- How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Fast–and Avoid Getting Another One
- What is a Fever Blister?
- Other Treatments for a Fever Blister
- Fever Blister Prevention
- Signs and Symptoms
- Herpes simplex virus
- Risk Factors
- Preventive Care
- Treatment Approach
- Other Considerations
- Supporting Research
- here are other natural remedies and natural cures for cold sores:
- How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Quickly
- Why and How Cold Sores Develop
- Do’s and Don’ts for Faster Cold Sore Healing
- A Detailed Guide to Help You Get Rid of Cold Sores
- How to Treat a Cold Sore With Home Remedies
- Natural Remedies for Cold Sores: Do They Work?
- Natural Remedies for Cold Sores
- How to Prevent Cold Sores
- How to Treat Cold Sores
How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Fast–and Avoid Getting Another One
If you get cold sores all the time, you can probably tell when an outbreak is coming. It begins with a niggling itch, tingle, or burning sensation in your lip or mouth. The next thing you know, tiny blisters erupt, often in the same place you’ve had them before.
These painful lip or mouth sores–also called fever blisters, oral herpes, and herpes labialis–are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 is almost always the culprit. (You can also get cold sores from HSV-2, the type that causes genital herpes, but it’s not as common.)
People develop “a terribly blistery rash” the first time they have an outbreak, notes Robert Brodell, MD, professor and chair of the department of dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Cold sores can put your lips out of kissing commission for a week or two because newly erupted blisters are highly contagious until they dry out. Once the herpes virus is in your body, recurrent outbreaks are common. The good news: Some research suggests the frequency and severity of cold-sore outbreaks may decline after age 35.
To speed healing, nothing works quite as well as antiviral medicines, dermatologists say. But if you’re not prepared to deal with an outbreak or it’s the first time you’ve had cold sores, what else can you do?
Here’s the lowdown on home remedies that may help in a pinch–plus prescription and over-the-counter antiviral therapies your doctor will recommend and things you can do to reduce your risk of future outbreaks.
RELATED: Why Herpes Isn’t as Bad as You Think (and a Lot More Common)
Home remedies for cold sores
These do-it-yourself treatment regimens won’t reduce the duration of a cold-sore outbreak, experts say, but they may lesson symptoms. Here are a few to try:
Cooling relief. To ease the sting and reduce redness and swelling, apply a small bag of ice or a cold pack to the affected area. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends holding a cool, wet towel to your lip for 5 to 10 minutes a few times a day.
Do not share your cold pack, because you could inadvertently transfer the virus to someone else.
Lysine. Lysine (or L-lysine) is an essential nutrient that can be taken as a supplement or applied topically as an ointment to prevent and treat cold sores.
“It’s inexpensive and it’s pretty darn safe,” Dr. Brodell says. Still, research on its effectiveness is mixed. In fact, “the preponderance of evidence would suggest that lysine doesn’t work,” he says.
However, “some people like L-lysine, so it’s reasonable to try to see if in your case it will make a difference,” says Benjamin Barankin, MD, a Toronto-based dermatologist and medical director of Toronto Dermatology Centre.
OTC pain meds. Consider taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease the pain of your sores, the AAD suggests. If your child has cold sores, consult your pediatrician before using these medicines for pain relief.
A topical pain reliever. Dabbing an anesthetic gel or cream on cold sores can provide relief by numbing sensitive nerve endings.
Dr. Brodell prefers pramoxine. It’s the active ingredient in a number of anti-itch and pain-relieving products, such as CeraVe.
Another option is benzocaine. You can buy it over-the-counter under brand names like Anbesol and Orajel. But it’s not for everyone, he explains, because some people have an allergic reaction to it or develop a rash after repeated use. (Benzocaine should not be used on children under 2 years old unless directed by a physician due to a rare but serious side effect.)
A pile of pillows. Feeling inflamed and blistery? Use pillows to prop your head up at night. Elevating the injured area will help to reduce the swelling, Dr. Brodell says.
RELATED: 12 Reasons Your Skin Is So Itchy
When to see a doctor for cold sores
In otherwise healthy adults, cold sores usually clear up on their own within two weeks. Mind you, they can make you miserable during the healing process, physically and emotionally, and they pose the risk of infecting someone else.
But if you’re someone with a weakened immune system or you struggle with frequent or severe outbreaks, you should see your doctor about taking antiviral medicines.
People with atopic dermatitis (the most common type of eczema) are particularly at risk of bad cold-sore outbreaks. “It can spread over the surface of your skin like wildfire because you don’t have the normal barrier function in your skin,” Dr. Brodell says.
RELATED: Can You Get Herpes From Lipstick? This Woman Sued Sephora Claiming She Did
How to get rid of a cold sore
Doctors use oral and topical cold sore treatments to ease your pain, slow the growth and spread of the virus, and speed up healing.
There are three ways to use antivirals to fight cold sores, Dr. Brodell explains. One is to treat the virus at the first sign of recurrence using a course of oral or topical medication.
The second is “suppressive therapy,” meaning you take oral antiviral medicine every day to prevent outbreaks. “Let’s say you’re having outbreaks once a month, every time you get a menstrual cycle or every time you feel stress,” Dr. Brodell says. “You can give that person a vacation from having their outbreaks with suppressive therapy.” This daily oral antiviral therapy “is the most effective treatment” to prevent outbreaks, Dr. Barankin adds.
A third option is “intermittent suppressive therapy” for people who can predict their outbreaks. You might get a lip full of blisters every time you go on vacation to sunny Florida, for example. You know you’re headed for trouble next time you visit, but you don’t want it to ruin your getaway. The solution: Have your doctor prescribe an antiviral medicine that you can take for the week that you’re away. Few doctors educate their patients about using suppressive therapy intermittently, says Dr. Brodell, despite the fact that “it absolutely works,” he insists.
Oral antivirals include acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valaciclovir (Valtrex). All are available in generic versions and each poses minimal side effects, which may include headache, nausea, and diarrhea.
Valaciclovir is one of the simplest antivirals to use because it requires swallowing just one pill a day, Dr. Brodell notes. Another option is Sitavig, acyclovir in the form of a single-dose tablet that you place on your gums to dissolve when you feel an outbreak coming. It can “heal the outbreak faster and prevent the next outbreak for a longer period of time,” Dr. Barankin says.
