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16 Simple Home Remedies for Cold Sores

16 Simple Home Remedies for Cold Sores

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes virus, in fact, the herpes simplex virus type 1. Cold sores cannot be completely cured because the herpes type 1 virus is considered to lie dormant in some of the nerve cells of your body. It may get activated due to certain causes such as stress, anxiety, a cold or exposure to the sun for longer periods. These cold sores will appear around your lips or mouth or even around your nose. They take 7-14 days to disappear. However, if you decide to take help of certain home remedies for cold sores, you can speed up the healing process and may also get relief from the pain and other discomforts they cause.

Home Remedies for Cold Sores

1. Cornstarch for Cold Sores

If you have ever touched the smooth textured cornstarch, you will know how soothing it is to your skin. It will immediately give you relief from that irritating itch and the burning sensation that accompanies the cold sores. It is because cornstarch can balance out the pH level of your skin. It is a well known fact that virus thrive in an acidic environment. When you apply cornstarch on your cold sores affected skin, you are making the area more alkaline so that the virus dies off. And this is perhaps the most simple remedy, you just need to make a paste and apply on your cold sores. Here’s how you can do so.

Get this:

  • Cornstarch- 1 tbsp
  • Water- 1 tsp

Do this:

  • Take the cornstarch and mix it with water.
  • You need to get a smooth paste. If needed, you may use some more water.
  • Before you go to bed at night, dab this paste on to your cold sores.
  • Leave it overnight.
  • In the morning, wash off with water.
  • Do this every night till you get rid of cold sores.

2. Witch Hazel for Cold Sores

Witch hazel extract, having excellent astringent properties, has been used since ages by the Native Americans for various skin problems. They got it by steaming the twigs of the witch hazel shrub. You don’t have to take so much of pain because now various distillates of witch hazel known as hydrosols or hydrolats can be bought from medical or general stores. The components of witch hazel- tannin, gallic acid, catechins, proanthocyanins, flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin, essential oil like carvacrol, eugenol, and hexenol, choline, saponins, etc. help treat bruises and swelling including cold sores.

Get this:

  • Witch hazel
  • Cotton ball or swab

Do this:

  • Soak the cotton ball with witch hazel extract.
  • Apply this to your cold sores.
  • Repeat twice a day.

3. Vanilla Extract for Cold Sores

Vanilla extract, made by dissolving vanilla beans in alcohol, is believed to be an effective remedy for cold sores due to its anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties. The anti-inflammatory properties reduce the swelling and pain caused by cold sores and the disinfectant properties make it difficult for the virus to survive for long.

Get this:

  • Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Cotton swab

Do this:

  • Soak the cotton swab in vanilla extract.
  • Now hold this against your cold sores for a couple of minutes. You may use an adhesive tape to secure it over your sores.
  • Remove the thing after 2-3 minutes.
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day till your cold sores disappear.

4. Licorice for Cold Sores

This is one of the very common remedies for cold sores. There is this glycyrhizic acid in licorice root that has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. This acid contains the growth of virus thus giving you relief from cold sores. You can use licorice both topically as well as internally in the form of infusion or tea. Glycyrrhizin, however. When taken in large doses or for longer periods, can affect adrenal function and can cause water retention as well as leg swelling. Therefore, don’t take licorice for more than a week.

1st Way to Use Licorice for Cold Sores: Licorice Cream

Get this:

  • Licorice root powder or extract- 1 tbsp
  • Water- ½ tsp Or Petroleum jelly- 2 tsp

Do this:


  • Mix the licorice powder with the water.
  • Mix them well to get a paste like consistency.
  • You may also mix the licorice powder with petroleum jelly.
  • Whatever ingredient you use, water or petroleum jelly, you will get a cream like thing.
  • Apply this to your cold sores before going to sleep at night.
  • Leave it overnight. If that’s not possible, you may apply this licorice cream during the daytime and leave it there on your cold sores for at least 6-8 hours.

2nd Way to Use Licorice for Cold Sores: Licorice Root Tea

Get this:

  • Water- 1 cup
  • Dried licorice root- 1-2 tsp

Do this:

  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Add the dried licorice to the hot water.
  • Turn off the flame.
  • Let it steep for 5 minutes.
  • Strain and discard the licorice root.
  • Have the tea 1-2 times a day.

