28 Home Remedies for Cold Sores

Cold sores are sometimes called fever blisters because of the way they look. They’re generally caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus and around two-thirds of adults over the age of 50 will experience them. This is a virus which doesn’t always produce symptoms, in fact, only 30% of people with the virus will experience any signs of infection.

Cold sores will generally show up around the lips and mouth but in some cases, they will appear elsewhere on the skin or tongue.

In most cases, cold sores will clear up in a week but the infection is incurable and it is likely that your cold sore will reoccur.

You can get medication to help treat your cold sore and make them disappear much quicker. Many home remedies, however, work just as well as it’s always worth giving them a try too.

Home Remedies for Cold Sores

  1. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is, maybe surprisingly, a member of the mint family. As such it can help to reduce the swelling and redness of a blister or cold sore. It won’t have much of an effect on the pain or scabbing of your cold sore though. Regular use of lemon balm can also help to reduce the risk of outbreaks in the future too.

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Lemon balm herb

  1. Ice

Ice is a great home remedy for cold sores as it can help relieve some of the discomfort and inflammation. It’s not, however, very good at reducing the risk of recurring breakouts. Applying some ice wrapped in a towel to the area of your cold sore though can bring some temporary relief.  


  1. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel is known worldwide for its soothing qualities. It’s also widely available in a number of stores and it also easy to grow in your home. Its anti-inflammatory abilities help to reduce some of the swelling and discomfort you may feel from your cold sore.  


  1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a great all-round protector for your skin. It’s also great at protecting your lips as your cold sore heals. Not only that, but it’s thought to help reduce the risk of future breakouts too! You’re best using a cream with at least SPF 30 as these will provide better protection than those with a lower SPF rating. Make sure you apply it any time you go out in the sun.


  1. Stress Reduction

For many people with the herpes virus, stress is a major trigger. This means that being stressed increases the risk of a breakout and can bring the virus out of dormancy. You can try mediation, regular exercise, breathing exercises, and mindfulness activities to help bring your stress levels down. Getting plenty of rest is also key.


  1. Lysine

Lysine is an amino acid which is regularly referred to as one of the best remedies for cold sores. Studies have shown that it can help block recurrences of the blisters. This is because it blocks the absorption of another amino acid – arginine – which is known to trigger the herpes virus.  You can take lysine supplements or boost your intake with foods like eggs, turkey, and dairy.


Some dairy products include milk, cheese, and yogurt

  1. Pile up the Pillows

If your cold sore is feeling particularly inflamed or uncomfortable try propping your head up on a few extra pillows. By elevating the affected area you can reduce the flow of blood to your cold sore and this will take the swelling down.


  1. Aspirin

Besides providing relief from the pain and discomfort of a cold sore, aspirin can also cut the length of its presence. Research has shown that taking 125mg of aspirin can reduce the time your cold sore is active by up to 50%!  

  1. Cornstarch Paste

A cornstarch paste is the first port of call for many cold sore sufferers. The cornstarch helps to neutralize your sore. This helps to take down any inflammation and soothe pain and discomfort.


  1. Cooled Tea Bag

At the earliest sign of a cold sore try applying a cooled but still damp tea bag. Leave it on the affected area for around ten minutes and repeat three or four times a day. This should reduce both the severity and duration of your cold sore. Earl Grey tea bags seem to be the most effective but any tea bag will do.


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Any type of black tea should work for this home remedy

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide

Open blisters are very vulnerable to infection, especially when you’re on your face. This is because you’re more likely to touch the blister and spread bacteria to it. Hydrogen peroxide is a great cleanser that will disinfect the sore. That way it’s more likely to heal faster and stop it from spreading.


  1. Licorice

Licorice has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral qualities which help to calm and soothe your cold sores. It’s one of the acids in licorice root that causes this effect. It’s thought that you’ll benefit from drinking licorice tea or from making a paste. Mix a tablespoon of powdered licorice root with a teaspoon of petroleum jelly. Apply the mixture to your cold sore and leave it on for several hours – ideally overnight.   


  1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has antifungal, antiseptic and antibiotic properties! All of these properties help ease and heal your cold sore. Apply a small amount of tea tree oil to your cold sore three or four times a day to see a result.


  1. Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract might be great for adding a sweet taste to your baked goods, but it’s also a great home remedy for cold sores! It’s thought that the alcohol content in pure vanilla extract sterilizes a cold sore. This makes it so that the cold sore can’t thrive and lessens the severity. Dab a little extract on a cold sore as soon as you feel it forming. This will help to ensure it doesn’t develop into a severe cold sore.


  1. Red Wine

If you’re fond of red wine and have a bottle already open you could try using it as a remedy for your cold sore! Red wine contains a powerful antioxidant that can help to relieve the inflammation of your cold sore. You can dry drinking a small glass each night or leaving a small amount of wine in a saucer. Wait for the liquid to evaporate and apply the dried remnants to your cold sore.