While oral medicines are the most effective, some patients simply prefer topical treatments. The advantage is that “they’re inexpensive and you buy a big tube and it lasts a long time,” Dr. Brodell says. Acyclovir or penciclovir (Denavir) in a cream can be dabbed on your sores several times a day.
Your doctor might also prescribe Xerese, the first medicine to combine acyclovir and hydrocortisone, an anti-inflammatory medication.
If you’re looking to buy something off the pharmacy shelf without a prescription, docosanol (Abreva) is an antiviral that can shorten the time it takes to heal your cold sores, but it must be used five times a day.
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How to prevent cold sores
Once the herpes virus is inside you, recurrent outbreaks are possible. But there are things you can do to prevent or at least reduce the frequency and severity of these blistering attacks:
- Manage stress. Stress seems to provoke cold-sore outbreaks.
- Use sunscreen. Shield yourself from the sun, another common cold-sore trigger.
- Avoid spicy foods or any foods that seem to trigger your outbreaks.
- Don’t kiss anyone who has a cold sore or share their toothbrushes, utensils, cups, or towels.
- Stay healthy. A weakened immune system, even from a cold or the flu, can trigger an outbreak.
Cold sores: To know them is to loathe them.
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More than half of people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus that causes cold sores. Between 20 and 40% of them will experience the joy that is a cold sore.
If you’re one of them, odds are you know this pattern: A tingling or burning sensation on your lip. A day later, an oozy, fluid-filled blister on your mouth, always at the most inopportune time.
Family medicine physician Sarah Pickering Beers, MD, shares her advice for dealing with this sore spot.
Cold sores: common and contagious
Cold sores are common and mostly harmless. They’re caused by the herpes simplex virus, which spreads easily from person to person.
In some lucky people, the virus might cause a cold sore once or twice and never rear its head again. But for other people, they come back again and again, sometimes several times a year. And that gets old real fast.
“They tend to go away on their own in 10 to 14 days,” says Dr. Beers. “But that doesn’t make them any less annoying.”
Cold sore remedies
Two weeks might as well be an eternity when you have an oozy, scabby sore smack dab in the middle of your face. Here’s what you can do to ease the discomfort and send that cold on its way.
- Oral antiviral medications: “The most efficient way to get rid of cold sores is with oral antiviral medications,” Dr. Beers says. A doctor can prescribe these medications, which reduce pain and help the sore clear faster. But you have to start taking them within the first day or so that the cold sore develops, or they don’t do much to help, Dr. Beers says. If you’re one of the unlucky people who tends to get cold sore after cold sore, your doctor might be able to prescribe a daily antiviral to keep them at bay, Dr. Beers adds.
- Antiviral cream: If you can’t make it to a doctor for a prescription, over-the-counter antiviral creams can help knock back a cold sore. “These are slightly less effective than oral antivirals, but they do reduce the pain and duration of the sore,” Dr. Beers says. But like oral medications, you have to start using the cream ASAP for it to work.
How to treat cold sore pain
DIY remedies aren’t likely to make a cold sore disappear any faster. But there are things you can do to ease the pain while you’re waiting impatiently for it to heal.
- Numb the pain: Over-the-counter pain reliever creams such as lidocaine and benzocaine can numb the burning and ease the discomfort. These are often marketed for dental pain, so look for them in the dental section of the drug store.
- Moisturize: Keep your lip and mouth area moisturized to prevent the sore from drying out and peeling, Dr. Beers says. But if you use lip balm on an active sore, consider it contaminated. “Once you’ve used it on a cold sore, you should throw it away after the sore is better,” Dr. Beers says.
- Cool it: Using a simple cold compress, like ice or a cold, wet rag, can help reduce pain and redness.
- Hands off: It can take all your self-control not to play with a cold sore, but try to resist the temptation. “It’s instinct to pick at it and scrape the peeling skin, but you should let it heal itself,” Dr. Beers says.
Meanwhile, you don’t want to inflict these sores on others. Skip the make-out sessions until you’ve healed and wash your hands often.
While cold sores are annoying in adults, the virus can be life-threatening in a baby, so take care to steer clear, Dr. Beers advises: “As much as you might want to see your niece or nephew or grandbaby, please don’t shower them with kisses if you have an active cold sore.”
What is a Fever Blister?
A fever blister hides out in the nerves and becomes active as a result of stress, overexposure to sunlight, or hormonal changes, or when your immune system is weak. You usually get a warning of a fever blister (also known as a cold sore), which may include tingling, discomfort, itching, or aching. This is when you might consider using the remedies described here. Don’t wait until a blister erupts; by then, it’s often too late.
Home Remedies for a Fever Blister
To reduce the duration and severity of a fever blister outbreak, follow this advice at the first tingling.
- Apply a damp black tea bag to the area where the outbreak typically occurs. Keep it on for 10 minutes. Repeat three or four times a day. Why it works: Tea bags contain tannic acid, an astringent that has antiviral properties (which is why tannic acid is often an ingredient in over-the-counter fever blister remedies).
- Next, apply an ice pack to the same area. Keep the ice on for 15 minutes, and repeat three or four times a day. Why it works: Ice numbs the pain, and there’s some evidence it may also reduce the amount of virus created.
- After each ice application, thickly apply lemon balm ointment (70:1 concentration) to the area. Lemon balm is often sold in health food stores. Why it works: Test tube studies suggest that lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) prevents the virus from attaching to cells, thus blocking its ability to replicate. One well-designed study of 116 people with oral or genital herpes found those treated with the balm recovered much quicker than those receiving a placebo. Plus, there’s some evidence that using lemon balm during the initial outbreak (the very first time you realize you have a fever blister) may reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Now take 1 gram lysine along with 1,000 milligrams vitamin C that also contains 1,000 milligrams of flavonoids. Take up to five times a day until the recurrence ends. Why it works: Lysine is an amino acid that works as an antiviral by blocking the activity of another amino acid, arginine. Arginine provides “food” for the virus, enabling it to replicate. Cutting off this fuel source reduces the amount of virus in your system. One study of 53 people with oral and genital herpes found those who received lysine supplements and cut out arginine-rich foods had an average of 3.1 outbreaks over six months, compared to an average of 4.2 in the control group.
