This list is comprised of all the natural remedies that I have discovered over the many years I have spent fighting the demon cold sore virus.
Once you’ve had one cold sore the chances are you will be plagued with many but don’t give up all hope.
Thanks to everyone who has commented and shared their solutions on other cold sore blogs, I’ve crammed them all into this blog post as well as some other wonderful natural solutions I found trawling the big wide web.
So here, in no particular order are the natural, weird and wacky things you can use to cure your cold sore.
- Propolis from bees
This is a remedy I’ve tried myself with huge success. The two main sites where cold sores would appear time and time again have now been clear of sores for over six months, since I started using Propolis from Herstat.
Honeybees make propolis using resins they gather from plants. They chew the resins, drawing out beneficial plant extracts and mix them with their saliva, which they then combine with wax produced from glands on their abdomens. This results in the production of propolis, which contains a concentrated mixture of polyphenols and flavonoids.
Propolis has antimicrobial properties and keeps germs out of the bee hive. As well as this the anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties of propolis can ease unpleasant cold sore symptoms such as redness and swelling, and also help to heal broken skin caused by blisters.
- Ear wax
Yes, you heard me. Ear wax. Someone posted a comment on an old blog post, The Do’s and Don’ts of fighting cold sores on April 1st suggesting ear wax as a cure and I honestly thought it was an April Fool. But I stand corrected, after some research it is indeed thought to be a pretty reliable cure for cold sores. It’s free, can be found in most of our ears in varying supply and all you have to do, after mining your ear for earwax, is smear some onto the tingling area on your lip.
Yuk! Gross! I hear you cry, but it’s true. Russian scientists have discovered that the cerumen (earwax) of some mammals does indeed contain antistaphylococcal, antimicrococcal and antiherpes properties.
You can read an abstract from the study on pubmed here, “The anti-infective properties of mammalian earwax”
So how exactly does one ‘mine’ ones ear for earwax? One website I found mentioned a curette as a safe way to remove earwax but I also know that shoving anything into your ear can be dangerous and should be done with extreme caution to prevent injury. Others suggest just digging some out with your finger nail… Currently I do not appear to have any available earwax to remove and also, thankfully, no cold sore to treat.
This remedy really intrigues me and disgusts me a little… I would definitely end up licking my lips and eating my own earwax… Ewwwwww!
Salt has been known to have healing properties for thousands of years as it has natural antiseptic qualities. All you need to do is crush some salt in a mortar and pestle, mix it with a little water to make a paste and rub some on your lip.
Or, simply lick your finger, dip it into the salt and press onto your lip for as long as you can bear, 30 seconds should do the trick. Repeat this about four times a day. If the sore has already blistered this might (will definitely) sting, but it should help dry it out and heal it.
Pink Himalayan rock salt is the best stuff you can buy but any salt would do it.
Garlic has amazing medicinal qualities, make sure you cook with lots of garlic to ward them off, they have anti-inflammatory qualities. Some people suggest you crush some garlic and spread some onto your cold sore. I have tried this and it stings – a lot and gave me the worst cold sore EVER – however no cold sore has dared to crop up where the garlic was applied. Some suggest also mixing salt with garlic for double wammy cold sore killing power. I’m not sure I like this as it’s very harsh and hurts like you wouldn’t believe – better perhaps to treat more sensitively to avoid scarring and speed recovery. When I tried the garlic treatment it felt like I’d made it a whole lot worse and the blisters just seemed to grow before my very eyes!
“In vitro virucidal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract and compounds” ND Weber, DO Andersen, JA North, BK Murray… – Planta …, 2007 – thieme-connect.com
- Tea tree
Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil grows in Australia, has a very strong camphorous smell and is a clear essential oil. It has strong antimicrobial qualities and has been my treatment of choice now for years because it works. It works on cold sores, boils, spots etc. and although it can sting when applied to broken skin, it quickly heals the skin.
“Antiviral activity of Australian tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil against herpes simplex virus in cell culture” P Schnitzler, K Schön, J Reichling – Pharmazie, 2001 – cat.inist.fr
- Peppermint oil
Peppermint grows widely across Europe and is robust and spreads easily. If you grow some in your garden you can make fresh mint tea which will help. You can also peppermint oil at health food shops or large chemists. Apply this directly to the sore to aid healing. If you have a particularly sore and swollen blister try the tea bag technique and hold the bag on the cold sore to help dry it out.
“Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2” A Schuhmacher, J Reichling, P Schnitzler – Phytomedicine, 2003 – Elsevier
Echinacea has strong immune boosting qualities and you can buy a tincture which you take as drops with water. Follow the instructions on the bottle for the recommended dose but when you feel a cold sore coming on take some every day until it’s gone. You could also grow this plant in your garden and harvest the root, or buy tea bags and savour the tea in your mouth and allow it to flow over and cover the cold sore for longer than you would normally when drinking tea.
“Antiviral activity of characterized extracts from Echinacea spp.(Heliantheae: Asteraceae) against Herpes simplex virus (HSV-I)” SE Binns, J Hudson, S Merali, JT Arnason – Planta medica, 2002 – thieme-connect.com
Chamomile is a sweet smelling plant from the daisy family and has both calming and healing properties. It contains apigenin and bisabolol, the second of which has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and scientific tests have proven it is highly effective against aciclovir resistant herpes simplex virus. Chamomile can be taken as a tincture or as tea. You could also dab some chamomile onto the sore for extra speedy healing. Please note, if you are allergic to ragweed you may also cross react with chamomile.
“Efficacy of anise oil, dwarf?pine oil and chamomile oil against thymidine?kinase?positive and thymidine?kinase?negative herpesviruses” C Koch, J Reichling, R Kehm… – Journal of Pharmacy …, 2008 – Wiley Online Library
- Aloe Vera
Make sure you buy 99% aloe vera gel and apply a dab directly over the sore after you have applied your chosen healing oil or ointment. Aloe vera has amazing healing properties and also creates an invisible barrier or seal over the sore, keeping out any further infection and aiding healing.
“Aloe vera: a valuable ingredient for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries—a review” K Eshun, Q He – Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 2004 – Taylor & Francis
Bergamot is an oily substance which is extracted from the rind of the fruit of a dwarf variety of the Seville orange tree and is most commonly used in cosmetics and as flavouring, it’s what give earl grey its special flowery fragrance. Scientific evidence has proven that Bergamot helps to heal cold sores and you can either apply the oil neat with a cotton wool pad onto the sore, drink Earl Grey tea or hold the earl grey tea bag onto the sore to dry it out.
Micki Rose also suggests “try a warm Earl Grey tea bag to soothe – all that bergamot! Add 1 drop of teatree and 1 of lavender to it too if you can, and apply.”
“Diseases of the lips”, RS Rogers, M Bekic – Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery, 1997 – Elsevier.
“Essential oils as therapeutics” SC Garg – Natural Product Radiance, 2005 – jonnsaromatherapy.com
- St John’s Wort
St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum”, and is also known as Tipton’s weed, rosin rose, goatweed, chase-devil, or Klamath weed and is most commonly known for its use in treating depression.
To treat your cold sore apply St John’s wort oil to the sore several times a day; follow dose instructions carefully.
“Which plant for which skin disease? Part 1: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, condyloma and herpes simplex” J Reuter, U Wölfle, S Weckesser… – JDDG: Journal der …, 2010 – Wiley Online Library
Warning: If you already taking St John’s wort for medicinal purposes seek medical advice. It should only be used externally and never while taking other forms of Saint John’s wort, as too much of the herb can be dangerous.
- Tea bags
I have heard different advice with regards to tea bags. Some suggest soaking the tea bag in hot water for a few minutes and then applying the wet bag to the lip for about ten minutes. Others suggest holding the dry tea bag onto the lip for as long as you can. I’ve tried the dry tea bag technique and it really does seem to suck the life out of the cold sore once it’s begun to swell and blister. One reader says he ties the tea bag on and sits back to wait for it to work its magic. You can use any tea bag but Earl Grey teabags contain bergamot so should have extra healing powers. Rooibosh tea bags also have strong healing properties so try different tea bags and see which works best. Peppermint tea bags might work well too as peppermint has been proven to aid healing of herpes simplex. You might look stupid but it’s worth and try – just remember to throw the tea bag away afterwards, don’t make a cup of tea with it!