5. Plain Whole Milk for Cold Sores

Whole milk has many beneficial components in it. It has proteins called immunoglobulins. These are anti-bodies that can combat and prevent herpes like virus. The L-lysine in milk is said to inhibit the amino acid known as arginine and which is considered to have a role to play in sores outbreaks. Drinking whole milk is the best method when it comes to get benefited by milk’s properties. However, you can also make a milk compress for your cold sores to get relief from them.

Get this:

  • Milk- ½ cup
  • Cotton ball

Do this:

  • Soak the cotton ball in the milk.
  • Place this cotton ball on to your cold sores.
  • Hold it there for a couple of minutes.
  • Repeat this 3-4 times a day.

6. Avoid having Arginine Rich Foods

You just read in the previous remedy that arginine amino acid triggers the outbreak of cold sores and L-lysine amino acid, on the other hand, checks the growth of herpes virus. Therefore it seems wise to avoid having those foods that contain arginine, especially if you are prone to cold sores or at least when you are experiencing cold sores at frequent intervals. These foods include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds like pumpkin seeds and sesame
  • Red meat
  • Cereals like oatmeal

While having L-lysine rich whole milk helps neutralizes the effects of arginine, you may also have L-lysine amino acid tablets. However, consult your doctor before having any such tablet. Normal dose of such tablets include 500 mg tablet of L-lysine amino acid.

7. Buttermilk for Cold Sores

Other than milk, one more dairy product, the humble buttermilk can also offer you help when it comes to get relief from cold sores. Buttermilk is mildly acidic in nature and thus balances the pH levels to make it difficult for virus and bacteria to survive. This acidic property of buttermilk comes from the lactic acid present in it. Lactic acid has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. You may have a glass of buttermilk daily, especially if you are allergic to milk but desperately want to get rid of your cold sores. You may also apply buttermilk directly to your cold sores.

Get this:

  • Buttermilk- ¼ – ½ cup
  • Cotton ball

Do this:

  • Soak the cotton ball in buttermilk and apply to your sores.
  • Hold it there for 3-5 minutes.
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day.

8. Peppermint Oil for Cold Sores

Peppermint leaves and stems have in them the volatile oil called menthol. This oil has strong antiviral properties and can penetrate your skin effectively to kill the virus. However, if you apply peppermint oil to open sores, it can be very irritating. The moment your cold sores scab over, you may use peppermint oil to get relief from pain and virus too.

Get this:

  • Peppermint oil
  • Cotton ball

Do this:

  • Wash your face properly to get rid of any dirt that may prevent peppermint oil to go deeper in your skin.
  • Soak the cotton swab in water.
  • Then pour 2-3 drops of peppermint oil onto the wet cotton ball. This will dilute the oil.
  • Apply this to your cold sores twice a day.
  • If you can stand the undiluted oil, you may also pour the oil directly onto the cotton ball without making it wet.

Also Read: 12 Herbal Remedies for Herpes

9. Echinacea Tea for Cold Sores

Echinacea herb has long been known for its immune boosting properties. Virus, including herpes virus will surface only when your immunity or the defense system is weak. If you are prone to having cold sores, you may consider making a habit of having ehinacea tea so that you do not let the dormant virus get activated. Not only does echinacea has immune boosting properties but it also relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and posseses antiviral, and antioxidant effects. You may get echinacea tincture and mix few of its drops with water and have it. However, it is always better to consult your doctor or a medical herbalist who can guide you about the proper dosage of such tincture. Echinacea tea seems to be a safe option though. Here is the recipe of echinacea to boost your immunity to get rid of cold sores.

Get this:

  • Dried echinacea herb- ½ tsp or echinacea tea bag- 1
  • Hot water- 1 cup

Do this:

  • Place the herb or tea bag in a cup
  • Pour hot water over it.
  • Let it steep for 5 minutes.
  • Strain and have it 1-2 times a day.

Sometimes its better to mix echinacea with goldenseal herb which is also a good remedy for cold sores and enhances the effects of echinacea.