- Also take a baby aspirin (83 milligrams) once a day with food. Why it works: The aspirin helps relieves the pain of a fever blister and may also reduce healing time. One small study found participants who took an aspirin at the first sign of an outbreak, then continued taking it for several months, had far fewer outbreaks than a control group that didn’t take aspirin.
Other Treatments for a Fever Blister
Herbs and Supplements
6. Quercetin. Take 500 milligrams twice a day of this flavonoid, which laboratory studies find blocks fever blister viruses from replicating. (Here are 13 vitamins and supplements that doctors take every day.)
7. Aloe vera cream or extract 0.05% strength. Apply three times a day for five days during outbreaks. Studies find it reduces healing time.
8. Zinc. Apply a topical zinc sulfate cream (0.01% to 0.025%) several times a day. This helps heal the sore and reduces the risk of a recurrence.
9. Denavir (penciclovir). This is the only prescription-strength topical treatment found to be effective, with studies showing it helps fever blisters heal about a day faster than placebo.
10. Oral antivirals. As with genital herpes, you can take an oral antiviral such as Zovirax (acyclovir), Famvir (famciclovir), or Valtrex (valacyclovir) at the first sign of an outbreak to prevent the virus from replicating.
11. Aromatherapy. Dilute 1 drop lavender, lemon balm, chamomile, bergamot, or rose oil in 10 drops jojoba oil (which serves as a carrier oil) and smooth over the affected area several times a day. Here are five more ways to tap the healing power of lavender.
Fever Blister Prevention
Avoid triggers. Two primary ones are a weak immune system and stress. (Try these 37 expert-approved strategies for managing stress.) Also avoid overexposure to sunlight and any trauma to the skin around the mouth, such as rough kissing.
Follow a high-lysine/low-arginine diet. (See details above.) Also add seaweed salads, sushi, or green drinks containing seaweed extracts (available in health food stores). Laboratory studies find that seaweed has antiviral properties.
Zinc. Take 25 milligrams of zinc by mouth every day. Zinc enhances immunity, helping to prevent fever blister recurrences. (Skip these eight vitamins that are a waste of money—and might even be dangerous.)
Selenium. Take 200 micrograms a day to help maintain a healthy immune system.
Lysine. If you have frequent recurrences of fever blisters, take 1 gram a day to prevent outbreaks, but don’t take if you have high cholesterol, because long-term use can increase levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Mineral sunscreen. Wear a high-SPF sunscreen on your face, and apply zinc oxide to areas prone to fever blisters. Don’t miss these 10 sunscreen tips you should always follow to protect your skin.
Signs and Symptoms
Herpes simplex virus
Also listed as:
|Table of Contents > Conditions > Herpes simplex virus|
|Signs and Symptoms||Causes||Risk Factors||Diagnosis||Preventive Care||Treatment Approach||Other Considerations||Supporting Research|
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections are very common worldwide. HSV-1 is the main cause of herpes infections on the mouth and lips, including cold sores and fever blisters. It is transmitted through kissing or sharing drinking glasses and utensils. HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes, although HSV-2 is the main cause of genital herpes.
HSV-2 is spread through sexual contact. You may be infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 but not show any symptoms. Often symptoms are triggered by exposure to the sun, fever, menstruation, emotional stress, a weakened immune system, or an illness.
There is no cure for herpes, and once you have it, it is likely to come back. However, some people may have one outbreak and then never have another one. In between herpes outbreaks, the virus lies dormant (as if it is hibernating or sleeping) in nerve cells.
Exposure to HSV-1 is extremely common, as many as 90% of American adults have been exposed to the virus, and there is no stigma to having a cold sore. However, HSV-2, or genital herpes, can cause embarrassment. Although there is no cure for genital herpes, an infected person can take steps to prevent spreading the disease, and can continue to have a normal sex life.
While most herpes infections do not cause serious complications, infections in infants and in people with weakened immune systems, or herpes infections that affect the eyes, can be life threatening.
- Small, painful, fluid-filled blisters around the lips or edge of the mouth
- Tingling or burning around the mouth or nose, often a few days before blisters appear
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck
- Tingling sensation in the genitalia, buttocks, and thighs
- Small red blisters or open sores on genitals or inner thighs; in women, often occur inside the vagina
- May be painful or not
- In women, vaginal discharge
- Fever, muscle aches
- Painful urination
- Swollen lymph glands in the groin
HSV-1 is spread through saliva. Kissing, using the same eating utensils, sharing personal items (such as a razor), and receiving oral sex from someone who has HSV-1 can cause you to contract the virus. HSV-2 is sexually transmitted.
Until recently, scientists assumed that HSV-1 infections were not sexually transmitted. Now, scientists know that either type can be found in either the oral or genital area, as well as at other sites. In fact, researchers estimate that HSV-1 is responsible for up to half of all new cases of genital herpes.
To infect people, HSV-1 and HSV-2 must get into the body through broken skin or a mucous membrane, such as inside the mouth or in the genital area. In addition to the fluid from fever blisters, each virus can be carried in bodily fluids like saliva, semen, and fluid in the female genital tract.
Both herpes viruses may cause genital infections, and both can be contagious even if the infected person does not have active symptoms or visible blisters.
Also, a mother can pass the infection to her baby during vaginal birth, especially if there are active blisters around the vagina at the time of delivery.
Oral herpes (cold sores)
Everyone is at risk for oral herpes from HSV-1. In fact, studies suggest that by adolescence, 62% of Americans are infected with HSV-1. By the time people are in their 60s, up to 85% have been infected.
All sexually active people are at risk for genital herpes. Having multiple sexual partners puts you at even greater risk. Women have a greater risk of being infected after sex with an unprotected partner than men do, about 1 in 4 women have HSV-2, compared to 1 in 8 men. Estimates of how many Americans are infected range from 20 to 30%. HSV-2 is 3 times higher among HIV-infected adults compared to the general population. There is also a very high prevalence and incidence of HSV-2 infection among adolescents, compared to the general population.
People with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, or those who take immunosuppressant drugs to treat an autoimmune disease or because of organ transplant, are at increased risk for severe cases of herpes.