Honey has used to medical experts for thousands of years as a natural wound healer. Research has also proven that honey is better at treating cold sores than some over the counter cold sore products such as aciclovir. Patients were treated with Acyclovir for one herpes outbreak and honey for another and the results were pretty impressive. The overall healing time with honey was 43% better than with Acyclovir for sores on the lips and 59% better for genital sores.
Simply apply a dab of honey to your lips two to three times a day, and try not to lick it off!
“Topical honey application vs. acyclovir for the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex lesions” NS Al-Waili – … science monitor: international medical journal of …, 2004 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Melissa officinalis – Lemon balm
Lemonbalm contains polyphenols, which combat the herpes simplex virus by relieving the cold sore symptoms, shortening their duration and reducing the chances of further outbreaks.
Scientific studies have proved that this little herb does in fact cure cold sores:
“Melissa officinalis oil affects infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses” P Schnitzler, A Schuhmacher, A Astani… – … international journal of …, 2008 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
“Antiviral activity of the volatile oils of Melissa officinalis L. against Herpes simplex virus type-2” A Allahverdiyev, N Duran, M Ozguven, S Koltas – Phytomedicine, 2004 – Elsevier
It is available at health food shops in capsules, extracts, tinctures and aromatherapy oil or you could grow it in your garden. I wonder if just drying the herb and making it into a neat paste would work?
Visit the Traditional Oven website for recipes to make your own Lemonbalm tinctures and ointments
Micki Rose or Pure Health Clinic suggests…
The best thing I ever found for my patients preventatively was a drop or two of melissa, or cheaper bergamot, essential oil added to their usual moisturiser. Melissa is hideously expensive but a tiny bottle will last months and months. That’s 1-2 drops per small pot not every day.
For treatment, I used to make an ointment of bergamot, melissa and calendula which worked wonders. In a study where cold sore sufferers applied such a cream 5 x day direct to the sore, 60% healed within 4 days, 87% after 6 days and 96% after 8 days. Better than Zovirax scores!
- Lavender oil
You can buy pure lavender oil in most chemists and health food shops in little bottles. Apply some to a cotton wool bud and apply to the lip a few times a day. This should aid healing and smells nice too. Lavender also has calming properties so it should relax you at the same time as healing your cold sore.
“Essential oils of aromatic plants with antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and cytotoxic properties–an overview” J Reichling, P Schnitzler, U Suschke… – Forschende …, 2009 – karger.com
- Prunella vulgaris – Self heal
It contains Lignin-Carbohydrate which acts on the herpes virus by inhibiting viral binding and penetration into the host cell. You can see the recent studies performed on how this herb can be effective in fighting the herpes virus below:
“Antiviral effect of aqueous extracts from species of the Lamiaceae family against Herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro” S Nolkemper, J Reichling, FC Stintzing, R Carle… – Planta …, 2006 – thieme-connect.com
- Volcanic clay poultice
One reader suggested using a volcanic clay poultice which draws out the gunk so the cold sore never really gets established. Also, they don’t scab over because there is less to dry out- so they are less noticeable. Ideally a poultice every 3 hours or so over the first 3 days. Natural Spa Supplies sell this.
Ice can be really helpful when treating cold sores. As suggested by one fellow cold sore expert below, they help to numb the searing pain which can come with cold sores when they are at their most fierce. They can feel like they are bubbling and growing, that tingling burning sensation. Urgh!
Grab a handful of ice cubes, put them in a plastic bag and hold it over the sore. You could use a clean tea towel or wad of tissues if it’s too cold. Hold on for as long as you can bear to and it should really help to alleviate some of the pain. Then pick one of the other remedies above to get it healing faster.
- Extra virgin olive oil
This is a suggestion from one of my readers below. I have never tried it myself but most of us will probably have some olive oil in the kitchen cupboard. It’s worth a try! Dab some onto a cotton wool pad and apply to the cold sore. Has anyone else tried this one?
OK so there are now 19 of these and now I’m looking for ONE more to make it 20!
Now all you have to do is decide which natural remedy you’re going to try. I haven’t tested all these yet as I seem to be miraculously clear of cold sores, tempting fate to write that perhaps.
Do you have any other natural remedies for cold sores? What works best for you?