10. Ice Compress for Cold Sores

If your cold sores pain a lot, ice is the key to your problem. Ice or a cold compress can numb this pain. You will need to get some petroleum jelly too as ice can make your skin and the sores too dry to handle. Applying petroleum jelly after cool compress will relieve you from the feeling of your skin getting split due to dryness.

Get this:

  • Ice cubes- 2-3 or an ice pack
  • Towel or wash cloth
  • Petroleum jelly

Do this:

  • Wrap the ice cubes or the ice pack in a towel or wash cloth.
  • Hold this against the skin where you have cold sores for about 5 minutes or for such time that is tolerable to you.
  • Remove the pack.
  • Apply the ice pack again after 10 minutes.
  • Repeat this for about an hour.
  • Then apply some petroleum jelly over your cold sores.

11. Green Tea for Cold Sores

Green tea has also been found effective against cold sores. It is a rich source of an antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is considered to have fine antiviral properties. A study conducted in 2012 by Georgia Health Sciences University found that EGCG reduced proliferation of herpes type 1 cells by 92%. If you can have 2-3 cups of green tea daily, or apply green tea compresses on a cold sores, you may expect to receive enough EGCG to combat virus giving rise to cold sores.

1st Way to Use Green Tea for Cold Sore: Drink Green Tea

Get this:

  • Green tea 1 tsp or Green tea bag- 1
  • Hot water- 1 cup

Do this:

  • Place the green tea or the tea bag into a cup.
  • Pour hot water over.
  • Let it steep for 5-8 minutes.
  • Strain or remove the bag
  •  Have this green tea 2-3 times a day.

2nd Way to Use Green Tea for Cold Sore: Green Tea Compress

Get this:

  • Green tea- 1 cup Or green tea bag- 1
  • Cotton swab

Do this:

  • If using green tea, let it cool down to the room temperature.
  • Soak the cotton swab in this tea.
  • Hold this against your sores for about 5 minutes.
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day.
  • If using tea bag, dip it in cold water.
  • Take out the tea bag and squeeze gently to remove the excess water.
  • Place this tea bag on your cold sores and hold it there for about 5 minutes.
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day.

12. Honey for Cold Sores

Honey has long been used for skin and other health benefits by almost all the traditional medicine of the world. It can also help you with your cold sores. Unprocessed raw honey is very effective for this. When the bees collect nectar, they secrete an enzyme called glucose oxidase into the nectar. Whenever honey comes in contact with the sore or a wound, this enzyme present in the honey releases low levels of hydrogen peroxide. Not only this, the natural sugar contents of honey can suppress the growth of microorganisms including herpes virus. It also draws away the fluid from the wound. This gives you relief from swelling and resultant pain. A research conducted in United Arab Emirates found that topical application of honey speeded up the healing time and gave better results than the common prescription cream acyclovir. However, the processed honey will not give such an effective result. You need to get unprocessed, raw honey because this type of honey has the highest levels of antiviral compounds.

Get this:

  • Unprocessed raw honey
  • Cotton ball

Do this:

  • Pour some honey on the cotton ball.
  • Apply this to your cold sores.
  • Repeat this 3-4 times a day.

13. Neem for Cold Sores

Neem, the evergreen tree from mahogany family has a special place in traditional medicines due to its innumerable health benefits. All the parts of neem tree- bark, leaves, sap, fruit, seeds and twigs, are used by Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine, to treat various viral infections including cold sores. What is more important is that modern research too validate the usefulness of neem. A study published in the “Phytotherapy Research” in 2010 stated that the neem extract contained the infection caused by herpes virus by inhibiting its ability to infect new cells. You can find a host of neem products in the market which include neem juice, gel, powder, extract and cream. You may consider to get 5 % neem oil cream to be applied to your cold sores twice a day. If you can get some neem leaves or the dried ones too, you may as well use them in one of the following ways to get rid of your cold sores.