Often your doctor is able to make the diagnosis of herpes from examining you. If your doctor is not 100% certain, however, your doctor may take a sample from the blisters to test for the virus. Finally, there is a blood test that may help make a diagnosis, especially if your doctor suspects herpes but you do not have an active infection.
- Avoiding kissing people with visible core sores.
- DO NOT share personal items.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- If you have HSV-1, be careful touching your eyes and genitals. DO NOT perform oral sex on your partner.
- Use sunscreen.
- Reduce stress.
- Avoid having sex if you or your partner has an outbreak or active infection of herpes. Herpes outbreaks are not always obvious and your partner may be contagious without you knowing it. Anyone involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a partner infected with HSV-2 should get counseling from a health care practitioner on how to stay safe.
- Avoid touching the sores.
- Use or have your partner use a latex condom, even when sores are not visible.
- Limit the number of sex partners.
- Use a water-based lubricant to prevent friction during sex, which can irritate the skin and increase the risk of outbreaks.
There is no cure for herpes, so the goals of treatment are to reduce the number of outbreaks and to lessen symptoms when you do have an outbreak.
Cold sores usually go away by themselves within 2 to 3 weeks, however, they can last for up to 6 weeks. Using medications may shorten the outbreak and decrease discomfort.
Antiviral medications for genital herpes can reduce outbreaks and help speed recovery when an outbreak does happen. They can also reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
Coping with the emotional and social aspects of having genital herpes is part of treatment. Relaxation techniques and support groups can help.
For cold sores, applying either heat or cold to blisters may help relieve pain. Try ice or warm compresses.
For genital herpes, wear cotton underwear and avoid tight fitting clothes as they can restrict air circulation and slow the healing of lesions.
Be sure to tell your partner or potential partner that you have herpes.
Antiviral medications may help shorten the length of a herpes outbreak and cut down on recurring outbreaks. These treatments can reduce outbreaks by up to 80%. For genital herpes, there are two types of therapy:
With episodic therapy, you take medication at the first sign of an outbreak and for several days to shorten the length or prevent a full outbreak. With suppressive therapy, you may take medication daily to keep outbreaks from happening. Antiviral medications include:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
Topical medications (for oral herpes), include the antiviral cream Penciclovir (Denavir) and an over-the-counter cream, docosanol (Abreva).
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
Because supplements may have side effects or interact with medications, you should take them only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
- Lysine. Several studies suggest that lysine may help reduce the number of recurring outbreaks of cold sores. A few studies also suggest that lysine may help shorten the length of an outbreak. Taking lysine supplements or getting more lysine in your diet (from foods like fish, chicken, eggs, and potatoes) may speed recovery and reduce the chance of recurrent breakouts of the herpes infection. If you have high cholesterol, heart disease, or high triglycerides (fats in the blood), ask your doctor before taking lysine because animal studies suggest that it may raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Lysine can increase the amount of calcium your body absorbs, so avoid high doses of calcium while taking lysine. Usually high doses of lysine are taken only for a short time.
- Propolis. A resin made by bees, propolis is loaded with antioxidants that help fight infection and boost immune function. Test tube studies show it can stop HSV-1 and HSV-2 from reproducing. One small study of people with genital herpes compared an ointment made from propolis to Zovirax ointment. People using propolis saw the lesions heal faster than those using topical Zovirax. In another study, a 3% propolis ointment helped reduce the duration and pain or cold sores in some people. More studies are needed to say for sure whether propolis works. People with asthma and those allergic to bee products should not use propolis.
- Zinc. In test tubes, zinc is effective against HSV-1 and HSV-2. In one small study, people who applied zinc oxide cream to cold sores saw them heal faster than those who applied a placebo cream. In another study, people who used a proprietary topical formulation with zinc oxide, l-lysine, and 14 other ingredients saw a decrease in symptoms and duration of lesions. High doses of zinc can be dangerous. Zinc may interact with some antibiotics and with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Several studies suggest that topical ointments containing lemon balm may help heal cold sores. In one study, for example, people who applied lemon balm cream to their lip sores saw a reduction in redness and swelling after 2 days.
- Aloe (Aloe vera). Preliminary evidence suggests that aloe gel used topically may improve the symptoms of genital herpes in men. In 2 studies, men who used the aloe vera cream (0.5% aloe) saw lesions heal faster than those who used a placebo cream. It is not known whether aloe vera would also help heal cold sores.
- Rhubarb cream (Rheum palmatum). In one Swiss study, a topical cream made from sage (Salvia officinalis) and rhubarb was as effective as Zovirax in healing cold sores. Sage by itself was not beneficial. More research is needed.
- Eleutherococcus or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus/Acanthopanax senticosus.). Although not all studies agree, one 6-month study of 93 people with genital herpes found that Siberian ginseng reduced the frequency, severity, and duration of outbreaks. People with high blood pressure, certain heart conditions; diabetes; obstructive sleep apnea; hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine cancer; narcolepsy (frequent day time sleeping); mania; or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Siberian ginseng. Siberian ginseng interacts with a number of medications, including digoxin (Lanoxin), lithium, diazepam (Valium), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), fluvoxamine (Luvox), imipramine (Tofranil), olanzapine (Zyprexa), propranolol (Inderal), theophylline (Slo-bid, Theo-Dur, others), lithium, and others. Siberian ginseng can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
- Peppermint oil (Mentha x piperita). In test tubes, peppermint oil has stopped a number of viruses from reproducing, including herpes. However, it is not known whether peppermint oil, applied topically, would have any effect on the herpes virus in humans.
Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider the remedies described below for the treatment of herpes based on their knowledge and experience. One study of 53 people with genital herpes found that those who were treated with homeopathy experienced improvement in their symptoms and were less likely to have recurrent outbreaks. Participants in this study were followed for up to 4 years.
Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type. A constitutional type is defined as a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for each individual.
For cold sores:
- Natrum muriaticum. For eruptions at the corners of the mouth that occur during periods of emotional stress and tend to worsen in the daytime.
- Rhus toxicodendron. For eruptions consisting of many small blisters that itch intensely at night.
- Mercurius. For children who drool and may have a fever.
- Sepia. For outbreaks that do not improve with other homeopathic remedies. This remedy is most appropriate for individuals who tend to have a lack of energy and do not tolerate cold weather.
