Cold sores, also commonly known as fever blisters, are characterized by groupings of small, red, swollen blisters that appear on the lips, around the mouth, and occasionally in other places on the face. Healing time averages anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on how and how fast the sores are treated. While there are prescription medications available to treat cold sore symptoms, because these painful blemishes are caused by a viral infection (HSV-1 and HSV-2), there is as of yet no cure. Fortunately, there are quite a few natural home remedies to help combat cold sores that are both inexpensive and very effective.
Home remedies from 1-9 are ranked in order of highest acclaim with ideas 10-12 offering general cold sore advice. Read on to learn more…
L-lysine (also frequently called just lysine) is an amino acid that prevents the replication of the HSV virus. L-lysine can be applied as a cream or ointment directly to cold sores. It is also widely used in supplement form to prevent outbreaks. While the dosage recommended by those who have used L-lysine to prevent and heal cold sores (anywhere from 500 mg / day to 1000 mg / week) it is always good advice to follow the directions on the packaging or consult with a physician if you are unsure.
To treat existing cold sores, you can purchase Quantum L-lysine ointment here or if you don’t like the greasy feeling of ointments, the same company makes L-lysine cream. For prevention of future cold sores, L-lysine supplements are available for purchase from this page on Amazon.
2. Ice Cubes
HSV thrives in wet, warm places which explains why cold sores around the mouth are so common. To stop the virus in its tracks, apply ice directly to the blemish. If you begin this treatment immediately at the first sign of a cold sore – usually a tingling sensation where the blister is about to form – it is sometimes possible to stop the cold sore from surfacing entirely. (Don’t believe me? Read some of the posts in this forum!) The general consensus regarding ice among cold sore combatants is to apply an ice cube directly to the sore and let it melt down. Repeat this every 10 – 15 minutes for a couple of hours. The constant application of freezing temperatures isn’t particularly good for your skin, but it’s much more detrimental to the virus than it is to healthy skin cells.
3. Rubbing Alcohol
The use of rubbing alcohol to dry up cold sores and retard the replication of the virus is another widely exercised natural remedy for dealing with these blemishes. Single-use alcohol wipes are probably the best method of application, as this minimizes potential for re-contamination and spread of HSV. You can also use cotton swabs, q-tips, and sterile pads for application. Hold a swab soaked in rubbing alcohol against the cold sore until it stops stinging. You may want to follow up this remedy by applying a moisturizer to the unaffected areas of your lips to prevent drying and cracking which may allow the cold sore to spread.
Garlic is naturally antimicrobial and can be applied directly to cold sores to reduce swelling, speed healing, or – if you can catch the blisters before they surface – to prevent them from forming altogether. Probably the easiest way to apply garlic to cold sores is to purchase garlic paste, put a small amount in an empty lip balm container, and apply as needed. This reduces the risk of re-infection, as the left-over paste may be discarded after the blisters heal. Another method is to slice fresh garlic and hold a piece against the cold sore until it stops stinging. Alternately, you may want to purchase an all-natural garlic juice like this one from Garlic Valley Farms, pour a teaspoon of the juice into a small bowl, and apply with a fresh cotton swab.
5. Aloe Vera Gel
Many people who experience frequent cold sores swear by aloe vera gel to dry up blisters and promote faster healing. Pour a small amount of aloe vera gel into a clean container and apply with a fresh cotton swab or other applicator just as you would with the other natural home remedies on this list. Also, I recommend using only high-quality organic aloe vera gel like this great product by Lily of the Desert to avoid the chemicals and other contaminants found in most store-bought aloe products.
Want to learn more about the incredible health benefits and uses for this nifty little succulent? Read all about the 10 Mind Blowing Reasons Why Aloe Vera Is A Miracle Plant
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide – chemically represented as H2O2 – is most often used to disinfect small cuts and scrapes. However, this common household item has many other great uses, including the ability to dry up and help heal cold sores. Pour a cap full of hydrogen peroxide into a small bowl, soak a clean cotton swab or other applicator with the liquid, and hold against the cold sore until it stops stinging. Repeat as necessary to dry up the blisters and decrease swelling.
Remember, when applying hydrogen peroxide around the mouth you’ll want to use a dilution of 3 – 10% like this one by Swan to avoid burning your skin. Also, no matter how high-quality the product is, never take hydrogen peroxide internally. Consumption of H2O2 can be severely detrimental to your health, causing dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and in some cases even death. Hydrogen peroxide is for external use only!
Further Reading: 34 Reasons Why You Need Hydrogen Peroxide In Your Home
7. Oregano Oil
You will almost never see pests, disease, or fungus growing on an oregano plant in the garden. This is because the natural oils in oregano are powerfully antimicrobial. While it is one of the more expensive natural remedies on this list, application of oregano oil to cold sores can help to reduce swelling and promote faster healing by killing the virus inside the blisters. Apply a couple of drops of oregano essential oil directly to cold sores using a q-tip and remember to dispose of the applicator after each use to prevent re-infection or spread of the virus.
