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Women’s finger on lower lip


When you have a cold sore, you want to act on it quickly. You may end up trying cold sore home remedies that friends, family or health websites recommend but you may find that these aren’t clinically proven. Some remedies may offer only temporary symptom relief, while others may have the potential to make the cold sore worse. With lots of anecdotal evidence out there, let’s unpack what some natural remedies for cold sores can do to help with symptoms, and whether or not they may be effective.

9 Natural Remedies for Cold Sores

Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice1.

While some studies have investigated lemon balm as a cold sore remedy,1,2 there is not enough research on the effects of lemon juice. Although some believe that lemon juice has antibacterial properties, applying lemon juice to your cold sore probably won’t help against the virus.

Tea Bags

Tea Bags2.

Using tea bags as a cool compress may cool down any redness around the cold sore, similar to its use for other inflammation of the skin. It cannot however, fight the full infection.1

Alcohol/Witch Hazel

Alcohol/Witch Hazel3.

Rubbing alcohol and witch hazel are astringents, which might help dry out the cold sore.1,3 Using one or both of these, however, has not been chemically proven to heal the cold sore itself.

Tea Tree Oil


Using ice as a cold compress is an easy cold sore home remedy that can be used to provide temporary pain relief and help reduce redness and swelling of your cold sore.1 Consider using it on or near the affected area as necessary for relief.

Peppermint Oil

Tea Tree Oil5.

Tea tree oil is known to have antiseptic properties. It might encourage the natural healing process by drying out the cold sore and may prevent bacterial infection, but it’s not clinically proven to treat cold sores.4


Vanilla Extract6.

Pure vanilla extract is alcohol based. As an astringent, it may function in the same way as rubbing alcohol or witch hazel.

Tea Bag

Salt Water7.

Salt may help change the environment around the virus so it can’t thrive. While it might dry up the cold sore, it can also be painful to your skin.3


Petroleum Jelly8.

Petroleum jelly may help soften the skin on or around the lips and provide a protective layer against infection. It will not necessarily shorten the healing time of the cold sore, however.

Ice/Cold compress

Hot Compress9.

Using a warm or hot compress (a clean towel soaked with warm-hot water) may help reduce the inflammation.1 It can be applied over the sores in an interval of 20 minutes.

Abreva Cream for Cold Sores

Although these remedies may help with temporary symptom relief, or to minimize bacterial infections, home remedies for cold sores are not necessarily a cure-all. Over-the-counter Abreva Cream, however, can help. In clinical testing, Abreva has been proven to reduce healing time of cold sores when used at the first sign of a cold sore. The median healing time is 4.1 days, but 25% of users see healing results in 2.5 days. As with any home remedy or medication, be sure to speak to a healthcare professional or your provider beforehand. Cold sores can definitely be challenging to live with, but there are plenty of resources available to help mitigate your symptoms. For more information on cold sore topics such as these, be sure to visit the Abreva site.


1. Cold sore – Diagnosis & treatment. Mayo Clinic. Accessed 4/15/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.

2. Local therapy of herpes simplex with dried extract from Melissa officinalis. National Library of Medicine. Accessed 4/15/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.

3. Cold and Canker Sores. University of Michigan Health Service. Accessed 4/15/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.

4. Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil gel (6%) for the treatment of recurrent herpes labialis. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. Accessed 4/15/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.

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