For genital lesions:
- Graphites. For large, itchy lesions in individuals who are overweight.
- Natrum muriaticum. For eruptions that occur during periods of emotional stress and symptoms that tend to worsen in the daytime.
- Petroleum. For lesions that spread to anus and thighs. Symptoms tend to worsen in winter and improve in summer.
- Sepia. For outbreaks that do not improve with other homeopathic remedies. This remedy is most appropriate for individuals who tend to have a lack of energy and do not tolerate cold weather.
- Support groups. Having genital herpes can impact your social and emotional life. In fact, if you have herpes, it is common to feel depressed, angry, and even guilty. Worrying about possible rejection by someone with whom you want to be intimate is also common. Joining a support group where members share experiences and problems can help relieve the stresses associated with having genital herpes. If you are in a committed relationship, seeing a couples’ therapist with your partner may also help.
- Relaxation techniques. Using relaxation techniques, such as yoga, guided imagery, and meditation may help you feel better overall and cope with stresses related to having herpes.
- Self hypnosis. Self hypnosis using guided imagery may also help relieve stress. In one 6-week training program, people with frequently recurring genital herpes were able to reduce outbreaks by nearly 50% and improve their mood, including reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Other. Individual therapy with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker; and techniques such as biofeedback can help reduce emotional symptoms associated with herpes.
Pregnant women who are infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 have a higher risk of miscarriage, premature labor, slow fetal growth, or transmission of the herpes infection to the infant during vaginal delivery. Herpes infections in newborns can be life threatening or cause disability. In women with active, recurrent herpes, antiviral medication beginning at 36 weeks gestation reduces the risk of the mom transmitting HSV to her baby. Delivery by cesarean section (C-section) is recommended to avoid infecting the baby.
Herpes infections contracted during delivery, from the mother to the newborn, can lead to meningitis, herpes infection in the blood, chronic skin infection, and may even be fatal.
You are more likely to have severe, frequent outbreaks and to experience complications from herpes if your immune system is suppressed from:
- HIV or AIDS
- Chemotherapy for cancer
- Long term use of high dose corticosteroids
- Medications that intentionally suppress the immune system
Warnings and Precautions
If you are diagnosed with genital herpes, you should be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Prognosis and Complications
Herpes is a long-lasting infection with symptoms that come and go. The initial symptoms usually appear within 1 to 3 weeks of exposure to the virus and last 7 to 10 days (for cold sores) or 7 to 14 days (for genital lesions). Usually the number of outbreaks is greatest in the first year and higher for HSV-2 genital lesions than HSV-1 cold sores. Each year after that, the number of outbreaks usually goes down and they become less severe. Still, once you have been infected, you can never completely get rid of the virus.
Complications of herpes include:
- Herpetic keratitis. Herpes infection of the eye leading to scarring within the cornea and possible blindness.
- Persistent herpes infection, without lesion-free periods
- Herpes infection in the esophagus
- Herpes infection of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis (liver failure)
- Encephalitis and/or meningitis (serious brain infections)
- Lung infection
- Eczema herpetiform, widespread herpes across the skin
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Huleihel M, Isanu V. Anti-herpes simplex virus effect of an aqueous extract of propolis. Isr Med Assoc J. 2002;4(11 Suppl):923-7.
Jakob NJ, Lenhard T, Schnitzler P, et al. Herpes simplex virus enephalitis despite normal cell count in the cerebrospinal fluid. Crit Care Med. 2012;40(4):1304-8.
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Review Date: 9/29/2015
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
|Date: 10-15-2009||HC# 060293-386|
Yarnell E, Abascal K, Rountree R. Herbs for herpes simplex infections. Altern Complement Ther. April 2009,15(2): 69-74.
Herpes simplex viruses (HSV) infect an extraordinary number of people. Although HSV infections are rarely life threatening, they are associated with a high morbidity and can represent severe threats to immunosuppressed subjects. Acyclovir and related drugs are now widely available to suppress HSV, but inexpensive and effective natural prevention and treatment options are still needed. Natural treatments can be helpful in avoiding the risk of developing drug resistance that exists with single-chemical agents.
In this overview, the authors analyze herbal remedies clinically useful and considered safe and effective for the treatment of herpes simplex: antiviral herbs, tannin-rich herbs, adaptogenic herbs. Among the most studied antiviral herbs are various members of the mint family (Lamiaceae), such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), sage (Salvia officinalis), heal all (Prunella vulgaris), peppermint (Mentha x piperita), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum). In vitro studies of their aqueous extracts demonstrated a strong antiviral activity against HSV-1. Lemon balm leaf contains compounds responsible for blocking activity of HSV-1, such as rosmarinic, caffeic, and ferulic acids, while its terpenoids inhibit HSV-2 replication. Lemon balm concentrated extract in a cream base relieves symptoms of herpes labialis and its prolonged use increases intervals between outbreaks. Sage is known to contain antioxidant compounds and has a long history for treating different infections. In a double-blind clinical trial with 145 subjects, a cream combining aqueous extracts of sage leaf with Chinese rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) root was as effective as acyclovir cream and significantly more effective than sage cream by itself at treating herpes labialis. The time to complete healing was 6.7 days, compared to 6.5 days for acyclovir. Heal all has a long history of use for viral infections: it inhibits HSV via suppression of antigen expression. Other potentially useful herbs in this category are catnip (Nepeta cataria) leaf, oregano (Origanum vulgare) leaf, mint (Mentha spp.) leaf, and basil (Ocimum basilicum).
Tannin-rich herbs represent another category of antiherpetic remedies. Hydrolyzable tannins are potent antiherpetic agents and act by blocking viral adsorption to human cells. They are particularly useful topically when vesicles are starting to weep, since tannins absorb proteins in the exudates and help relieve symptoms. Pomegranate (Punica granatum) pericarp, bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) aqueous root extract, and a Chinese species of hawthorn (Crataegus sinaica) have shown strong in vitro HSV inhibition. Chinese rhubarb root combined with sage has been effectively used for herpes labialis. Among its active compounds are tannins and anthraquinones that have shown anti-viral activity to HSV and other enveloped viruses in vitro.
