europe are using it for inflammatory disorders. And in Japan, it is an antiviral treatment [8].

Researchers confirm its strong effects against different viruses [17].

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

Licorice contains an active compound called glycyrrhizic acid. It can inhibit the growth and formation of this virus but not affect its ability to multiply [18].

But, It’s important to note that licorice may elevate blood pressure. So those with cardiac or hypertension issues should only use small doses, or avoid using it [8].

Learn how to use licorice if you have cold sores:

Combine 1 tablespoon of licorice root extract and 2 tsp of petroleum jelly. Apply this mixture to cold sores. Leave it on overnight. Repeat every day for one week.

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6. Garlic

Garlic has been famous as a natural medicine for over 5,000 years.

With its potent pharmacological effects, you can consider it as a wonder herb. The herpes simplex virus is susceptible to garlic’s strong antiviral activities [19].

Garlic also suppresses inflammation, making it an excellent remedy for cold sores [20].

Garlic prevents pro-inflammatory messengers from forming and spreading. Also, it inhibits the growth of viruses through its sulfur-containing enzymes [20].

As a popular spice, it is one of the most accessible home remedies for this specific viral infection.

Try these two methods of using garlic to treat your cold sores:

Method 1:

Crush one clove of garlic. Slice in half. Apply on cold sores for 10 minutes. Do this four times a day for one week.

Method 2:

Crush two cloves of garlic and extract juice. Mix garlic juice and honey. Apply a thin layer of garlic and honey mixture on cold sores. Repeat remedy once a day until the condition clears.

Read More: 13 Most Effective Home Remedies for Vaginal Itching

7. Milk

We all know that milk is good for the body.

It is an excellent source of calcium, and other essential nutrients. Your body needs them to maintain optimal health.

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

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

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

Milk also contains lysine. It can speed up recovery from herpes simplex infection and suppress recurrence [22].

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

Simple ways to use milk to soothe cold sores:

Drink a glass of milk every day until you recover from cold sores. Also, apply a small amount to the affected areas of your mouth using a cotton ball. Do this for up to two weeks.

8. Lemon BalmLemon-Balm

The Alternative and Complementary Therapies published a study. It describes lemon balm as the “humble but potent herb.” [23]

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

This plant, which belongs to the mint family, can reduce the healing time of cold sore lesions. [23]

In a clinical trial, a total of 66 patients with recurrent cold sores attended. They used either lemon balm cream or a placebo four times a day for five days. [24]

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

Lemon balm was effective in curbing infections caused by the HSV-1. [24]

In another study, researchers required 116 patients with acute cold sores. They applied lemon balm cream or a placebo on the affected areas of their skin two to four times a day. They did it for 5-10 days. [24]

41 percent of those who used lemon balm experienced full recovery from the condition. [24]

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

Learn how you may use lemon balm oil to treat cold sores:

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

9. Peppermint Oil

Peppermint 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.

Study revealed that peppermint oil demonstrates “high levels of virucidal activity against HSV-1.” It reduced the virus by over 90 percent [25].

It is active even against the drug-resistant strain of this virus [25].

Peppermint oil can penetrate fast into the skin. Thus, it is an ideal topical treatment for cold sores [25].

How you may soothe your pesky cold sores with peppermint oil:

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

Read More:  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.

Tea tree oil is the most reliable solution for recurrent attacks. It affects up to 40 percent of the population [26].

Topical application of a gel formulation of the oil can curb the duration of cold sore infection [26].

It’s not surprising at all. Because tea tree oil has always been an excellent remedy for various skin infections.

Simple tea tree oil recipe to take care of cold sores:

Blend 1 tsp of tea tree oil, 1 tsp of olive oil, and 2 drops of eucalyptus oil. Apply oil mixture to cold sores using a cotton tip three times a day.

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11. Sandalwood Oil

Another effective remedy for cold sores is sandalwood oil.

Sandalwood oil is one of the oils that show potent virucidal effects against HSV-1 [27, 28].

The oil can also stop this virus from replicating [28].

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

How to use sandalwood oil for cold sores:

Combine 3 drops of sandalwood oil and 1 tsp of olive oil. Spread a thin layer of cold sores using a cotton pad. Repeat every day for one week.

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12. Lemongrass Oil

Lemon oil is quite powerful against HSV-1. Even at a small concentration of 0.1 percent, it can completely inhibit the reproduction of it [29].

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

Use this herbal remedy to ease the pain and stinging sensation due to cold sore infection.

An easy lemongrass oil method to soothe cold sores:

Mix 1 tsp of olive oil with 4 drops of lemongrass oil. Soak a cotton ball in lemongrass oil. Rub it on cold sores. Do this every day for one to two weeks.

13. Clove Oil

We all know that clove oil is an excellent remedy for a toothache. But it can also give you relief from the pain of cold sores. [30]

It acts as a natural analgesic. Thus, it can soothe the pain and discomfort due to any blisters or cold sores.

Its active component named eugenol can reduce any pain while fighting infections.

Besides, eugenol can prevent the viruses from replicating.

Learn how you can use clove oil if you have cold sores:

Mix 5 drops of clove oil with 1 tsp of fresh Aloe Vera Gel. Apply the mixture to your sores and its surrounding area using a cotton ball. Repeat this process 3-4 times daily for a week.

