No one enjoys cold sores. Not even the most masochistic of us.
Cold sores are different than canker sores (which they are often confused with). They are caused by the virus herpes simplex I (HSV), which can lie dormant in the body, only to flare up when your body is stressed out.
Some people are more prone to developing cold sores than others, especially individuals who are exhausted, sick or exposed to excessively cold winds, sun or heat. Stress, emotional or environmental, increases the likelihood of flare-ups
People with chronic immune system imbalances can have cold sores all the time, sometimes many at once.
They’re most often treated with antiviral medications. Though HSV cannot be cured, these medications can shorten the duration of cold sores.
But antiviral medications aren’t always the preferred choice. Many people like to use natural, home remedies to ease discomfort and clear their cold sore flare-ups.
Importance of Early detection
Treating your cold sore as soon as possible is the most important aspect of treatment.
As soon as you feel that anything is up with your lip, treat it. If you can get treatment applied at the tingle, you’re in good shape.
Every second counts! If you can get good at this you can prevent many a cold sore from ever appearing.
The Best Essential Oils & Blends for Cold Sores
The oils we’ll focus on are anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and skin soothing.
We’re only going to focus on just the seven best oils, but there are others oils that can be beneficial for cold sores as well.
Lavender is perhaps the most loved and widely used essential oil, and for good reason.
It’s usefulness abounds, and it is especially useful for inflammation and skin related complaints.
Lavender will reduce the pain and redness of your cold sore. And with regular use, it’s anti-inflammatory qualities will greatly diminish the appearance of your cold sure.
Start using lavender with a cooling carrier oil, diluting it to assess whether you have a reaction to it. If it goes well, you can use a stronger ratio of lavender oil. It is also okay to use a small amount (one to two drops) of lavender oil undiluted if it agrees with your skin. More on how to do that later.
2.) Tea Tree
Tea Tree might be the most common oil that’s recommended for treating cold sores. It’s also likely the most powerful.
It’s known to knock out cold sores fast, sometimes reducing their lifespan to a day or two. This is impressive, as cold sores typically linger for a week or longer.
Tea tree’s success is due to it’s antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It attacks the virus quick and dries out the infected area.
The best time to apply tea tree is early on before the cold sore is firmly established. You want to catch it as it’s still forming when it’s most moist and still vulnerable.
It’s best to use tea tree on unbroken skin. You can combine 3 drops of tea tree with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, or if your skin is already dry combine tea tree with coconut oil. You can apply these mixtures directly to the cold sore with a q-tip or cotton boil. More on application later.
3.) Melissa (Lemon Balm)
Melissa, from the mint family, is another popular oil that’s especially effective if applied to the cold sore during its initial stages of development.
Treating with melissa can prevent the growth of new cold sores. Treat at the first tingle of a new sore, and you could prevent it from forming any further.
Geranium oil is soothing and great at preventing or reducing irritation. It is astringent, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.
7.) Chamomile (German)
Other Good EOs
The following oils are still highly recommended for cold sores, as they’re all effective and useful in their own way.
5 DIY EO Remedies for Cold Sores
Okay, on to the recipes!
1.) Simple Tea Tree Q-Tip Application
This remedy is as simple as it gets.
Note that we very rarely recommend “neat” essential oil applications, neat meaning direct, non-diluted essential oil application.
Use this treatment sparingly. A little bit goes a long way. Do not over-apply this method and stop immediately if your skin becomes agitated. Some people swear by neat applications like this to their cold sores, others choose not to apply neat. Experiment and decide for yourself.
- Place 1-2 drops of oil on a q-tip, tissue or damp cotton ball.
- Dab on the sore spot. Repeat frequently until the condition has cleared.
This method works best if applied as soon as you sense a cold sore coming on. Dab your skin as soon as that tingly feeling appears.
If neat application is too much for you, mix your essential oil with a little bit of apple cider vinegar or coconut oil.
2.) Simple & Powerful Astringent Lotion
- 3 drops tea tree oil (or a blend of lavender, melissa and tea tree)
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or alcohol)
- Combine ingredients.
- Apply directly to the affected area frequently until the condition has cleared.
NOTE: Only use this method if the skin has not been broken.
3.) Simple Massage Lotion for Cold Sores
You can massage this lotion on your cold sore directly, or use it as a whole body massage to boost your system’s healthy stress response.
- 10 drops geranium
- 10 drops lavender
- 8 drops lemon
- 2 drops thyme
- 2 tablespoons carrier oil (argan, coconut, sesame, sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, macadamia)
- Combine ingredients in a small non-reactive bowl.