Melia (Melia azedarach), tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil, propolis, and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) have been successfully used to treat HSV. A protein from melia leaves, meliacine, and a compound found in the fruit, 28-deacetylsendanin, interfere respectively with DNA synthesis of the virus and viral replication. The volatile tea tree oil is a popular antifungal and potent in vitro blocker of HSV adsorption. Propolis is a mixture of compounds harvested by bees from the resin of various trees. Topical application of 3% propolis ointment was significantly more effective than acyclovir or placebo at resolving lesions of genital herpes. St. John’s wort is a traditional treatment for herpes and other viral infections and its wound healing activity makes this herb particularly suitable for topical use. Formulas that include lemon balm and St. John’s wort are often used internally and topically in clinical practice. Various groups of red algae and seaweeds containing sulfated polysaccharides have also shown interesting anti-herpetic effects and need further studies.
A complete, holistic treatment of a patient with HSV requires the use of herbs that directly interfere with the virus and herbs that support the immune system: various adaptogenic, immunomodulating herbs that potentiate the patient’s own ability to fight the virus, are often added to antivirals. This is particularly important in patients who are immunosuppressed due to chemotherapy or HIV infection. The inclusion of adaptogenic herbs, such as eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) root, rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) medicinal mushrooms, or schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), is recommended to lessen the severity and frequency of HSV outbreaks. Further research is needed on the use of herbs as synergists to pharmaceutical antivirals or as a treatment in drug-resistant HSV infections. After thorough review of data collected in clinical practice, in vivo and in vitro studies on herbal remedies for the treatment of HSV, the authors conclude that “a full herbal protocol coupled with nutritional recommendations and stress reduction can cost-effectively and safely help most patients with herpes infections.”
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Silvia Giovanelli Ris
These nasty little – painful lesions – are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are contagious. There may be pain or tingling one to two days before the cold sores appear. Cold sores generally clear in seven to ten days. They’re sometimes confused with canker sores, which are not contagious but produce small, painful ulcers in the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the tongue and the walls of the mouth.
Many essential oils can help with viral infections but need to be in your system soon after you are exposed. Those that suffer from cold sores know there can be many things that ‘trigger’ an outbreak. Stress, whether it be from emotional or physical – being run down so a cold or flu can take hold can easily bring on a cold sore.
Prevention is best done by controlling your exposure to stress and of course others with colds and flus. But once your ‘cold sore’ has attacked, you may get relief by applying a drop of Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has antiviral properties. In a research study conducted in hospitals and dermatology clinics in Germany, lemon balm cream promoted the healing of blisters in five days compared to 10 days in the control group. Used on regularly, lemon balm cream may decrease the frequency of recurrences.
Also Tea tree (one drop neat) on the blisters several times throughout the day. Tea Tree can be applied ‘neatly’ which means undiluted. Lavender may also be applied neatly. Roman chamomile, Eucalyptus, Bergamot, Peppermint and Geranium may also stop the blistering in it’s tracks. To apply these other oils first mix them with a small amount of vodka. The best ratio is up to 6 drops in 5 ml of vodka. Mix well and dab on the blister using a cotton-tip applicator.
A study by the University of Heidelberg found that peppermint essential oil was found to penetrate the skin and have a direct virucidal effect againt the herpes simplex virus. Peppermint oil was also found to be active against an acyclovir-resistant strain of the herpes simpex virus. Although it’s promising, peppermint oil shouldn’t be used until studies have established its safety. Peppermint oil is absorbed through the skin so even small amounts could be toxic. Peppermint oil should never be ingested unless it is therapeutic grade.
Remember everyone’s immune system is different and with Aromatherapy we can try different essential oils – what works for one person may not work for the next. Usually you can find one that works best for you. Keep a journal of what you try at each outbreak. Recording things like how much, how applied and what oil(s) were used. Soon you will know what works best for you!
If the blisters open up, mixing any of the above essential oils with a small amount of Sweet Almond oil will help to keep the skin moist and less likely to crack. All essential oils have healing properties and will help your body to heal itself.
Read more from “cold sore remedies” from about.com here.
So, here’s the essential oil recipe for cold sores:
- 3 drops lemon balm (melissa)
- 2 drops tea tree
- 3 drops lavender
- 3 drops eucalyptus
- 3-4 drops geranium
- 3 drops Roman chamomile
- 3 drops bergamot
Add to 1 oz of sweet almond oil if you have dried and cracked cold sores,
or 2 oz. vodka for wet/ type cold sores to dry them out and heal them. Shake before each use.
Here’s Aura Cacia’s lemon balm essential oil diluted with jojoba, so price is right.
Best prevention for cold sores is to keep stress as low as possible, eat good foods and not processed and fast foods, avoid sugar and chemical sweeteners, and don’t get sunburned. This may exacerbate issue.
See other natural cold sore remedies on Amazon
here are other natural remedies and natural cures for cold sores:
Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning that we must get it through food or supplements because the body can’t make it on its own. It’s used to make protein, which we need to produce infection-fighting antibodies, enzymes, hormones, and body tissues. Lysine has been found to inhibit the spread of the herpes simplex virus.
Although we get lysine through food sources such as red meat, milk, eggs, cheese, wheat germ, brewers yeast, and fish, what appears to be most important is the ratio of lysine to another amino acid, arginine. They compete with each other for absorption in the intestines, so the less arginine there is in the diet, the more lysine is absorbed. Foods that are rich in arginine include chocolate, peanuts, and almonds.
In addition to these temporary dietary changes:
- Lysine supplements (e.g. 1,000 mg taken three times a day) may help to shorten the duration of cold sores.
- Lysine ointment – a pilot study by the Southern California University looked at the effectiveness of a lysine-containing ointment in 30 people. Researchers found that the ointment produced full resolution in 40% of participants by the third day and in 87 percent by the end of the sixth day. No adverse effects were reported.
Reishi and Astragalus
Reishi, also called Ganoderma lucidum is a type of mushroom that has a long history of use in traditional Asian medicine to strengthen the immune system.
Preliminary evidence shows that reishi may inhibit the spread of the herpes virus. A typical dose is 600 milligrams once or twice a day.
Reishi is available in powder or supplement form. Reishi can delay blood clotting, so consult your doctor before taking reishi if you are taking aspirin, warfarin (coumadin), or any other medications or supplements that interfere with clotting.