Ways to Use Neem Leaves for Cold Sores

  1. Take one part of neem oil and mix it with 5 parts of petroleum jelly. Apply this to your cold sores. If you cannot find neem oil, make it by boiling dried neem leaves in coconut oil and then straining the same. Cool it down before using.
  2. Take some neem leaves and grind them using a little water. Apply this paste to your cold sores 2-3 times a day. You may also use dried neem leaves for the purpose.
  3. Make a mouthwash with neem leaves. Take 2-3 neem leaves and let it steep in a cup of warm water till the water cools down. Add 1 tsp of honey to this and then rinse your mouth with this.

14. Coconut Oil for Cold Sores

Coconut oil is a rich source of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) or Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA). This fatty acid is capable of destroying numerous bacteria and viruses including those that are lipid-coated such as the herpes virus. MCFAs can easily penetrate the outer covering of these virus. It literally kills the virus. What’s also interesting is that this oil attacks the virus early when it is in the blister stage. It immediately starts shrinking the blister and your sore is gone even before it can open or drain.

Get this:

  • Coconut oil
  • Cotton swab

Do this:

  • Pour a ½ – 1 teaspoon of coconut oil on the cotton swab.
  • Place this swab onto your cold sores.
  • Hold it there for 5 minutes.
  • Repeat 3-4 times a day.

15. Holy Basil for Cold Sores

Holy basil which is known as Tulsi in India, has been used by Ayurveda for various diseases and viral infections including cold sores. Holy basil has excellent anti viral properties that make it one of the best home remedies for cold sores and other viral infections. Cold sores outbreak is sometimes associated with stress. Holy basil can also prove effective in such cases. This is because, Tulsi has adaptogenic properties meaning it helps your body deal with stress in a better way. You can use tulsi tincture on your cold sores but for this you will need to consult a medical herbalist. The easy way to use holy basil is to make tea out of tulsi leaves.

Get this:

  • Holy basil leaves- 5-8
  • Hot water- 1 cup
  • Honey- 1 tsp

Do this:

  • Place the basil leaves in a cup.
  • Pour hot water over it.
  • Let it steep for 5-8 minutes.
  • Add honey to this though this is optional.
  • You need not strain the leaves.
  • Drink this tea 3-4 times a day. Chew the leaves in it.
  • You may also make a compress by letting this tea cool down.
  • Then dip a wash cloth in the tea and place this on your cold sores 3-4 times a day.
  • The simplest way would be to crush few basil leaves using a little water to make a paste. Apply this paste onto your cold sores 3-4 times a day.

16. Hyssop for Cold Sores

Hyssop is a herb having effective expectorant and antiviral properties and as such it is commonly used to cure respiratory problems. However, because it is an effective anti-viral herb, it has also proved beneficial for cold sores. The essential oil of hyssop has effective medicinal properties that can give you relief from cold sores. You may use this oil alone or as a blend with other essential oils. Here’s a recipe for an essential oil blend for cold sores that uses hyssop oil too. This blend actually uses hyssop decumbens, one of the most potent anti-viral essential oils.

Get this:
Equal amounts of: (for example 6 drops each)

  • Hyssop decumbens- 6 drops
  • Lavender oil- 6 drops
  • Geranium essential oil- 6 drops
  • and
  • Carrier oil (for example coconut or olive oil)- 5-6 teaspoons

Do this:

  • Mix all the essential oils with the carrier oil.
  • Store in an air tight bottle.
  • Dip a Q-tip in this oil blend.
  • Touch this Q-tip to your cold sore so that it can be applied to the sore.
  • Repeat this 2-3 times a day.

Using one or more remedies for cold sores will definitely give you relief from the discomforts of the cold sores and will also speed up the healing process.

About Sara

Sara is a Boston-based registered dietitian who works with clients to improve their health by optimizing nutrition. You can find her running, sweating in hot yoga, cooking in the kitchen, dining out, or exploring. Eating Food-Mostly Plants, and improving our relationship with food, is the secret to lifelong health in her eyes.

One comment

  1. I had gotten a cold sore on my bottom lip this last Sunday, and i had gotten rid of it by monday night. All i did was poke it with a sterilized needle to get the stuff out by squeezing it. Then i soaked a q-tip in mouth wash and kept gently rubbing it on the cold sore area about 6 times a day. By monday night it was gone. It may burnt a tiny bit but it is worth it.

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