- Massage oil onto your whole body, particularly the face and neck areas.
- Apply once daily, or more if desired.
4.) Simple Essential Oil Infused Healing Lotion
Best used to bring about moisture and healing once the cold sore has started to show signs of diminishing.
- 3 drops tea tree
- 3 drops bergamot
- 4 drops lavender or myrrh
- 5 tsp hypericum/calendula infused cream
- Combine ingredients.
- Apply frequently, but make sure to give the sore time to dry and air out between applications.
5.) DIY Synergistic Cold Sore & Protective Lip Gloss
This DIY lip gloss will protect your lips from future outbreaks while also helping you to heal any current cold sores.
- 1-ounce white beeswax
- 2 tablespoons sweet almond oil
- 10 drops of jojoba oil
- 5 drops carrot seed
Essential oil base:
Make a blend of the following ratio:
- 8 drops geranium
- 8 drops tea tree
- 6 drops german chamomile
- 5 drops lavender
- 3 drops lemon
Combine essential oils together. We’ll later add it to the lip gloss base.
- Melt your beeswax using a double boiler (also called Bain-Marie method).
- Once melted add almond oil, stirring as you combine.
- Now add jojoba & carrot seed oils
- Add 20 drops of your synergistic essential oil blend from above
- Let cool and add mixture to a small circular glass container
- Apply three times daily
Other (non-essential oil based) Remedies for Cold Sores
Most people go get medication from their doctor for their cold sores, but essential oils have advantages that typically prescribed pharmaceutical medications lack. Namely, EOs contain organic compounds that are known to make cause cold sore symptoms to retreat and resolve quickly.
Perhaps more importantly, essential oils provide far fewer potential side effects that pharmaceutical treatments (if used properly).
Yes, it is very important to use your essential oils correctly when treating cold sores. The mouth, face, and lips are very sensitive and any direct applications of essential oils need to be accompanied by sufficient carrier oil (more on that later).
Below you will find all you need to know about how to treat your cold sores with essential oils. You will also discover additional herbal allies that help treat cold sore symptoms and prevent future flare-ups.
The essential oil recipes mentioned above will help you to get a hold on your cold sores and help you reduce the duration of outbreaks. But there are other factors that go into treating this virus that should be taken into account if you want to reduce the likelihood of having more outbreaks in the future.
Up your intake of the amino acid L-Lysine
Lysine has been shown to be one of the better anti-cold sore remedies around.
Foods high in Lysine:
- Milk (opt for raw, whole milk)
- White meats
- Lysine Supplement with Immune Boosters
- Quantum Super Lysine+ Coldstick Lip Balm with SPF +21
- Quantum Super Lysine+ Cold sore Ointment
NOTE: Lysine competes with the amino acid L-Arginine for absorption by the body. Because of this, you’ll want to take your Lysine supplements apart from any other protein or workout supplements (and ideally on an empty stomach). Additionally, avoid using lysine for long periods of time as continual super-dosing it has been known to lead some individuals to develop kidney stones.
Experiment with other Natural Remedies
Many people have found success using other natural remedies, including:
- Ice Cubes – Apply directly to a new cold sore as soon as you feel the tingle coming on. Hold it there until your lip goes numb. Once your cube has melted hold another there. It’s best to repeat for at least a half hour. You really want it to be numb enough that you can’t even feel your lip that much anymore. If you do this well you can stop a new forming cold sore in its tracks. After you’re done applying ice dry it gently with paper or a towel and apply a moisturizing cream or EOs.
- Apple cider vinegar (applied directly)
- Manuka honey
- Bee propolis paste (applied directly)
- Tea bags (placed between your teeth and the sore)
- Coconut oil (antiviral, applied directly)
- Rhus Tox homeopathic remedy
Limit your Exposure to Sunshine
HSV outbreaks are commonly triggered by UV sunlight. So SPF and an umbrella are your friends. Use a sunscreen lip bomb when you decide to take your chances in the sun. chapstick with 30 SPF sunscreen when I’m in the sun.
Avoid foods known to cause outbreaks
- Processed foods
- Sugar (give it up if you have cold sores)
- Nuts (especially peanuts, which are actually a legume)
- Seeds (flax is okay)
- Caffeine (sorry)
- Wheat (gluten)
- Salt and vinegar chips
Also Avoid foods high in L-Arginine
L-Arginine is an amino acid that’s known to activate the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Arginine is especially problematic if a person doesn’t have enough lysine in their body.
Avoid it if you can.