In traditional Chinese medicine, reishi is often used in conjunction with a herb called astragalus. Astragalus has been found to improve immune function in people with herpes simplex keratitis.
Resveratrol, a compound found naturally in red grapes, has been shown to be active against the herpes simplex virus in laboratory studies.
A study by the Northeastern Ohio University demonstrated that resveratrol cream applied topically two, three, or five times a day effectively suppressed cold sore development if it was applied one or 6 hours after infection with the herpes virus.
Resveratrol cream was also found to be as effective as 5% acyclovir ointment (Zovirax). Resveratrol cream also effectively suppressed cold sore formation in animals with herpes simplex infection that was resistant to acyclovir. No side effects were reported.
Propolis, also called bee propolis, is a brownish, resinous substance. Bees collect it from poplar and conifer buds and use it “cement” their hives and keep them germ-free. It is sold in health food stores.
A study found that propolis was active against herpes simplex 1 virus. It is believed to work by preventing the virus from entering body cells and by blocking the replication and spread of the virus. For more information about propolis, read the Propolis Fact Sheet.
The herb self-heal, also known as Prunella vulgaris is a perennial plant commonly found in China and Europe.
Extracts of this herb have been found to be effective against both herpes simplex 1 and 2 viruses. It is also believed to work against acyclovir-resistant strains of the herpes virus.
- Echinacea – A study by the University of Ottawa found that echinacea is active against herpes simplex type 1.
- Black currant – An extract of black currant, also known as Ribes nigrum or Kurokarin in Japan, was found to fight the herpes virus in laboratory studies.
- Rhubarb and sage cream – A German study examined rhubarb-sage cream compared to sage cream and Zovirax in 149 people with oral herpes cold sores. The combined topical sage-rhubarb preparation proved to be as effective as topical aciclovir cream and tended to be more active than the sage cream.
- Undaria pinnatifida – known as wakame in Japan, undaria is a type of seaweed that has been found to improve the healing time and reactivation of herpes infections.
People with tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, any autoimmune diseases, organ transplant, or possibly, liver disorders should not take herbs or supplements that improve immune function (such as reishi and astragalus) without consulting their doctor first. Taking immune-boosting supplements may reduce the effectiveness of medications that suppress the immune system.
Big thanks to Cathy Wong, ND
About.com Alternative Medicine for helpful information.
More alternative cures and remedies for cold sores:
4 natural remedies for cold sores
how to heal a cold sore naturally wikihow
home remedies for cold sores
common vitamins and supplements for cold sores web md
How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore Quickly
Cold sores can be a major annoyance. Not only do they look bad and feel irritating, but they can often carry an unwanted social stigma that affects everything from your professional life to your dating prospects.
Luckily, cold sores are fairly easy to control. Most of the time, they’ll heal on their own in seven to 14 days. However, if you’d like to get rid of a cold sore faster than this, there are a variety of tools you can use to speed up the healing process.
Below, we’ve listed the most effective ways to get rid of a cold sore, as well as the reason cold sores occur in the first place.
Why and How Cold Sores Develop
Before we get into the best ways to get rid of a cold sore quickly, let’s look at how cold sores can develop in the first place.
Cold sores are a symptom of the herpes simplex virus (or HSV-1), which is better known simply as oral herpes. Oral herpes is extremely common, with most studies estimating that from 50% to 70% of the global population is infected.
Herpes spreads through kissing, oral sex and sharing cups and utensils, which is one reason it’s common for cold sores to carry a bit of a stigma, from a dating perspective.
While HSV-1 is extremely common and highly contagious, many people never experience any cold sores. On average, about 30% of people that have HSV-1 will get cold sores, usually once or twice a year.
When we talk about “cold sores,” what we’re really talking about is a cold sore breakout. This is when the HSV-1 virus becomes active after staying dormant in the body, causing open sores to develop.
Cold sores usually develop on your lips, but they can also form on your gums, your tongue and on the roof of your mouth.
Normally, cold sore breakouts are triggered by a specific event or condition, such as stress or illness. The most common reasons for cold sore breakouts are:
- Illness, such as flu and/or fever
- Fatigue, exhaustion or tiredness
- Excessive levels of stress or anxiety
- A weak or compromised immune system
- Damage to the skin, such as a scratch, rash or burn
- Hormonal changes or imbalances, such as those that occur during menstruation
Not everyone is affected by cold sores, meaning you might never experience an outbreak even if you have the HSV-1 virus. Many people also become more immune to cold sore outbreaks as time goes on, meaning outbreaks become less frequent and severe.
If you do experience cold sores, the best way to prevent them from occurring is to focus on a healthy lifestyle that supports optimal immune function. While it isn’t possible to stop cold sore outbreaks completely, focusing on a healthy immune system can and does make a difference.
Search on Google for “ways to get rid of a cold sore quickly” and you’ll find page after page of home remedies, ranging from aloe vera gel to ice cubes.
The reality is that because cold sores are caused by a viral infection, home remedies that might be effective for other skin conditions aren’t likely to be effective. Instead, the best way to control and get rid of a cold sore is by using proven antiviral medication.
Valacyclovir is the most commonly used medication to treat and control herpes, both in its more common HSV-1 form (oral herpes) and HSV-2. Used correctly, valacyclovir can help you control cold sores as they develop and heal them as quickly as possible.
Cold sores develop gradually, meaning it can take some time for a cold sore to develop into an open lesion. Valacyclovir is most effective as a treatment when you use it early in the process of a cold sore developing, before it’s had time to develop into a blister.
Most of the time, cold sores will pass through several stages. During the first stage, you’ll notice a tingling or itching sensation around the lips, usually in the area where the cold sore is starting to develop. Sometimes, you’ll also notice a firm, painful spot on or near the lips.
This is usually the first warning that a cold sore is developing, and it’s the best time to start using valacyclovir to prevent the cold sore from developing further. Usually, the itching sensation lasts for one to two days before the cold sore progresses into a blister.
Studies show that people who use valacyclovir early in the process of a cold sore forming have a faster recovery period, usually by around one day. Valacyclovir also reduces the risk of other cold sores forming as the infection spreads into other parts of the lips and mouth.
