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The Truth About Natural Remedies for Cold Sores

When you feel the familiar tingle of a cold sore coming on, you’ll want to act quickly to prevent it from developing and speed your recovery. Your first thought may be: are there any natural remedies for cold sores at hand that you can try at home?

There are hundreds of natural cold sore treatments you could try – but do they work? Some natural cold sore remedies may offer superficial symptom relief, but most do not actually heal a cold sore. Worryingly, other natural remedies for cold sores may even make cold sore symptoms worse.

We've examined the most popular home remedies for cold sores – such as putting tea tree oil, salt or Vaseline® Healing Jelly on a cold sore – to assess the science. We’ve sorted the fact from the fiction so you know which remedies to try and which to avoid.

Find other ways to deal with cold sores.

12 Natural Remedies for Cold Sores

Lemon Balm

Known for its antiviral properties, lemon balm is one of the most popular natural remedies for cold sores. Applying a lip balm with at least one percent lemon balm or a compress made with lemon balm tea to your cold sore for a few minutes several times a day may help reduce inflammation and swelling, as well as speed up the healing process.i *

Toothpaste

A dab of toothpaste on a cold sore will help dry out your blister faster. However, toothpastes contain a wide range of other ingredients that may irritate your skin, and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that applying toothpaste fights the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) that causes cold sores.

Salt

Natural remedies for cold sores don’t come much older than this one. Salt may help draw out moisture from your cold sore so the virus can’t thrive, but it can also be painful on your skin.

Salt
Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is well-known for its antiseptic and antiviral 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.ii* Tea tree oil is strong, so always dilute it with a carrier oil to avoid skin irritation.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint Oil

While there’s no evidence that peppermint oil kills the herpes simplex virus, one study showed that it could halt the activity of the virus, making it useful in treating recurrent cold sore infections.ii*i Apply a few drops of peppermint oil diluted with a milder carrier oil directly to the sore or add peppermint oil to a little water and use it in compress form.

Peppermint Oil
Vaseline

Vaseline®

A petroleum jelly such as Vaseline® won’t heal a cold sore, but it can provide a protective layer against outside irritants and keeps the affected skin soft, reducing the likelihood of scabs from cracking open.iv

Tea Bag

Tea Bag

Placing a cool, used tea bag directly on the cold sore and leaving it there for 15 minutes or so may help soothe the inflammationv. It won’t do anything to kill off the virus, though.

Alchohol

Alcohol / Witch Hazel

Dabbing rubbing alcohol on a cold sore or using witch hazel will help dry out the cold sore, but neither are clinically proven to heal it. Both are natural astringents so will sting when applied. Be aware that when you dry out the blister, it may also crack, leading to unsightly weeping and potentially taking longer to heal.

Ice/Cold compress

Ice / Cold Compress

Using a cold compress or rubbing a piece of ice over a cold sore will both work to reduce pain, redness and swelling. Applied directly, however, ice may irritate the skin.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory properties and is very soothing. Apply gel to help relieve the pain associated with cold sores.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

Many people swear by rubbing a little vanilla extract on a cold sore. Pure vanilla extract is alcohol-based, so works as an astringent in a similar way to rubbing alcohol or witch hazel. It may dry out – but not heal – a cold sore.

Lysine-Rich Food / Lysine Supplements

Lysine-Rich Food / Lysine Supplements

Eating foods that are high in lysine such as pork or turkey, taking a supplement or applying a lysine-based ointment may help prevent the multiplication and progression of the cold sore virusvi. Lysine is an essential amino acid that your body needs to survive. The herpes simplex 1 virus needs arginine, another amino acid, to grow. When you ingest more lysine, arginine absorption is reduced, thereby leaving the virus with less arginine to thrive on. Learn more about lysine and cold sore management.

Abreva Cream for Cold Sores

Abreva® Cream For Cold Sores

Not convinced that any of the natural remedies for cold sores can help speed your recovery from a fever blister? Opt for Abreva® Cream – a non-prescription treatment that’s clinically proven to help heal your cold sore in as little as 2½ days when used at the first sign*. It's backed by science, leaving less to chance than when you opt for some natural remedies.

Applying a small amount of Abreva® Cream where you feel a tingling, itching or burning sensation and/or where there is already a blister will help your cold sore to heal faster. Find out how Abreva® Cream works.

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