Why People Are Turning To Essential Oils for Cold Sores
Cold sores, aka fever blisters, are painful, annoying, and can be recurring.
They’re a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), not to be confused with HSV-2 which causes genital herpes.
They manifest as small fluid-filled blisters that appear on the outer edge of the lips though they can also appear in the nose or cheek area.
Cold sores are contagious (even if the blisters aren’t visible) and can be spread by close personal contact, kissing, and oral sex.
They are different from canker sores, which are not caused by the herpes virus and tend to occur in the interior of the mouth instead of on the outer perimeter.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for cold sores, but antiviral medication may help to reduce the frequency of severe cold sore outbreaks and luckily there are natural remedies that can help speed up the healing process.
Because of their immune-boosting, therapeutic, and medicinal properties, essential oils have been increasingly used in recent decades to treat cold sore symptoms.
Essential oils (EOs) are highly concentrated aromatic compounds that are extracted from tree or plant material such as bark, leaves, flowers, roots, resin, fruit, or nut.
They’ve been considered a form of herbal medicine for hundreds of years and their therapeutic application is referred to as aromatherapy.
How EOs Work To Provide Cold Sore Relief
It’s believed that certain essential oils work as cold sore treatment because they’ve shown strong anti-viral properties in lab studies.
Their medicinal properties can also help alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by cold sore symptoms which include:
- Burning sensation
If you’re looking to use EOs for this specific medicinal purpose you’ll want to use oils that have the following therapeutic properties:
- Immune system support – to keep your body strong and resilient
- Anti-viral properties – to weaken or kill viruses
- Antibacterial – to prevent bacteria from growing, especially on open sores
- Anti-inflammatory properties – to reduce inflammation, redness, and soreness
- Antiseptic – to keep the blistered area clean and free of microbes
- Analgesic – to relieve pain and discomfort
The 7 Best Essential Oils To Heal Cold Sores
Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Stimulates the immune system
Low concentrations of tea tree essential oil and its antiviral activity have been shown to inhibit herpes simplex virus (HSV) in lab studies. (1)
Contraindications: Toxic if ingested, may cause skin irritation (perform a patch test before use)
Peppermint oil (Mentha piperita)
A study published in the medical journal Phytomedicine found that peppermint essential oil can reduce viral markers of both HSV-1 and HSV-2 by more than 90%. (2)
Researchers concluded that topical therapeutic application of peppermint oil may be effective against recurring herpes infections.
Contraindications: children under 6 years old, high blood pressure, pregnant and breast-feeding women
Eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata)
- Stimulates the immune system
Like tea tree, eucalyptus essential oil has also proven to be a powerful antiviral agent against herpesvirus in lab studies. (1)
Contraindications: Those with high blood pressure, epilepsy, pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under 6 years old
Chamomile oil (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile)
- Stimulates the immune system
According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, chamomile essential oil, along with anise oil and dwarf-pine oil, exhibited strong antiviral effects.
The study concluded that these oils may be useful in the treatment of drug-resistant strains of herpesviruses. (3)
Contraindications: None known
Melissa / Lemon balm oil (Melissa officinalis)
Lab results published in Phytotherapy Research found melissa oil to inhibit HSV-1 virus penetration into skin cells by 96% for drug-resistant strains. (4)
Contraindications: Avoid if using multiple medications and if pregnant or breastfeeding. May irritate sensitive skin so perform a patch test before use.
Oregano oil (Origanum vulgare)
An article published in Medical Science Research found both oregano oil and clove oil to be highly antiviral and capable of causing the disintegration of the HSV-1 virus. (5)
Contraindications: Might cause skin irritation and sensitivity so perform a patch test before using. Avoid if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid if you’re using multiple medications.
Clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum)
Not only has clove oil been found highly antiviral, but it’s also known for its strong pain-relieving effects and when applied topically it can also serve as a local anesthetic. (5) (6)
This is really useful if you’re experiencing a particularly painful sore.
Contraindications: Not intended for long-term use. Don’t use it directly on the skin without a carrier oil. Avoid if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have sensitive skin perform a patch test before using.
The Pros & Cons of EOs for Cold Sores
- EOs are potent – a little goes a long way. Just a few drops can offer multiple active compounds that unleash a series of healing, protective and regenerating effects.
- High-quality EOs should be 100% natural, undiluted, and certified organic. This means you have direct access to nature’s pharmacy at a relatively affordable price.
- If used with care and mindfulness EOs are relatively low-risk and offer little to no side-effects when compared to most conventional prescription or over-the-counter medication.
- You can create your own blends to enhance their healing effects on your cold sores.
- EOs are potent – unnecessarily high concentrations or wrong use cause irritation and might even make your symptoms worse.
- Unfortunately, there are many adulterated EO products out in the market that feature misleading claims and labels. It’s estimated that more than 75% of all EO on the market are either diluted or contaminated with synthetic material. (7)
- EOs aren’t cure-alls, especially if you’re experiencing severe recurring outbreaks. It’s best if you use EOs in conjunction with antiviral medication. (If you’re dealing with a persistent or unusually painful sore or outbreak please consult with your physician or medical provider prior to using them.)
- Most of the research done on EOs is based mostly on animal studies or cultured cells. Though studies do seem promising, more human studies research is needed to explore EOs’ potential to serve as antiviral agents.
Using EOs With Other Natural Alternative Cold Treatments
Because cold sores are caused by or made worse by stress, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and direct sunlight it’s important to address each of these factors in order to minimize recurring outbreaks.
Stress & Anxiety Management:
There are certain essential oils that have calming and sedative effects and are particularly useful for stress management.
Improved Quality Sleep:
Optimal Nutrition & Supplementation:
Here’s where eating like a yogi can really help you out.
And also supplementing with Vitamins C, D, & E, zinc, and the amino acid L-Lysine can help too.
Make it a habit to use daily sunscreen and wear a hat when you spend a prolonged period of time outdoors and in direct sunlight.
Opt for non-toxic, natural sunscreens, and an SPF lip balm when possible.
How To Choose the Right High-Quality EOs for
Since you’re using EOs for medicinal purposes it’s really important to choose the right kinds of EOs that will offer the maximum protection and healing potential.
Here are 7 tips to help you choose oils that can work best for your cold sores:
Cold Sore Rx: A DIY Blend For Cold Sore Treatment (Home Remedy)
Use this topical elixir as soon as you feel the first signs of an outbreak – tingling, light itching, or slight redness and swelling to the site.
Note: If you have sensitive skin please perform a patch test first before using each individual oil.
Cold Sore Rx mixture:
- 10 drops tea tree
- 10 drops eucalyptus
- 3 drops clove oil
- 3 drops peppermint
- 5 drops melissa oil
- 5 drops oregano oil
- 5 drops chamomile oil
Grab a small, empty dark-colored glass bottle (preferably with a dropper top) and fill with the mixture. Shake well.
Use this oil as needed by diluting the mixture with a carrier oil (ie: fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil).
Use a 1-1 ratio – 1 drop of the mixture per 1 drop of carrier oil.
Apply to the affected area with a clean cotton swab twice a day – morning and evening.
(7) Essential Oils Revolution Online Summit, Interview with Robert Pappas, “Essential Oil Preparation”