Treating cold sores with essential oils

cold sores

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Introduction (What is a cold sore?)

Cold sores are a common viral infection. They are also known as fever blisters or herpes simplex labialis. They are tiny, fluid-filled blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth. These blisters often come in patches. After the blisters break, a crust forms over the resulting sore.

The symptoms are usually the most severe the first you time you get cold sores. They are highly contagious and can be passed on through close direct contact. They usually clear within 7 to 10 days without treatment, and heal in two to four weeks without leaving a scar.

What causes a cold sore?

Cold sores are caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) which is related to the one that causes genital herpes (HSV-2). One may contract the virus via oral and physical transmission. They are most contagious when the sores have oozing blisters, but it can also be transmitted even if the blisters aren’t present.

A person who has had an episode of herpes infection will develop antibodies to combat the strain, but they may get infected again. The sores will most likely emerge at the same place as before. Recurrence may be triggered by:

  • Stress and fatigue
  • Viral infection or fever
  • Hormonal changes like menstruation
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Exposure to sunlight and wind

How to know when you have a cold sore

You need to look out for these cold core symptoms: fever, painful eroded gums, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes. When you contract a cold sore you usually go through these stages:

  1. A tingling, burning, or itching feeling arises for a day or so.
  2. About 12 to 24 hours later, blisters erupt. The area becomes red, swollen, and painful.
  3. The blisters break out, and fluid comes out along the border where the outside edge of the lips meets the skin of the face. This usually lasts 2 or 3 days.
  4. The blister dries and a scab forms on the sore. It might crack or bleed.
  5. The scab falls off.

How to treat cold sores

Several types of prescription antiviral drugs may speed the healing process. They are usually packaged as pills and creams.

There are also over-the-counter cold sore remedies like ointment docosanol (Abreva), preparations containing a drying agent like alcohol, lip balms containing sunblock or lemon extract, zinc oxide cream, and moisturizing cream. Applying a cool compress can also reduce redness, help remove crusting and promote healing.

There are tons of other home remedies. Examples include aloe vera, petroleum jelly such as Vaseline, and witch hazel. Just remember to always apply home remedies, creams, gels, or ointments using a clean cotton swab

Essential oil for cold sore

Essential oils are a lesser known option for the treatment of cold sores. They might have a lower risk of harsh side effects than pharmaceutical cold sore treatments. The organic compounds found in essential oils, according to researchers, might treat cold sores just as effectively.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has antiviral, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties which pose a potent antiviral effect on HSV. These all come in handy when you need to treat a cold sore. Tea tree is known to be a strong and natural remedy to cold sores.

Vanilla oil

Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, vanilla essential oil is good for reducing the discomfort and pain of cold sores and may help speed up the healing process.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil has the ability to kill an activated virus. It can calm the symptoms of an activated herpes strain, including the strains that are resistant to other kinds of drugs.

Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood oil is known for its distinct and powerful scent, but its components can also fight the cold sore virus. Is strong scent might be irritating to your nose, so mix it with another oil in this list.

Oregano oil

The effect of the oregano oil was found to be substantial since 1996. It has since then become one of the most popular home remedies for cold sores. The size and inflammation of your cold sore can be diminished by rubbing diluted oregano oil on the site of your cold sore with a sterile piece of cotton gauze.

Clove oil

Clove may have an antimicrobial and antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus. It also may decrease pain caused by a cold sore.

Lavender oil

Lavender oil has been used for years to treat a variety of issues, including skin irritation and bruises. Although it may not have any effect on the virus, lavender oil may be helpful in decreasing pain and inflammation associated with cold sores.

Thyme oil

Thyme oil is a potent agent that has antiviral and inhibitory effects on HSV. It has some level of antiviral activity and is capable of reducing viral infectivity by greater than 96%.

Anise oil

Anise oil has been found to have a strong inhibitory effect against the herpes simplex virus. It does this by interrupting the adsorption of herpes viruses, making it capable of exerting a direct effect on HSV and useful in the treatment of drug-resistant viruses.

Ginger oil

Ginger oil’s components have been found to reduce cold sore infection symptoms. It feels warm on your skin and may soothe the irritation from your cold sore.

Chamomile oil

Chamomile oil is a very active antiviral agent against HSV and help treat drug-resistant strains. It has a soothing effect on the skin when applied because a substance found in chamomile called bisabolol can help heal sores on mucus membranes.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil can reduce the duration and severity of cold sores. It has a calming scent and a soothing sensation on the skin when it’s applied.

How to get rid of a cold sore using essential oils

Here are some tips on how to use these proven oils to battle cold sores. 

  • Dilute your oil of choice. Essential oils can be irritating to the skin, so always dilute them in a carrier oil like coconut, sweet almond, olive, or jojoba. Apply diluted oils with a swab or q-tip.
  • Perform a patch test.  Apply a small amount of the mixture to your inner arm, somewhere where agitation is unlikely by clothing and leave on for 30 minutes to an hour. Do this to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions or allergies to the ingredients.
  • Watch for negative reactions like further inflammation, redness, or burning. Use should be immediately discontinued. 
  • Consult your doctor or healthcare provider about using essential oils on your cold sores before you try it.

Get rid of cold sores

Get rid of a cold sore and avoid spreading them to other people or to other parts of your body by heeding to these precautions:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with others while blisters are present.       
  • Avoid sharing items like utensils, towels, lip balm and other items when blisters are present.       
  • Keep your hands clean.        
  • If sunlight seems to trigger your recurrences, apply sunblock to the spot where the cold sore tends to erupt


Most frequent questions and answers

There are a slew of different essential oils you can try to treat just about anything, and cold sores in particular are something they are proven to be effective in combatting. They are concentrated plant oil extracts which help alleviate the effects of a cold sore caused by the HSV-1 virus. They act as an anti-inflammatory and also moisturize the lips and skin.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that you can’t. Because cold sores are caused by a viral infection, the best way to control and get rid of a cold sore is by using proven antiviral medication. Home remedies are a good way to supplement it, but they do not help get rid of a cold sore overnight either. But while it’s nearly impossible to heal a cold sore overnight, you can drastically reduce the duration of the blister if you take action at first sign of any tingling sensation.

 To get rid of a cold sore fast, resist:

  • touching an open sore
  • attempting to pop the sore
  • picking at the scab
  • aggressively washing the sore 
  • having oral sex
  • eating acidic food

Our resistance to the virus is just as good as the strength of our immune system. It will help to boost your immune system by eating right whilst giving yourself medication. Take note of what you’ve been eating, doing, and how your stress levels have been.

Bottom line

Dilution means the carrier oils provide better absorption as well as less irritation to the skin. The ratio of essential oil to carrier oil is typically 2–5 drops of essential oil diluted in 1 ounce of a carrier oil.

Understand the risks of using essential oils to treat cold sores. They may irritate the skin and damage it if they are used too much. Allergic reactions can happen too like hives, redness, or itching at the site of application.

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