Cold Sore Remedies

Ways to Fight Cold Sores Naturally

cold sores
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Cold sores are small, painful, fluid-filled blisters that usually occur on the lips, gums, or roof of the mouth. Caused by a common virus called herpes simplex (HSV-1), cold sores are contagious and can spread from person to person through skin-to-skin contact or by sharing items (such as eating utensils, lip balm, towels, cosmetics, and food), even when they aren't visible.

There may be pain or tingling one to two days before cold sores appear. Cold sores last for around seven to 10 days, but can sometimes take two weeks or longer to heal. They're sometimes confused with canker sores, which are not contagious but produce small, painful ulcers in soft tissues of the mouth, such as the tongue and the walls of the mouth.

Natural Cold Sore Remedies

While there's no cure for cold sores, there are a few remedies that are being explored to minimize outbreaks, control the pain, or promote healing.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb in the mint family that may promote the healing of blisters. In preliminary laboratory studies, lemon balm extract has been found to have an antiviral effect against the herpes simplex virus.

Related: Using Lemon Balm


An essential amino acid, lysine must be obtained from food or supplements because the body cannot make it on its own.

Lysine serves as a building block for proteins in the body. Preliminary studies suggest that lysine supplements may help to shorten the frequency and duration of outbreaks. Lysine is also available in ointment or cream form.

Related: Using Lysine for Cold Sores


Also known as bee propolis, propolis is a brown, resinous substance collected by bees from poplar and conifer buds and used to "cement" their hives.

review of previously published studies rated propolis as "possibly effective" for cold sores. Specifically, applying a 3 percent propolis ointment may help improve healing time and reduce cold sore pain.

More on Propolis and Soothing Cold Sores with Propolis

Stress Reduction

For some people, relaxation therapies such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, journaling, or yoga may help cold sores that flare up during periods of stress.

Cold Compress

Applying a cold, damp compress to the area may reduce redness, help remove crusting, and ease some of the discomfort.

Other Remedies

  • Rhubarb and Sage Cream: A German study examined rhubarb-sage cream compared to sage cream and aciclovir cream in people with oral herpes cold sores. The combined topical sage-rhubarb preparation was as effective as topical aciclovir cream and tended to be more active than the sage cream.
  • Resveratrol Cream: A compound found in red grapes, resveratrol may have some activity against the herpes simplex virus, according to laboratory studies. For example, an animal study published in Antiviral Research demonstrated that resveratrol cream applied topically between two and five times per day suppressed cold sore development if it was applied one or six hours after infection with the herpes virus.
  • Topical EGCG: Several preliminary studies have explored the use of green tea compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) for cold sores. A study found that topical application of EGCG resulted in a significant reduction in the duration of cold sores and itching.

The Takeaway

While some remedies, like meditation and deep breathing, may help the stress that can trigger breakouts, other remedies, like applying a cold compress, lessen the discomfort.

While the research on herbal creams and supplements has been mixed, they might be useful for some people. If you're considering trying any remedy for cold sores, it's a good idea to speak with your health care provider first to weigh the pros and cons and discuss whether it's appropriate for you.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

View Article Sources
  • Schnitzler P, Neuner A, Nolkemper S, et al. Antiviral activity and mode of action of propolis extracts and selected compounds. Phytother Res. 2010 Jan;24 Suppl 1:S20-8. 
  • Thein DJ, Hurt WC. Lysine as a prophylactic agent in the treatment of recurrent herpes simplex labialis. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1984 Dec;58(6):659-66.