If you’ve ever had to deal with cold sores, you know how annoying, painful and even embarrassing they can be. They are majorly contagious, no makeup will hide them and you just have to ride it out until your body can heal. But helping your body out with the healing process is easy with a little foresight and your trusted herbal pharmacy. So keep reading for some information on how you can use natural remedies like essential oils for cold sores.
But What Are Cold Sores and Why Do You Get Them?
Cold sores and fever blisters are one in the same thing, and they are caused by the herpes simplex I virus. I know herpes is a scary word, but this is not the same as herpes II which is a sexually transmitted infection. In fact, oral herpes is so common it affects anywhere from 50-80% of the population (1). While it lays dormant in some people, you’ll know when it flares up.
Some symptoms of cold sores are blisters on the inside of the nose, mouth or around the lips and chin. These can be painful, red and are often accompanied by a burning or tingling feeling as they are coming on. Some people are affected worse than others, especially kids and older folks. Other symptoms of the virus could be a fever, headaches, swollen glands and sore throat. Check out this article for more information and pictures of cold sores.
Once you’ve got the HSV-I virus it can hang around in the body, getting activated when you’re stressed, tired or when your immune system is a little low.
While most of the time cold sores will clear up within a week or so, some people want to speed that process up. Some of the conventional treatments for cold sores are antivirals, but in order to work they need to be applied at the first sign of an outbreak. That means, as soon as you feel any burning or tingling. Most of them are prescriptions and if you’re someone that wants to take a more natural approach you probably want to avoid the medications. Many of them have side effects that many people want to avoid. Not to mention the inconvenience of having to get a prescription filled at the first sign of burning lips.
Zovirax is a common medication for cold sores that can cause nausea, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, shakiness or even kidney problems (2). I don’t know about you but these side effects kind of outweigh the benefits and in the case of a simple cold sore, there’s definitely a better way to handle it.
The powerful plant compounds in essential oils are good for just about everything, but especially healing the skin and fighting against microbes. So can essential oils be used for cold sores? You bet they can. And today we’re going to dive into how to use essential oils for cold sores to speed healing time and potentially prevent an outbreak (if you jump on it early enough.)
Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores
Arborvitae Essential Oil
With its strong aromatic scent and powerful properties, arborvitae is an excellent disinfectant that also promotes skin healing (3). This is an essential oil that not many people know about or use, but they should! It’s a staple in our house during cold and flu season. Why? It has antiviral effects, so to stop a cold sore early on, try applying a bit directly to the tingling skin. Arborvitae is super strong, so it’s a good idea to dilute in a carrier oil (like coconut oil) before applying to your cold sore.
The added benefit of coconut oil is that it has antimicrobial benefits. Arborvitae is also used as a bug repellant and we use it to fight cold, flu and infections when environmental threats are high. I highly recommend investing in a bottle to keep in your natural medicine cabinet.
Clove Essential Oil
Clove is an essential oil that’s used a lot in toothpaste, mouthwash and gum oils because of its disinfecting qualities. Because these icky blisters stem from a virus, an anti-viral essential oil could help. Clove oil for cold sores also has anaesthetic properties, which can help numb the pain and ease the discomfort that comes with them (4). Again it’s pretty strong so mix it in with a little coconut oil before putting it directly on the sensitive, broken skin of a cold sore.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense is one of those magical essential oils to have around because it’s good for so many things. This is a healing oil and it’s used in alot of face creams to repair and regenerate the skin, which is why it can be a great essential oil for cold sores (5). It smells great and has antimicrobial benefits too, so frankincense for cold sores could speed healing or if applied early, prevent it from getting too bad.
Lavender Essential Oil
First of all, lavender eases stress and anxiety (which can definitely lead to a cold sore breakout!) But besides its sweet floral scent and calming properties, lavender is also an anti-inflammatory and disinfectant (4). It can be used for bruises, burns and poison ivy and works to speed healing time and decrease pain.
Lavender oil for cold sores can help kill the virus, soothe the skin and speed healing. Since it usually isn’t too irritating, it’s one of the few essential oils for cold sores that can be used in stronger doses without being too diluted.