For the best selection, purity, and quality in organic essential oils, we recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.
8. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is another great herbal remedy for banishing cold sores. A member of the mint family, lemon balm is easy to grow and provides plenty of leaves which can be steeped to make lemon balm tea. Soak a fresh cotton swab in water infused with lemon balm and apply regularly to cleanse cold sores and help them to heal faster.
(Further Reading: Top 12 Must-Have Herbs To Grow In Your Kitchen Garden)
9. Used Tea Bags
This is an old home remedy – one that many of our grandmothers held in high regard – to draw out infections of all kinds.
“Apply warm, moist pre-brewed tea bags onto skin affected by pinkeye, canker sores, fever blisters, plantar warts, or any other similar infections to draw out the infection, reduce pain, and help speed the healing process.”
(Want to learn 17 additional interesting and creative ways to re-use tea bags? Check out these 18 genius ways to re-use old tea bags)
10. Lower Your pH
HSV thrives in a warm, moist, acidic environment. If you find that your outbreaks are coming more and more frequently, it may be due to low pH, also known as acidosis. Try some of these tips that will help neutralize your body’s pH and prevent future cold sores from cropping up.
- Cut back on high-glycemic foods like potatoes, breads, pastas, and other grains which cause the body’s pH to drop. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables to around 35% of your total caloric intake. Avoid eating high-fat and processed foods as these too cause the body to become more acidic.
- Make certain that you’re getting enough alkalizing minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium from your diet or supplements. (Many of these can be obtained in adequate quantities from fruits and veggies.)
- Reduce your intake of processed sugars like those used in soft drinks and other sweet “junk” foods. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup whenever possible.
For more information on balancing the pH inside your body, check out this comprehensive guide on NaturalNews.com.
11. Avoid Stress
Another factor that can cause frequent outbreaks of cold sores is stress. Try out some of these great tips to help you relax.
- Take a warm bath. Add a few drops of Lavender essential oil and 1 – 2 cups of Epsom salt to the water and soak for 15 – 30 minutes or until the water becomes cool.
- Enjoy a cup of Chamomile tea. This pleasant floral herb is well-known for its soothing effects on the mind and body. (Chamomile is also great if you have trouble sleeping.) Alternately, try massaging a drop or two of Chamomile or Lavender essential oils over your temples, along the back of your jaw, on the insides of your wrists, and the bottoms of your feet.
- Have a daily dose of Matcha. Green tea has been used throughout history to calm the body and mind while simultaneously promoting alertness.
(Further Reading: 11 Natural Sleep Remedies That Really Work)
12. Quaratine It
Probably the most important piece of advise for managing cold sores and preventing them from spreading to other parts of the body or other people is to keep them quarantined. Follow these simple tips fastidiously to let your cold sores know just how much they’re not wanted.
- Never touch it with your fingers or any other part of your body. Anything that comes into contact with a cold sore – especially one that is weeping or leaking fluid – should be thrown away or sanitizes immediately. HSV is spread through contact with bodily fluids containing the virus, it is extremely contagious, and can live anywhere there is moisture and warmth (eyes, nose, insides of joints, genitals, fingers, toes, etc.)
- When applying medication, use applicators (q-tips, alcohol wipes, cotton balls, etc) one time, then discard them. Make sure that everyone who may potentially come into contact with these discarded materials knows they are contaminated. For example, if you have a maid or trash pick-up service, be sure to secure these waste items to prevent accidentally infecting others.
- After an outbreak has healed, remember to throw away toothbrushes, chapstick, or any other multi-use item that may have come into contact with cold sores. This will prevent new blisters from forming due to re-infection.
- Never ever share utensils, chapstick, food, beverages, toothbrushes, etc with others if you are prone to cold sores. While it is obvious that you’re shedding the virus during an outbreak, it is also possible to spread HSV even when there are no cold sores apparent, especially right before an outbreak occurs.
Remember, a lonely cold sore is the best kind of cold sore. Keeping them quarantined will encourage them go away faster and come back less frequently.
No single one of these home remedies will be as effective as a combination of several of them. Also, not all of the remedies on this list will necessarily work the same for every individual. For these reasons, experiment with them in different combinations. Remedies 1 – 9 are listed in order from highest acclaim to lowest (though all of them have been reported effective by real people with real cold sores.) Numbers 10 – 12 are general advice that should be followed by everyone who experiences these blemishes, no matter how frequent or severe.
Best of luck to you and may your cold sores be few and far between!