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14. Ginger Oil

As a staple spice in Asian cuisine, ginger is quite famous for the medicinal values it contains. [31]

Ginger oil’s excellent pain relief properties can reduce the pain due to cold sores.

You might have irritation and inflammation because of a blister or cold sores. The warm feeling of ginger oil can soothe those symptoms.

Ginger oil consists of significant components that can fight the cold sore infections. [32]

How to use ginger oil to fight cold sores:

Take 5 drops of ginger oil and dilute it with 1 tsp of almond oil. Apply the mixture to your affected area. Let your skin absorb the mix. Wash it off with warm water. Repeat this method once per day for a week.

Read More: 10 Health Benefits of Ginger Oil That You Should Know About

15. Cold Compress

The very first sign you may experience due to a cold sore is an itchy a burning sensation on the affected place.

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. [33]

A cold compress helps to reduce the blood flow to the area and prevent inflammation.

Moreover, this simple process can ease discomfort, redness, and swelling of a cold sore.  [33]

Easiest way to soothe cold sores using cold compress:

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

16. 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. [34]

It can relieve common cold, flu, heart diseases, diabetes, bacterial and viral infections. Apple cider vinegar is a powerful combination of alcohol and acetic acid.

There are so many medical researches on the positive effects of ACV on viral infections. For example, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and cold sores. [35]

You can try topical application of ACV to reduce the symptoms of cold sores.

Regular consumption of ACV can boost your immune defense. It also helps you defeat the virus responsible for cold sores. [35]

Try these methods to heal cold sores using apple cider vinegar:

Method 1: Topical Application of ACV

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

Method 2: Consuming ACV

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

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17. Baking soda pasteBaking-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. [36]

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. Besides, it can prevent an outbreak of the condition. It can reduce itch and swellings of cold sores as well. [36]

Learn how to use baking soda as a remedy for cold sores:

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

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18. Honey

Honey is more than a natural sweetener. There are endless therapeutic benefits of honey. It is one of the essential ingredients in Ayurveda medical practice.

The medicinal use of honey goes back to thousands of years back. People have been using honey as a home remedy for cold sores, asthma, flu, digestive problems, etc. [37]

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. [37]

A simple honey remedy for cold sores:

Take some honey on the fingertips and apply on the sores. Let the honey layer stay on the lesions. Rinse off with clean water when the sores feel tightened. Repeat the simple treatment three times daily.

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

19. Green Tea Bags

Using tea tags for cold sores may be the simplest home remedy.

Tea is not only a favorite drink or morning ritual. It has a wide range of health benefits you didn’t know. Tea can relieve the symptoms of HSV infection and cold sores. Because it contains bioactive compounds such as astringent, flavonoids, catechins, and phytonutrients [38]

You can 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.  [38]

How you can heal your cold sores using a green tea bag:

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

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20. 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. [39]

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

A layer of toothpaste on the cold sores can kill the virus and prevent an outbreak of the condition. [39]

A simple way to use toothpaste for cold sores:

Take a little toothpaste on your fingertip and apply on the blisters. Cover the sores with toothpaste layer. Leave the paste to dry on the sores. Rinse off using clean water after 30-45 minutes. Repeat the process thrice daily.

21. Yogurt

Ever heard about the importance of yogurt for a healthy lifestyle? Yogurt is an excellent immune-boosting food that is quite beneficial for your health. [40]

Many reports show the usefulness of dairy products in preventing cold sores. Of these products, milk and yogurt are two of the best options. [40]

Yogurt contains an amino acid named lysine which is the key player here. Lysine is an essential element in the making of many medicines. [41]

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

How you may use yogurt as a remedy for cold sores:

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

Read More: How to Get Rid of Fever Blisters Overnight: 11 Effective Home Remedies

22. Red Wine

Yes! You’ve read it right. Your favorite alcoholic beverage can be an excellent remedy for cold sores.

Red wine contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant. It reduces inflammation and blocks the viruses that help cold sore to reproduce. [42]

Stil-5, a compound found in red wine can disable the virus behind cold sores.

Having a glass of red wine every night can reduce any internal inflammation.

How you can soothe your cold sores with red wine:

Soak a cotton ball in the red wine and apply on the blisters. You can also drink red wine, but it will have minimal effect on your cold sores

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Can You Prevent Cold Sores?

Yes, you can. 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, you must have a healthy diet, regular and enough sleep. You should also make lifestyle changes to keep your immune system healthy.

  • You can practice regular exercise.
  • 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 has a high number of the amino acid lysine. You can find this amino acid in dairy products and eggs.

When to See a Doctor

Cold sores usually go away after 1-2 weeks. But if you have them often and the pain annoys you, you can ask your doctor for quick relief.

Besides, the cold sore is contagious. So, you may want to get rid of it as soon as possible to save your loved ones.

You should ask for medical attention if you have the following symptoms:

  • Your cold sores stay longer than two weeks
  • It becomes severe
  • It irritates your eyes
  • You have severe outbreaks
  • You have a weak immune system

Final Word

Cold sores aren’t deadly. But its pain and inflammation will make you irritated and frustrated.

It’s a contagious disease. So you should not share your things, especially utensils and towel with anyone else.

Cold sores or herpes labialis is common around the world. A global study on young adults presented some astonishing results.

A study found that 33% male and 28% female had cold sores more than once in the year before they took part in it. [33]

So, cold sores are recurring infections that can make life a bit painful for you.

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

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