Oregano Essential Oil
Oregano is one of the best remedies for a cold or flu because it has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. In fact, one of the simplest immune boosting recipes is to put a few fresh sprigs of oregano in a boiling pot and make up a tea to slowly sip on.
Oregano is a really powerful antiviral that works both inside and out. In fact, a study in 1996 found that both clove and oregano oil for cold sores were effective against the HSV-I virus (6). But beware, oregano oil is crazy strong! It can definitely burn so make sure it’s well diluted before putting it on the sensitive skin around a cold sore.
Melaleuca Essential Oil (aka Tea Tree Oil)
Melaleuca is another one of those oils that’s great to keep in your medicine cabinet. It’s antimicrobial, antifungal and helps to heal the skin so if you’ve got a wound, cut or scrape, melaleuca is your friend.
A great essential oil for cold sores, melaleuca can help kill the virus, ease pain and speed up healing as it regenerates the skin. It can help heal any blemish, so if you have acne prone skin, keep tea tree around. But again, it’s another strong one, so dilute it down with a little carrier oil before applying it.
Some other cold sore home remedies are taking vitamin C, resting while the sore has popped up and applying aloe vera gel, which is gentle and can be used as often as needed to soothe the blisters. Make sure that it’s pure aloe vera, not the blue stuff for sunburns you’ll find at drug stores. Those usually have all kinds of extra chemical additives in them which will cause more harm than good.
Since stress and fatigue can cause cold sores once you’ve got the HSV-I virus, try reducing stress, eating a healthy diet and sleeping well to prevent cold sores from emerging. And if you’re fighting one with a cold, check out these other remedies.
None of these essential oils for cold sores (or any natural remedy for that matter) will cure them for good, but they can speed healing and help to alleviate some of the redness, pain and blistering that come along with it. They could also potentially shorten the duration of a breakout if you catch them early enough. So if you feel a cold sore coming on or it’s too late and you’re already suffering with one of those icky blisters, try out this recipe below.
DIY Essential Oil Blend for Cold Sores Recipe
- 1 oz glass jar
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp pure aloe vera gel
- 3 drops of tea tree essential oil
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
- 2 drops of oregano essential oil
- 2 drops of frankincense essential oil
If your coconut oil is solid, melt it just a little bit on the stove or in the microwave. Don’t get it hot, just make sure it’s melted enough to mix in the rest of the ingredients. Then add your aloe vera gel and essential oils and mix well. Add them to your glass jar and use as often as needed.
If you keep your jar in a cool place it will be semi-solid, which is easier to apply than a liquid. Always wash your hands before and after applying the salve!
Okay I hope I’ve helped you understand a little more about cold sores and fever blisters, what causes them and how to handle them once they’ve come up. As with any essential oils always do a little patch test on your skin to test for an allergic reaction before using them. But for the most part, essential oils for cold sores are a much safer choice than any prescription or over the counter medicine. So why not give it a try?
What about you? Do you suffer from the occasional cold sore? Have you tried any natural remedies or found a secret that really works? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below and tell me what you know!
- Nordqvist, Christian (2017). “Everything You Need to Know About Cold Sores.” Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/172389.php
- WebMD (2018). “Zovirax.” Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-940/zovirax-oral/details
- Pure Path Essential Oils (2018). “Arborvitae Oil: Uses and Benefits.” Retrieved from: https://purepathessentialoils.com/arborvitae-oil-uses-benefits/
- DePietro, MaryAnn (2017). “10 Essential Oils for Treating Cold Sores.” Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319976.php
- Dr. Mercola (2016). “Frankincense Oil: The King of Oils.” Retrieved from: https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/frankincense-oil.aspx
- Siddiqui, Y.M. Ettayebi, M. Haddad, A.M. “Effect of Essential Oils on the Enveloped Viruses: Antiviral Activity of Oregano and Clove Oils on Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Newcastle Disease Virus.” Retrieved from: www.researchgate.net/effect of essential oils on enveloped viruses