Women should drink a glass of red wine a day, while men can drink up to two

  1. Throw Your Toothbrush Away

Cold sores spread easily and are highly contagious. To avoid them from spreading to other areas of your mouth throw away your toothbrush. You should use a new one until your cold sore goes away. Once your cold sore has gone, replace your toothbrush again to prevent the cold sore from coming back. You should also throw away other products that have come into contact with your cold sores, such as lipsticks or lip balms.


  1. Vitamin B12

Studies have shown having recurring cold sores could be a sign of being deficient in vitamin B12. Taking a daily B12 supplement could help to prevent your cold sores from coming back. You can also increase your vitamin B12 intake by eating more foods like shellfish, beef, dairy, and eggs.

  1. Avoid Foods with a Poor Arginine-to-Lysine Ratio

As mentioned earlier, the amino acid arginine plays a huge role in the recurrence of the herpes virus. If you feel a cold sore forming, cut foods like chocolate, peanuts, seeds, beer, and raisins from your diet. All of these foods have an unfavorable arginine to lysine ratio. This means that they don’t contain enough lysine to counteract their arginine content.  


  1. Boost Your Immune System

Cold sores occur most regularly when you’re immune system is weak. To help your immune system stay strong enough to fight off cold sores try to eat foods which are high in vitamin C and zinc. These foods have high antioxidant properties which help your immune system fight of viruses. You should opt for foods kiwis, berries and melon. Echinacea tea is also a good option.


  1. Stop Touching

Do your best to resist the urge to pick or touch a cold sore, even after it has crusted or scabbed over. Because cold sores are very contagious so touching it can cause the virus to spread to other areas of your body, such as your eyes or genitals. Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching the cold sore to apply any remedy. You should also throw away any cotton swabs or tissues you may have used to apply the remedy.

cold sore

It is best to avoid kissing when you have a cold sore to avoid spreading it

  1. Understand Your Triggers

Cold sores are caused by an outbreak of the herpes simplex virus. For the most part, the virus remains dormant, but certain triggers can cause flare-ups. Triggers usually include stress, a weakened immune system, infections and overexposure to the sun.  To avoid repeated outbreaks, make sure you know what triggers your outbreaks and avoid these things.


  1. Increase Your Intake of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is great for soothing the skin. It can help to reduce pain and discomfort caused by cold sores and repair damaged skin. It’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are behind these cold sore busting benefits. You can take capsuled supplements or increase your intake of foods like spinach, avocados, sunflower seeds, and sweet potatoes to boost your vitamin E intake.


  1. More Vitamin C

Taking in more vitamin C can help to boost your white blood cell count. This helps to strengthen your immune system so that it’s more able to fight off cold sores. It’s also great for the health of your skin which helps to heal any existing cold sores. You can take supplements or eat more broccoli, strawberries, and grapefruit to get more vitamin C.


  1. Boost Your Zinc Intake

Zinc is another essential nutrient for boosting your immune system. A stronger immune system is more likely to be able to fight off outbreaks of the herpes virus and thus reduce your number of cold sores. Like with other minerals and vitamins you can take supplements which are available in a number of stores. You can also try eating more foods like chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, turkey, eggs, and salmon.

  1. Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint oil is known for its antiviral properties. This makes it a great home remedy for cold sores. Its antiviral qualities mean that it can prohibit the herpes virus and stop it coming out as a cold sore. It’s more effective during early stages so make sure you use it at the earliest sign of a cold sore developing.

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  1. Drink Echinacea Tea

Echinacea can be especially useful for boosting a weaker immune system. It’s typically recommended for getting rid of colds but it can also help to treat other viral breakouts like cold sores. It’s ability to stimulate the immune system make it a great home remedy for cold sores. Drinking echinacea tea is great for reducing pain and inflammation caused your cold sore too. people with a weakened immune system.


  1. Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jellies such as Vaseline provide a soothing aspect that helps reduce the pain and discomfort caused by cold sores. It can be mixed with other, powdered remedies to make healing pastes too. The jelly also helps to provide a barrier over your cold sore, keeping it clean and helping it to heal.


  1. Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is easy to get hold of. It’s available at most health stores and pharmacies. It has soothing qualities which make it great for things like insect bites and – you guessed it – cold sores. Add a little witch hazel to your cold sore and leave it there – it’ll soak into the skin after a while. It can help to soothe irritation and dry out the cold sore, helping it to heal faster.

witch hazel, back acne

Witch hazel plant

When to See a Doctor for Your Cold Sores

If you’re otherwise healthy your cold sore should clear up on its own within about two weeks. They can be really uncomfortable and make you feel down though as well as posing a risk of infection to others. It’s natural to want to do something to reduce your cold sore. If you have a weakened immune system or are having frequent outbreaks you should definitely talk to your doctor about medications. Otherwise, you should be okay with our suggested home remedies.

People with eczema are at particular risk of severe outbreaks as it can spread very easily. If you have eczema and develop a cold sore, you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible.








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