Most of you reading this will already have suffered from cold sores and know that they first appear as blisters below the surface of the skin. These fluid filled pockets appear on and/or around the mouth and lips. They can be pretty painful over the course of the 7 to 10 days they last, breaking open, oozing and crusting over. Fortunately, there are a number of home remedies for cold sores which can help!
The majority of adults that have been tested, test positive for the virus that causes these cold sores. Mostly, they don’t get the cold sore symptoms but, those that do generally have to deal with recurring breakouts.
The virus which causes the cold sores is the herpes simplex virus HSV-1, HSV-2 can also cause cold sores.
After the initial breakout of the cold sore, the virus doesn’t leave the body, it lies dormant ready to strike again when conditions are right. Triggers can be:
- hormonal fluctuations
- sun exposure
Sometimes the breakouts are also accompanied by a fever, sore throat, aches and pains, and a headache.
Home Remedies For Cold Sores
If you look at the triggers above, stress is one of the main triggers responsible for breakouts1. Stress can cause the herpes virus to come out of dormancy so it’s important to find tools that help you deal with stress such as:
- regular exercise
- try and set aside leisure time to do something you enjoy every day
- keep your sense of humor
- don’t over-commit yourself
- prioritize all the tasks you feel you HAVE to do
- any projects, break into small steps. …
- delegate responsibility both within the family and at work
- eat a healthy diet
- consciously slow down your breathing
A member of the mint family, lemon balm can help to reduce the redness and swelling of a cold sore2. Classed as an anti-viral, it doesn’t improve pain and scabbing but using a lip balm with at least 1% of lemon balm can help reduce time it takes your cold sore to heal.
Alternatively, using a compress soaked with a lemon balm infusion (tea) can provide similar benefits. Lemon balm may also help protect against future outbreaks.
Rhubarb and Sage
Yes, really! A study from 20013 found that a topical cream made of rhubarb and sage may be as effective for the treatment of cold sores as the antiviral medication acyclovir (Zovirax).
In this study, rhubarb and sage cream helped to heal a cold sore within 6.7 days. Healing time with acyclovir cream was 6.5 days, and healing time using sage cream alone was 7.6 days.
I haven’t found a recipe on how to prepare this ointment, I’ll update this article when I do.
A simple solution to help ease the discomfort of a cold sore outbreak. It won’t reduce the duration but offers symptomatic temporary relief. Most people keep ice in their freezers so it’s convenient as a quick fix.
Aloe vera gel is now widely available in health stores and you can also keep as a houseplant. Research has indicated that topical treatment of aloe vera for HSV 1 infections can be effective4
To use aloe vera for the treatment of cold sores you can:
- Purchase a high-quality aloe vera gel product and apply the gel three times a day until the lesion has dried
- Keep a couple of aloe vera house plants.
- Break off a stem
- slit down the center
- scoop out the gel
- apply as for aloe vera gel.
- Any surplus should be stored in an airtight container and kept cool with no extremes of temperature. Best stored in the fridge
Remember to wash your hands before and after you apply the aloe vera gel to help prevent spreading the infection.
More Home Remedies For Cold Sores
There are other remedies that people have used but, without the research to back up the claims. I’ll list them here and you can try them out for yourself:
- Vanilla (pure organic) – use a cotton swab and dab some on as soon as you feel the tingling.
- Licorice root powder or extract – 1 tablespoon mixed with a half teaspoon of water. Make a paste then dab a layer over the sore. Leave on overnight.
- Milk – soak a cotton wool ball and hold on the sore for a few minutes.
- Peppermint Oil (pure, good quality) – dampen a cotton ball with water then and a couple of drops of oil and dab on the sore.
- Cornstarch – 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and start with 1 teaspoon of fresh water. Gradually mix till you have a smooth paste adding more water as needed. Dab on before bed and leave overnight. Rinse off gently in the morning.
- Raw Garlic Clove – peel and cut a garlic clove in half. Rub directly on your cold-sore 3 x daily.
Prevent spreading a cold sore
A cold sore is contagious as soon as the symptoms start, even if you have no blisters. They are easily spread to other people, even before the first blister appears.
To avoid spreading the cold sore virus:
- No kissing and/or other skin-to-skin contacts until the cold sore is healed.
- No sharing of personal items such as utensils, towels, or toothbrushes.
- Don’t share your any cosmetics that are applied on the lips (lipstick, lip gloss, or foundation).
- Get a new toothbrush when you get a cold sore to prevent reinfection. Replace it again once the sore has completely healed.
- DON’T PICK AT A COLD SORE! Wash your hands thoroughly every time you apply ointment or touch the sore.
- If you find that sunlight triggers cold sores, apply sunscreen (good quality) daily to the area where the cold sores develop.