Back to Dealing with Cold Sores articles

how to keep confident


When you have a cold sore, you want to act on it quickly. And your first thought may be: What’s the best cold sore remedy? You may even end up searching the web for a fast remedy or trying natural cold sore remedies that friends and family recommend—but you’ll find that none of these are clinically proven.

Some natural cold sore remedies may offer temporary symptom relief—and do not actually heal a cold sore. While others may even make the cold sore worse. It’s also important to know that cold sores are caused by a virus and once you are infected, the virus never leaves your body—and can’t be cured.

With so much anecdotal evidence out there, let’s separate the medicines from the myths.


Lemon Juice

1. Lemon Balm

Applying lemon balm to your cold sore might reduce irritation, but it won’t help against the virus.1

Tea Bags

2. Tea Bags

Using tea bags as a compress, like a lemon tea, may cool down any redness around the cold sore, but it won’t fight the virus.1

Alcohol/Witch Hazel

3. Alcohol/Witch Hazel

Rubbing alcohol and witch hazel are astringents. They might dry out the cold sore but they are not clinically proven to heal them.2


4. Ice

Ice may provide temporary pain relief and help reduce redness and swelling.1

Tea Tree Oil

5. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is known to have antiseptic properties. It might encourage the natural healing process by drying out the cold sore and it may prevent bacterial infection, but it’s not clinically proven to heal cold sores.3

Vanilla Extract

6. Vanilla Extract

Pure vanilla extract is alcohol based. As an astringent, it may dry out—but not heal—a cold sore, just like rubbing alcohol or witch hazel.

Salt Water

7. Salt Water

Salt may affect the environment around the virus so it can’t thrive, which might help dry up the cold sore, but it can also be painful on your skin.2

Lysine-Rich Food

8. Lysine-Rich Food

Petroleum Jelly may help soften the skin and provide a protective layer against infection, but it will not shorten the healing time of the cold sore.

Petroleum Jelly

9. Lysine

Lysine is a type of protein that may help prevent the multiplication and progression of the virus. It’s found in eggs, yogurt, milk, and cheese, as well as in supplement form.1  Read more.

What the Experts Are Saying:

Read What Dr. Pam Marquess Thinks About Abreva®

"The fact is home remedies have not been clinically proven to heal cold sores or lessen healing time," said Dr. Pam Marquess, a pharmacist and CEO of East Marietta Drugs, an independent chain of pharmacies based in metro Atlanta. "Although those home remedies may make it temporarily feel better, using them can possibly make the cold sore worse. I get cold sores, and what I personally use and recommend to my patients is Abreva®, the only over-the-counter cold sore medicine that is FDA approved to shorten healing time."

Although these natural cold sore remedies may help with temporary symptom relief or minimize bacterial infection, they are not clinically proven to heal cold sores like Abreva® Cream. In fact, it’s the only nonprescription cold sore treatment approved by the FDA to help heal your cold sore in as little as 2½ days,* when used at the first sign. Nothing heals a cold sore faster.** 

If you have any questions regarding cold sore treatments and natural cold sore remedies, your healthcare professional is the best person to ask.

By clicking the link(s) above, you will be taken to an external website that is independently operated and not managed by GSK. GSK assumes no responsibility for the content on the website. If you do not wish to leave this website, do not click on the links above.