Cold Sore Remedies

8 Ways to Fight Cold Sores Naturally

cold sores
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Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that usually occur on the lips, gums, or roof of the mouth. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. There may be pain or tingling one to two days before the cold sores appear.

Cold sores generally clear in seven to ten days. They're sometimes confused with canker sores, which are not contagious but produce small, painful ulcers in the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the tongue and the walls of the mouth.

Natural Cold Sore Remedies

Preliminary studies suggest that certain cold sore remedies may offer some benefits. Keep in mind that it's important to consult your primary care provider before using alternative medicine. Here are eight natural remedies to consider:

1) Lysine

Lysine is an essential amino acid that we must obtain through food or supplements because the body cannot produce it on its own. It is used to make protein, which we need to produce infection-fighting antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and body tissues. Preliminary studies suggest that lysine may inhibit the herpes simplex virus and shorten the duration of cold sores.

Although we get lysine through food sources such as red meat, milk, eggs, cheese, wheat germ, brewers yeast, and fish, what appears to be most important is the ratio of lysine to another amino acid, arginine (found in chocolate, peanuts, and almonds). They compete with each other for absorption in the intestines, so the less arginine there is in the diet, the more lysine is absorbed.


In addition to lysine-rich foods, lysine is also available in supplement form as well as an ointment. 

MORE: Using Lysine for Cold Sores

2) Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb that may have antiviral properties. In a research study conducted in hospitals and dermatology clinics in Germany, lemon balm cream promoted the healing of blisters in five days compared to 10 days in the control group.

Used on regularly, lemon balm cream may help to decrease the frequency of recurrences.

SEE: Using Lemon Balm

3) Reishi and Astragalus

Reishi, also called Ganoderma lucidum is a type of mushroom that has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to strengthen the immune system. Preliminary studies suggest that reishi may inhibit the spread of the herpes virus. 

Reishi is available in powder or supplement form. Reishi can delay blood clotting, so consult your doctor before taking reishi if you are taking aspirin, warfarin (coumadin), or any other medications or supplements that interfere with clotting.

In traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is often used in conjunction with a herb called astragalus. Astragalus has been found to improve immune function in people with herpes simplex keratitis.

MORE: Ganoderma (Reishi) for Viral Defense and Astragalus for Stronger Immune Defense

4) Resveratrol

Resveratrol, a compound found naturally in red grapes, may have some activity against the herpes simplex virus according to laboratory studies.

For example, a study by Northeastern Ohio University demonstrated that resveratrol cream applied topically between two and five times per day suppressed cold sore development if it was applied one or six hours after infection with the herpes virus.

Resveratrol cream was found to be as effective as 5 percent acyclovir ointment (Zovirax) in another study. In animal studies, resveratrol cream effectively suppressed cold sore formation in animals with herpes simplex infections that were resistant to acyclovir. No side effects were reported.

MORE: Resveratrol: Everything You Need to Know | Resveratrol for Weight Loss

5) Peppermint Oil

A study by the University of Heidelberg found that peppermint essential oil was found to penetrate the skin and have anti-viral activity against the herpes simplex virus. Peppermint oil was also found to be active against an acyclovir-resistant strain of the herpes simplex virus.

Although promising, peppermint oil cannot be recommended until more is known about its safety. Peppermint oil should not be ingested. And because it's absorbed through skin, even small amounts could potentially be toxic. 

6) Propolis

Propolis, also known as bee propolis, is a brownish, resinous substance. Bees collect it from poplar and conifer buds and use it "cement" their hives and keep them germ-free. It is sold in health food stores.

A study found that propolis was active against herpes simplex 1 virus. Although research on propolis is currently lacking, it may work by preventing the virus from entering body cells and by blocking the replication and spread of the virus.

More on Propolis and Soothing Cold Sores with Propolis

7) Self-Heal

The herb self-heal, also known as Prunella vulgaris is a perennial plant commonly found in China and Europe.

Preliminary studies have found extracts of this herb to be effective against both herpes simplex 1 and 2. More on the herb Self-Heal for Cold Sores

8) Other Remedies

  • Echinacea - A study by the University of Ottawa suggests that echinacea may be active against herpes simplex type 1.
  • Black currant - An extract of black currant, also known as Ribes nigrum or Kurokarin in Japan, was found to fight the herpes virus in laboratory studies.
  • Monolaurin - A substance derived from coconut oil.
  • Graviola - A preliminary study found that it may help fight the herpes simples-1 virus.
  • Rhubarb and sage cream - A German study examined rhubarb-sage cream compared to sage cream and Zovirax in 149 people with oral herpes cold sores. The combined topical sage-rhubarb preparation was as effective as topical aciclovir cream and tended to be more active than the sage cream.
  • Undaria pinnatifida - known as wakame in Japan, undaria is a type of seaweed that has been found to improve the healing time and reactivation of herpes infections.


People with tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, any autoimmune diseases, organ transplant, or possibly, liver disorders should not take herbs or supplements that improve immune function (such as reishi and astragalus) without consulting their doctor first. Taking immune-boosting supplements may reduce the effectiveness of medications that suppress the immune system.

As with other supplements, cold sore supplements haven't been tested for safety in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications.

 You can find out more about how to use supplements safely here.

Using Cold Sore Remedies

If you're considering using alternative medicine for cold sores, talk with your doctor first.

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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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