Foods that contain high levels of L-Arginine:
- Chocolate (sorry)
Make sure your Cold Sore is allowed Breathing Time
You don’t necessarily want your cold sore to be dry all the time. For one, it would be hard to apply remedies if it was. But in the same vein, you don’t want it to be damp, either. The virus thrives in a damp, moist environment.
So between treatment applications be sure to clean up the area and give it some time to air out. This helps the healing process.
Keep the Infection Contained
Don’t touch or pick at your cold sore! The liquids that pools inside of a cold sore are incredibly infectious and can increase the likelihood of the infection spreading. If you pop your blister or if it does onitss own be sure to keep any of the juices from contacting other parts of your skin/face.
Rest and Relax to Recover
Stress is a big trigger for cold sore outbreaks. If you are dealing with a large outbreak right now investigate any stresses in your life. If you can cut them out, good. If you can’t, practice some relaxation techniques and try to see if you can approach events in your life that have been a cause for stress a little bit differently.
Check to see if any medications you are taking are known to increase outbreaks
Some medications can increase the probability of experiencing an outbreak. For example, the mood stabilizer Lamictal is known to increase outbreaks as a common side effect.
Just Googling some of your meds might give you a hunch. Or ask your doctor.
If essential oils and natural remedies fail, you might want to reach for formulated medications.
- Abreva (Acyclovir)
- Herpecin-l lip balm
- Denavir cream (RX)
Final Thoughts and Precautions
Using essential oils & other natural remedies at home is simple and can provide very effective treatment for cold sores. But remember that herpes should be taken seriously. This is especially so if the symptoms get worse or spread. If a cold sore lasts over two weeks you might want to head to the doctor and ask them about formal treatment measures.
And again, remember that essential oils are potent and can be irritants if used irresponsibly. The skin around your lips is very sensitive. Check for allergic reactions and dilute when necessary to avoid issues.
Hopefully, you’ve found this article helpful.
If you have any questions, comments or tips of your own let us know in the comment section below!
18 thoughts on “11 Best Essential Oils & DIY Remedies for Cold Sores”
It is great that you give multiple options for cold sores. I noticed the first one is neat essential oil. This is irresponsible to place neat oil on a cold sore, likely will cause burning and irritation rather than soothe.
Before writing this advice I’d read this recommendation from multiple essential oil recipe books. One drop spread with a q-tip or cotton ball should be okay!
I use essential oils neat on cold sores and the burning is very minimal. It is fine, not irresponsible.
I put essential oils neat on my colds sores all the time and it does actually help soothe it a lot.
I was just breaking out with a large cold sore on my face, minutes ago, I immediately researched and applied neat dōTERRA On Guard blend, lemon and Melaluca, and the relief was immediate, it’s now been about 20 mins and the swelling has gone down as well, so I say apply away.
I apply tea tree oil with a q-tip. To canker sores inside the mouth and to cold sores on outer lips. Did research and have a book on essential oils.. Tea tree oil is OK as long as you use sparingly. You don’t soak the sore. Don’t apply if it is broken open. Cuts healing time in half.
Thank you Loren! I tried the tea tree oil and the bump went away and never even made it to the blister stage!
Tea tree oil is great…just dab onto area neat with a cotton bud! Use as needed…great for spots and infections too, one of only essential oils I’ve applied.
How much carrier oil should I add to this blend if want to apply it directly to the cold sore rather than add to a lip gloss? — 8 drops geranium
8 drops tea tree
6 drops german chamomile
5 drops lavender
3 drops lemon
To Kerry: After experiencing cold sores for a good 38 years, I can tell you this virus is sneaky. Your bump may have gone away but it will be back soon enough to want to truly evolve to its last stage.
No negativity here, that alone can cause stress and it’s not necessary. Jeepers.
I find Penaten cream helps somewhat.
Abreva is not Acyclovir. You need a prescription for Acyclovir. Abreva is Docosanol.
Try real vanilla extract,south’s and seems to dry up
Is leaving out the german chamomile in the preventative blend a huge problem? I don’t have it and it is crazy expensive!
So just wanted to put this out there. Tried a few oils this mornings, peppermint, lemon, lavandar. Nothing was working. So I said what the heck, let’s try some Theives oil. Well…..it kicked butt. I put on three drops, an hour apart and all the blistering is gone, swelling is gone, felt immediate relief and this afternoon I am on the way to healing. Use to take me 5 days to get to this point with over the counter medication. Nothing recommended Thieves, but it’s such an amazing blend so I figured “give it a try!” It works! I know everyone’s body chemistry is different and we all receive things differently, but thought I should let folks know!
I have been using Thieves mouthwash alternating with Peppermint neat however mind is inside upper lip & irritated by teeth & eating. I will try Thieves neat.