Tea Tree Oil for Cold Sores - Does It REALLY Work?

Does using tea tree oil for cold sores help with outbreaks?

It is estimated that about 20 to 40% of the population suffer from cold sores. Some of them get them regularly. Although there are several prescription medications available to help shorten the duration of infection, they can be costly. Moreover, many people are seeking a natural treatment first before considering prescription medications.

Some studies seem to suggest that prescription topical antiviral cream doesn't seem to work all the time. This should not be a surprise as we are dealing with viral infections. Viral infections are difficult to treat.

Indeed you NEVER can be cured of cold sores. The best you can do is to get the virus to go back to its dormant stage and hope that it will not activate and spread again.

It is known from multiple research studies that tea tree oil has the potential to stop the growth of bacteria, fungus and inhibit viral activities. Indeed, some experts believe that it holds promise in the fight against many infectious microorganisms.

Our detailed article Benefits of Tea Tree Oil reveals all the health benefits so we won't discuss it here.

Read on to find out if tea tree oil REALLY works for cold sores...

Studies on Tea Tree Oil for Cold Sores

First of, it is clear that tea tree oil is highly effective against some types of viral infection such as cold sores. Indeed, this oil is even effective against some forms of the herpes simplex virus (the cold sore virus) that the prescription drug acyclovir (Zovirax) doesn't work against.

The researchers suggested to apply diluted tea tree oil three to four times daily on the lesions to speed up the healing process from cold sores.

Here's the reference to this research paper.

tea tree oil cold sores reference image 1

But What About Clinical Trials in Human Volunteers?

Sure it's great to know that tea tree oil works in the labs against the cold sore virus, but what about experiences with individuals suffering from cold sores?

In one randomized, placebo-controlled study involving 18 volunteers between the age of 18 to 70 years old, they were assigned to either a 6% tea tree oil gel or a matching placebo gel.

The volunteers went in for the study as soon as outbreak occurred.

The researchers went as far as actually collecting samples of virus by swabbing the infected area and subjecting the samples to rigorous testing. And this was done each day except on Sunday.

Here's what they found out about the effectiveness of the tea tree oil gel.

The time it takes to heal the lesions was 9 days compared to 12.5 days with the placebo.

The amount of the cold sore virus in the tissue (called the viral titres) appeared to be lower in the group that used the tea tree oil gel.

Despite these promising results, the data was not statistically significant, according to the researchers. In other words, using tea tree oil gel is no more effective than just using a placebo gel!

But the researchers conceded that there are two good reason why this study didn't show as much benefit as one would expect.

First, the number of subjects involved in this study is very small, only a total of 18, half on the treatment and the other half on a placebo gel.

Second, and perhaps more significant, eight of the nine volunteers started treatment far too late. (As you know, in treating cold sores, you need to start as soon as possible, no more than 72 hours after the first sign of infection. Most of the volunteers started treatment after the lesions were crusting over.)

Here's the reference to this study.

tea tree oil cold sores reference paper 2

Bottom Line

Thinking of using tea tree oil for cold sores?

Go for it. It is cheap and have very little side effect. It appears to be as effective as other topical treatment previously studied.

Another advantage is that it doesn't cause antiviral resistance as oral antiviral medications does.

However, for maximum benefits use it as soon as you notice any symptoms. Don't wait until lesions show up. By then, it's much less effective and may not be as effective in shortening the healing time.

Although may apply it more than five times daily (indeed that what the directions are for the prescription cream Zovirax, experts believe that applying three to four times daily is sufficient.

To find out all the natural remedies you can use for treating cold sores, get our complete list which also include dosing information.

natural remedies cold sore teaser image