Cold sores can be treated with antiviral medications, which may shorten how long the symptoms last. There are various home remedies, as well, which are used to ease their discomfort.
Furthermore, a lot of studies have been done that show compounds in certain essential oils may help treat cold sores.
Essential oils might have some advantages over medication. For instance, essential oils usually cause fewer side effects than antiviral drugs.
Although they may be helpful in treating the symptoms of the herpes simplex virus, essential oils can be harmful if taken orally. When used to treat cold sores, the oils are applied topically to the skin only after they are mixed with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil.
In this article, we take a look at 10 essential oils that research suggests may be able to help treat cold sores.
Essential oils for cold sores
The following essential oils may be useful for treating cold sores:
Applying certain essential oils may help to reduce cold sore irritation.
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 reducing pain associated with cold sores. In one study, lavender oil appeared to have the potential to decrease pain and inflammation.
The first time someone uses lavender oil, they should dilute it with a carrier oil. If there is no reaction, they might be able to use a stronger mix.
Lavender oil can also be used undiluted, as it does not usually irritate the skin. One or two drops of lavender oil can be applied directly to the sore.
In one study, peppermint oil was shown to inhibit the activity of both the herpes virus type 1 and type 2. The study concluded that peppermint oil might be useful in treating recurrent herpes infections.
A few drops of peppermint oil diluted with a milder oil, such as almond oil, can be applied to the sore.
Although chrysanthemum oil may not specifically treat the herpes simplex virus, research has suggested that the oil has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may reduce symptoms.
Allergies to chrysanthemum oil are not uncommon. It is best to test a small area of the skin before using the essential oil on a cold sore. Never apply directly to the skin, and always dilute in a carrier oil.
Eucalyptus oil may be useful in treating cold sores due to its anti-inflammatory ability.
A paper in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology indicated that eucalyptus oil could decrease inflammation. By reducing inflammation, eucalyptus may speed up the healing process of a cold sore.
Users should be sure to dilute eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil before applying it to the skin to avoid irritation. Eucalyptus is a known allergen, so people should not use it if they have a reaction.
Clove may have an antimicrobial and antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus. It also may decrease pain associated with a cold sore.
Clove is irritating if applied directly to the skin. It should be diluted with a milder oil, such as coconut oil. Users should use caution when applying the mixture to the sore.
Chamomile oil interrupts absorption of the herpes virus into the cells differently than antiviral drugs, according to some research.
This oil may also be useful in treating drug-resistant strains of herpes. Again, chamomile oil must be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.
Tea tree oil
According to a review published in the International Journal of Dermatology, tea tree oil has shown the ability to stop or kill the herpes simplex virus.
The oil is strong, so it is best to use it with caution. Users should dilute it with a carrier oil to decrease the chances of a skin irritation.
Research on hyssop oil showed that the essential oil caused a decrease in viral activity.
A few drops of hyssop oil can be diluted and applied to the cold sore.
Lemon balm oil
Lemon balm oil, which is also called Melissa extract, may have an antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus.
One study indicated that the oil prevents the herpes virus from penetrating the cells.
Users should apply the diluted oil to the cold sore with a cotton swab three or four times a day for best results.
Thyme oil has been examined to determine its ability to treat herpes simplex virus type 1. The results of one study indicated that the essential oil shows antiviral action against the virus.
Thyme oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil before it is applied to the cold sore.
Risks and considerations
To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, essential oils such as lemon balm should be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.
When using essential oils to treat cold sores, it is important to understand the risks. Some essential oils can be irritating to the skin and may damage the skin if they are used too much.
An allergic reaction is also possible when using essential oils. Hives, redness, or itching at the site of application are signs of an allergic reaction.
If signs of an allergic reaction develop, people should stop using the oil immediately.
Diluting an essential oil with a carrier oil may be useful and necessary. Dilution means the carrier oils provide better absorption as well as less irritation to the skin.
Common carrier oils used to dilute essential oils include:
- coconut oil
- sweet almond oil
- olive oil
The ratio of essential oil to carrier oil may vary. Typically, a ratio of 2–5 drops of essential oil diluted in 1 ounce of a carrier oil is used.
Additional home remedies for cold sores
Applying aloe vera may help to calm cold sore symptoms.
In addition to essential oils, there are also other natural home remedies that can ease the symptoms of cold sores.
Home remedies that may help ease cold sore symptoms when applied include:
- aloe vera
- hot or cold compress
- vitamin E
- witch hazel
Home remedies do not kill the herpes virus or prevent future flare-ups of cold sores. Instead, home remedies may ease cold sore symptoms, such as pain, redness, and itching.
Cold sores can be painful and annoying. The essential oils listed here may help decrease symptoms and treat the sores.
It is wise to keep in mind that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who regulate medications, do not control the use of essential oils.
It may be helpful to consult with a certified aromatherapist to find the best brands and uses of various essential oils for cold sores.
If cold sores occur frequently, it is also best to consult a doctor to work out if additional treatments are needed.