How to Get Rid of a Cold Sore with Home Remedies

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. They usually heal on their own, but since they can be both painful and embarrassing, you might find yourself wanting to speed the healing process up as much as possible. While most home remedies are not scientifically backed, there are many that are commonly held as cold sore cures.

Topical Remedies
Cool it down. Hold an ice cube or ice pack directly on the cold sore for a few minutes. Keep it there until the cold has numbed the pain and remove it shortly after. Repeat this procedure once every one to three hours.[1] Note that you should only do this when the cold sore is new. If the cold sore has already broken open, ice could actually hinder the healing process.

Make time for tea. The simplest way to use tea is to apply a warm tea back on the cold sore for a few minutes. Repeat every few hours.
The tannin in black tea can soothe inflammation and dry the skin.

Make a lemon balm tea. Steep 2 to 4 tsp (10 to 20 ml) crushed lemon balm in 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Dab this tea on the cold sore throughout the day using cotton swabs. Note that lemon balm can reduce the physical symptoms of stress, which can cause cold sore flare-ups.

Green tea is also a good choice since it contains high levels of an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate. This antioxidant is believed to be an antiviral. You can apply green tea bags to the cold sore directly or drink two to three cups of green tea daily to get the effect.

Use cold dairy. Both cold milk and cold yogurt are believed to have some usefulness against cold sores. Apply either one with a cotton ball, coating the cold sore completely.
Milk contains immunoglobulins, special antibodies that can fight off viruses, and lysine, which can fight arginine, a certain amino acid that can cause cold sore outbreaks. Soak a cotton ball in 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of cold milk and apply it directly to the cold sore for a couple of minutes.

Note that drinking milk can also help combat cold sores.

The probiotics in yogurt can help fight the herpes virus causing the cold sore. Dab a little plain yogurt directly onto the cold sore, or eat two to three cups of non-fat yogurt daily during an outbreak.[2]

Try a natural oil or extract. Certain natural oils and extracts have antiseptic properties, and when applied directly to the cold sore, they can combat the virus causing it. Others have astringent properties, so they can dry the area out and prevent infection from setting in and worsening the sore.
Peppermint oil can target viruses that escape from the site of infection, making it useful against cold sores. Dip a cotton swab in peppermint oil and apply the oil to your cold sore. Do this twice a day until the sore clears.

Witch hazel oil is an astringent and an antiseptic. Soak a cotton swab in 1 tsp (5 ml) of witch hazel and apply it directly to the cold sore. Do not rinse it off. Apply this cure once or twice a day.

Real vanilla extract is alcohol-based and makes it difficult for the virus to survive. Soak a cotton swab in 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) vanilla extract and press it directly on the sore, holding it in place for a minute or two. Do this up to four times a day.

Both tea tree oil and garlic oil can help the healing process by keeping cold sores soft. A soft cold sore is less likely to split open. If a cold sore splits open, it can reactivate or come back stronger. Dab a little of either oil directly onto the cold sore once or twice a day.

Fight the cold sore with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant. When applying it, however, avoid ingesting any. Soak a cotton ball in 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of hydrogen peroxide and hold it directly on the cold sore for five minutes. Rinse off when done.

Use aloe vera gel. Aloe vera can soothe the pain of a cold sore and fight bacteria threatening to infect the sore and worsen your condition. Apply 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) aloe vera gel directly to the cold sore using a cotton swab. Let it stay on.

Seal the sore. After treating the cold sore, you should protect it with a thin film of petroleum jelly. Doing so prevents outside bacteria from irritating the cold sore, and as a result, your body can get rid of the cold sore faster.
If you do not have any petroleum jelly on hand, you could use a little honey. Honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can protect the cold sore against additional threats while also combating the underlying virus. Apply a little honey using a cotton swab, covering the site of the cold sore completely.

Another option is a cornstarch paste. Cornstarch neutralizes the pH of the cold sore, making it difficult for the virus to thrive. Combine 1 Tbsp (15 ml) cornstarch with 1 tsp (5 ml) water until a paste forms. Dab this paste onto the sore at night and rinse it off in the morning.

Oral Treatments
Chew on licorice. Chew on a licorice whip once or twice a day when you have a cold sore to help fight the underlying virus causing your cold sore. Make sure that the candy is made from real licorice root, though. You could also use licorice as a topical remedy. Combine 1 Tbsp (15 ml) licorice root powder or extract with 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) water or 2 tsp (10 ml) petroleum jelly. Dab this cream onto the cold sore, covering it completely, and let it sit for several hours to overnight.

Glycyrhizic acid, which is found in licorice root, is the key ingredient here. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties.

Try echinacea. Echinacea tea is believed to strengthen the immune system, thereby assisting your body’s natural immune response as it fights the cold sore.
Steep 1 bag of Echinacea tea in 1 cup (250 ml) freshly boiled water for 10 minutes. Drink when ready. Try this remedy once a day until the cold sore clears.

You could also take 200 mg echinacea four times a day in supplement form.[3]

Get the right vitamins. Vitamins E, C, and A are the ones you will want to focus on when you want to get rid of a cold sore. You can get these vitamins through supplements or through your diet.
Foods high in vitamin C include red berries, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, and spinach.

Foods high in vitamin E include nuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and avocados.

In supplement form, take 1000 mg of vitamin C up to three times daily.

For vitamin A, you can take 25000 IU twice daily for five days. Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not take more than 5000 IU daily.

Increase your lysine intake. Lysine is an amino acid that allows your body to grow and repair tissue. You can get this amino acid through your diet or by taking it as a supplement.[4]
Lysine is commonly found in red meat, fish, and dairy.

If taking it as a supplement, take 1000 mg three times daily during a flare-up. Take it on an empty stomach and do not take it with milk.

Use selenium. Selenium can boost the effectiveness of antioxidants in your body, which can help strengthen your immune system and make your body more able to fight off the cold sore virus. You can get selenium through your diet or as a supplement.
Selenium can be found in crab, liver, fish, and wheat.

In supplement form, take 600 mcg a day during cold sore flare-ups. Do not exceed this amount since higher doses can be toxic.

Take a little flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil contains alpha-linolenic acid, a type of fatty acid that can decrease inflammation. As such, it can help minimize the irritation at the site of the cold sore, making it easier for your body to fight the underlying virus.
Take 1 Tbsp (14 g) once daily. You can mix it with food, but whether you do or don’t, it is best taken in the morning.

Avoid foods that could agitate the cold sore. Certain foods may have components that could contribute to a cold sore outbreak, so these should be avoided during flare-ups. For instance, foods containing the amino acid arginine should be cut out of the diet. Such foods include nuts, chocolate, whole-grain cereals, and gelatin.

Do not attempt to mask a cold sore with cosmetics. Cosmetics can actually aggravate the cold sore further and slow down the healing process.

Do not pick at the cold sore. If you pick at the cold sore, you could spread additional bacteria to it and end up causing an infection. You could also spread the cold sore virus to other areas of your body or to other people.

Swap out your toothbrush. A toothbrush can carry the virus causing the cold sore, so throwing it out after the sore emerges and after it clears can help shorten the outbreak. Alternatively, you can also wash the toothbrush in a dishwasher instead of discarding it completely.

Things You’ll Need

Cotton balls or cotton swabs

Tea bags (black, green, lemon balm)

Milk or yogurt

Natural oils and extracts

Hydrogen peroxide


Petroleum jelly



Herbal supplements

Vitamin supplements

Flaxseed oil

Sources and Citations
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