Cold sore symptoms can last for days or weeks. Unfortunately, conventional medications can cause unwanted side effects and are only effective when taken soon after symptoms develop.
Many cold sore sufferers opt for natural cold sore treatments instead. However, some critics believe these methods cannot provide effective and long-lasting relief.
Read on to learn more about the homeopathic solutions to pesky cold sores.
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Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that typically appear around the mouth, lips, nose, and cheeks, although they can occur anywhere around the body.
They are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). 67% of adults are estimated to have this virus.¹
Before healing, cold sores break, ooze, and develop into crusts. However, while the outside sores heal and go away, the HSV-1 virus still lingers in your body. It can be reactivated, leading to another bout of cold sores in the future.
Several factors can increase the risk of the virus reactivating and cold sores recurring, including the following:
There’s no permanent solution for cold sore flare-ups, but some tried-and-tested home remedies can help lengthen the intervals between them.
The herpes virus has no cure. The best you can do is suppress the outbreaks and cold sore symptoms. You can also take steps to build up your immunity.
The following home remedies are effective at fulfilling both of these functions:
Aloe vera for cold sores comes as a gel. The plant extract contains antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids, which can be useful for cold sores. However, research is still ongoing, and there is no conclusive evidence for aloe vera’s antiviral and inhibitory effects.²
Ensure your hands are clean before applying the aloe vera gel. Apply a small amount on the affected area and ensure you get the entire sore surface. You’ll immediately feel a soothing impact, especially if the cold sore is throbbing.
Having cracked lips and exposure to solid ultraviolet rays can trigger a cold sore flare-up. Wearing sunscreen helps reduce your likelihood of an outbreak by protecting you from these triggers. It could also minimize the reoccurrence of cold sores in the future.³
The best types of creams for cold sores are those with a broad spectrum and an SPF of at least 30 to ensure maximum protection.⁴
You might be wondering if ice helps with cold sores, and the answer is yes.
Cold sores cause skin inflammation that can be painful and uncomfortable. Although it can’t reduce the infection’s duration, ice can numb the infected area. In doing so, it reduces swelling and inflammation — major sources of cold sore discomfort.
The process is as simple as applying ice packs to the sore area. Do this for a few minutes throughout the day. Wrap a hand towel over the ice pack if it becomes too cold.
Essential oils also benefit cold sores, reportedly. They exist in various forms, but all work towards a common goal — helping alleviate cold sore symptoms.⁵
Examples of the best essential oils include the following:
Tea tree oil: Tree oil ointments can help with cold sore symptoms. They have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that fight the HSV-1 virus. Tea tree oil has shown promising antiviral effects against HSV-1 in the lab. However, its effectiveness in humans is still unclear due to insufficient research.⁶
Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus oils have also been found to have antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Lab studies have shown that, like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil can be effective against cold sores. Unfortunately, there’s not yet enough evidence to know if it works for humans.⁷
Lemon balm oil: Lemon balm is proven to reduce the impact of cold sore symptoms and improve healing times. In lab studies, lemon balm showed strong antiviral activity against the HSV-1 virus.⁸
Peppermint essential oil: Peppermint oil contains antiviral and inhibitory properties against the HSV-1 virus. This means it may help promote cold sore healing. However, there are currently no clinical trials.⁹
Medical-grade honey (MGH) has been found to be an effective cold sore remedy.
A 2021 cross-over study found that MGH heals cold sores faster, alleviates pain and itching, and has a higher subjective healing score than conventional treatments. All patients preferred MGH treatment and would use it again in the future.¹⁰
There is limited scientific evidence on turmeric’s ability to treat cold sores. It is, however, a promising treatment option, with many studies suggesting that turmeric has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.¹¹ ¹²
Lysine is an essential amino acid. It’s needed for a healthy immune system.
It is thought that lysine can inhibit the replication of the HSV-1 virus. High doses of lysine (over 3,000mg) have been found to improve how patients feel during a cold sore attack.¹³
A study found that a herbal-based ointment containing lysine along with other ingredients like zinc oxide, echinacea, and goldenseal showed complete healing of cold sores within three days in 40% of participants. However, the ointment’s benefits could be due to various ingredients acting in different ways, as opposed to the lysine alone.¹⁴
You can get lysine from supplements or nutritious foods such as legumes, fish, chicken, turkey, and vegetables.
Echinacea tea is a herbal drink often used to boost immunity and soothe pain and inflammation. It is traditionally used for cold and flu symptoms.
Some studies have suggested that echinacea may have antiviral properties and prevent recurrent herpes simplex virus outbreaks. However, only animal and cell culture studies have been conducted so far.¹⁵ ¹⁶
Cold sores are a common condition that affects over half the population at least once in a person’s lifetime. The symptoms can be painful and irritating and can interfere with your daily activities.
Even though there is no cure for cold sores, some natural cold sore remedies may provide relief from symptoms. Whilst many of these natural remedies show promising results in the lab, more research is needed in clinical trials.
No. Canker sores and cold sores are different.
Canker sores are small, shallow ulcers that develop inside the lips, cheeks, and soft tissues and underneath the tongue. Canker sores are not contagious. They are thought to be related to immune system problems, stress, injury, or certain foods.
In contrast, cold sores are fluid-filled blisters that usually appear on or around the lips. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious.
Yes, the HSV-1 virus can be transferred from one person to another, especially when there’s an active lesion.
The virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact, including kissing and oral sex. Any activity where you come into contact with fluid from an infected person can lead to an infection.
It is important not to share items such as utensils, towels, or razors during a cold sore outbreak to help limit its spread to others.
Conventional treatments for cold sores typically involve antiviral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, penciclovir, and famciclovir. These can either be topical creams or tablets and work best when started as soon as the cold sore symptoms appear.
Herpes simplex virus | World Health Organization
Aloe vera: A short review (2008)
Can cold sores be prevented? (2006)