Do’s and Don’ts for Faster Cold Sore Healing
Speeding up the cold sore healing process through medication like valacyclovir is only one side of the equation. The other, which is equally important, is making sure you don’t slow accidentally down the healing process by making common cold sore mistakes:
- Don’t try to pop a cold sore as if it were a pimple. This just damages your skin and gives the virus fluid a chance to spread throughout your lips and mouth, increasing the risk of other cold sores developing.
The best approach is to leave your cold sore alone and let it heal, or use an invisible cold sore bandage from your local pharmacy to cover it up without breaking it open.
- Don’t touch a cold sore (unless you wash your hands after). Although rare, the fluid from cold sores can spread to other parts of your body, making it possible to spread cold sores to your genitals or fingers (herpetic whitlow) through contact.
- Don’t have oral sex if you have a cold sore. Having oral sex with an open cold sore significantly increases your risk of transmitting genital herpes to your partner, making it best to avoid oral sex until the cold sore is healed.
- Don’t aggressively wash the cold sore with soap or facial wash. Oral herpes isn’t caused by dirty skin or lips, meaning most soaps won’t be effective. Instead, overusing soaps and facial cleansers is likely to dry out your skin and slow the healing process.
- Don’t use more than the recommended dose of valacyclovir. A higher dose doesn’t necessarily mean faster healing. Follow the dosage provided by your doctor for reliable, safe cold sore recovery.
While home remedies like aloe vera and ice cubes might provide temporary relief from the pain and discomfort a cold sore can produce, home remedies aren’t scientifically proven to speed up the cold sore healing process.
Instead, the best way to get rid of a cold sore quickly is to take valacyclovir (Valtrex) as soon as you first notice it developing. Used as early as possible, this can speed up the healing process and help you get rid of cold sores as quickly as possible.
Want to learn more about how valacyclovir treats cold sores and other herpes infections? Our Valacyclovir 101 guide covers everything you need to know about this medication, from dosing guidelines to common brand names, side effects and more.
A Detailed Guide to Help You Get Rid of Cold Sores
How to Treat a Cold Sore With Home Remedies
While prescription and OTC cold sore medication can promote healing and relieve pain, home remedies may also improve your symptoms and possibly reduce the frequency of outbreaks.
These remedies won’t fight the virus, but they can help you feel better until a cold sore heals.
To self-treat a cold sore: (2,3,4,5)
- Opt for cool foods that you apply to your mouth area. For example, suck on ice chips or a popsicle to reduce pain in or around the lips.
- Apply a cold or warm compress to painful areas. This can help ease inflammation.
- Avoid trigger foods that may irritate a cold sore. These can include hot beverages, citrus fruits, spicy food, and salty foods.
- Turn to your medicine cabinet. Apply a skin protectant, such as petroleum jelly, to a cold sore and the skin around the sore.
- Wear lip balm with SPF 30 or higher. This protects your lips until a cold sore heals. Applying balm year-round can also help stop recurrent cold sores.
- Tend to your dental health. Use an antiseptic mouthwash when brushing your teeth to relieve pain.
- Drink water. Keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
A few alternative therapies might also promote healing and relieve cold sore symptoms, although more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of these remedies.
For example, applying synthetic beeswax to a cold sore might shorten the duration of an outbreak and get rid of the blister sooner. (2)
Also, a study found that a combination of rhubarb and sage provides the same healing effects as an antiviral. According to the findings, a cream combining rhubarb and sage extracts proved to be as effective as topical acyclovir, an antiviral that’s used to treat herpes infections. (6)
Unfortunately, even with early treatment cold sore blisters don’t go away overnight. It can take a couple days to see improvement. (1) Until a cold sore disappears, use a clear cold sore bandage to cover up and hide the blister. Or hide the sore by applying a natural lip color, a heavy concealer, or powdered makeup.
Natural Remedies for Cold Sores: Do They Work?
Cold sores are clusters of blisters that usually develop on the lips, but they can sometimes develop inside the mouth, too. These sores are caused by herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1), a virus that more than half of Americans contract by the time they reach their 20s. If you’re one of the many people who suffers from cold sore outbreaks, you may be curious about natural remedies for the condition.
Natural Remedies for Cold Sores
When you’re experiencing a cold sore outbreak, you may want to try to treat it with natural remedies, but it’s important to choose a method that works. The Mayo Clinic explains that holding a cool compress against your sores can help promote healing, as well as reduce redness and crusting. Using a lip balm that contains sun block is another way to ease cold sore discomfort.
Other natural remedies have mixed results in studies, but they may still be worth a try. For example, you may want to try applying propolis, a synthetic beeswax, to your sores since this may be able to shorten your outbreak. Creams that contain rhubarb and sage may also be helpful. The book “Fighting Multidrug Resistance With Herbal Extracts, Essential Oils and Their Components,” notes that sage is less effective than rhubarb, and rhubarb was equally as effective as acyclovir, an antiviral medication.
Many online sources draw conflicting conclusions about the effectiveness of at-home and natural remedies. For example, Reader’s Digest attests that applying an Earl Grey tea bag will speed the healing process, a method CNN labels as a myth. So, when you’re looking up ways to heal your cold sore, take the internet’s suggestions with a grain of salt.
How to Prevent Cold Sores
There are many things you can do to prevent cold sore outbreaks. Your dentist may prescribe an antiviral medication to help control the virus and keep cold sores at bay. Another option is to observe what sets off your cold sores, and then try to avoid those triggers.
For example, some people get cold sores when they’re feeling stressed. If that’s the case for you, try relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, massage or spending time outdoors to control your stress.
Cold sores can be triggered by sun exposure too, so if you’ve noticed that you get cold sores after a day at the beach or a trip to the tanning bed, avoid excess sun exposure. Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen – including on your lips – when you go outdoors, and avoid tanning.
How to Treat Cold Sores
Cold sores will usually go away by themselves within a few weeks, according to the National Institutes of Health, but there are treatments available to make you more comfortable and to speed up the healing process. In addition to proven natural remedies for cold sores like cool compresses, medications are available.
Your dentist may recommend applying a product to your sores to relieve the pain and protect your sores from further irritation. Antiviral medications are also available by prescription, and these medications help to heal your cold sores more quickly than if you left them alone.
Cold sores are uncomfortable, but they can be managed with the help of your dentist.