Natural Remedies for Cold Sores

Cold sores are painful fluid-filled blisters that usually show up on the lips. The virus that causes cold sores is the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV type 1 is the one usually responsible for this infection.

Symptoms may take up to twenty days to show up after first contact with the virus. You usually get cold sores by making contact with a person with an active infection or from using contaminated kitchen utensils or towels.

The good news is that they will clear up on their own usually within 10 days. However, the virus will always be present and may reactivate in the future.

Although there are prescription creams and oral pills that can stop the active infection, many individuals are wondering if there are any natural remedies that may help.

Read on to find out what herbals and natural supplements are used by people around the world.

Natural Remedies for Cold Sores

Natural Remedies What Experts Say...
Lysine hearbal leaf logo (What's this?)

Lysine has been the subject of many studies for the treatment and prevention of cold sores.

Taking this supplement seemed to cut down on the number of recurrence. Lysine gel appears to reduce the symptoms and to decrease the the time for the lesions to heal.

Not all studies show positive results. One study showed that it had no preventative benefits. It also did not appear to shorten the duration of the infection. This was when volunteers took a dose of 400 mg three times daily.

One way of getting more lysine is to eat foods that contains large quantities of lysine. The article Foods High in Lysine Content reveals foods that are porportionally high in lysine.

Creams containing lysine (plus other active ingredients) seem to reduce the symptoms and duration of the outbreak.

Dose: Tablets - Most studies used between 1 to 3 grams per day (usually divided to three times daily). The most common dosage used is 500 mg two or three times daily for prevention. For the treatment of outbreaks, take 1,000 mg three times daily.

Creams/Gels - Apply lysine cream to the affected areas every 2 hours.

Propolis hearbal leaf logo

Propolis has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Research studies have found that a 3% propolis ointment appeared to cut down on the duration of the infection by 3 to 4 days.

The volunteers also reported reduced pain when compared to using a placebo gel.

Propolis has been clinically test for healing genital herpes and it has shown benefits in reducing the time it took for the lesions to heal.

Dose: Apply the cream or gel five times daily as soon as symptoms appear.

Lemon Balm
(Melissa officinalis)
hearbal leaf logo

Lemon balm has been shown to have antiviral effects and it has been studied for treating cold sores and genital herpes.

Clinical studies using a 1% cream showed that it resulted in significantly fewer symptoms from cold sores. It also reduced the spread of the infection and improved healing times.

Dose: Apply the cream generously over the affected areas two to five times daily for 10 days as soon as symptoms appear.

Rhubarb & Sage
hearbal leaf logo

In one study, using a combination rhubarb and sage cream seemed to be as effective as the prescription antiviral cream acyclovir (Zovirax).

With this cream formulation, the lesions healed in 7.2 days compared to 6.3 days with acyclovir (Zovirax) cream.

Dose: Apply the cream up to five times daily.

Witch Hazel hearbal leaf logo

Witch hazel contains the active antiviral chemical proanthocyanidins that works against the cold sores virus.

In a double-blinded clinical study lasting eight days, volunteers using a witch hazel cream experienced significant reduction in symptoms compared to the placebo group.

Dose: Apply a 2% witch hazel cream up to six times daily for up to eight days.

Tea Tree Oil hearbal leaf logo

Tea tree oil has potent antiviral and antibacterial activities. It has been shown in lab studies to have activities against the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

One preliminary study showed that tea tree oil did not offer any more benefits for cold sores compared to a matching placebo.

However, the researchers were aware that many of the subjects already had the cold sore infections beyond the papule stage. (In treating cold sores, it is essential to start treatment as soon as symptoms appear.)

Dose: Apply a 6% tea tree oil gel. You can learn how to prepare your own. See the report Tea Tree Oil Dilution Guide.

Aloe Vera hearbal leaf logo

Aloe vera can be taken orally or applied topically for treating cold sores.

One double-blinded study using a 0.5% aloe vera cream reduced the healing time for genital herpes.

Dose: Apply four times daily and continue until lesions are completely healed.

Vitamin E hearbal leaf logo

In one small study performed in a dental clinic, applying vitamin E oil on the cold sores lesions reduced pain and discomfort in less than eight hours.

Dose: Apply a generous layer of vitamin E oil on the lesions every three hours on the first day and then three times daily for two more days. (The study did not go beyond 3 days but it is safe to continue use until the lesions heal.)

Vitamin C hearbal leaf logo

In one small clinical study, volunteers taking vitamin C with flavonoids experienced a 57% reduction in the duration of the cold sores symptoms.

Vitamin C is needed for proper skin repair and growth and this might be a possible explanation for its effectiveness.

Dose: Take 200 mg of vitamin C along with 200 mg of flavonoids from three to five times daily.

Zinc hearbal leaf logo

Lab studies showed that zinc stopped the HSV from multiplying.

Zinc supports the immune system and it has been shown to help with reducing the frequency and severity of the outbreak for both cold sores and genital herpes.

Dose: Take 30 mg twice daily. Topical zinc sulfate preparation (solution or cream) may be applied four or five times daily on the affected areas. Zinc oxide may not be effective compared to zinc sulfate.

Note: Zinc oxide is the common ingredient in diaper rash creams and gels. Zinc sulfate powder (if you plan on making your own formulation) may be more difficult to obtain.


hearbal leaf logo

Licorice is known to contain active substances that can inactivate the herpes simplex virus.

One report suggested that people using licorice cream experienced less pain and healing time was faster.

Dose: Apply licorice gel to the affected areas up to four times daily.

Home Remedies Tips - Simply Things to Try

Here's the good news. Cold sores will disappear on their own. Here are some things you can do to get some relief:

Learn to control and reduce stress. Stress is shown to trigger an outbreak and it can also worsen an existing outbreak.

If there is pain, you may take pain relievers containing acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to get relief from the discomfort.

Avoid making contact with the lesions with your hands. Don't "play" with it. Wash your hands to avoid spreading this virus to another person.

Use ice packs to cool the area. This should give you relief from pain as well.

Avoid exposure of the lip to the sun. Use a lip balm with a sunscreen during sunny days. Sun exposure can trigger the appearance of cold sores.

Does It Matter What I Eat?

It is know from research studies that the herpes simplex virus needs a large supply of the amino acid arginine to multiple. And its replication is slowed down by the presence of the amino acid lysine.

You can use this to your advantage. Indeed, many studies have suggested that that a diet that is high in lysine and low in arginine could be helpful in preventing outbreaks and shortening the duration of an existing outbreak.

As this is something we would recommend you consider, we have complied a list of foods that are rich in lysine. This will allow you to modify your diet.

Thus many experts have suggested for individuals suffering from cold sores to avoid foods like chocolate, nuts and peanuts and to eat more foods like yogurt and cheese.