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Herpes is an infection that comes from the herpes simplex virus. Although there is currently no cure, there are some treatments, including home remedies, that may help relieve the symptoms.

Herpes symptoms include sores on the skin. The infection typically affects the mouth, genitals, and anal area.

There are two types of herpes simplex virus: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause genital herpes, but only HSV-1 causes oral herpes.

This article discusses several home remedies that may help a person manage the symptoms of herpes, along with some options for where to purchase items. It will also cover prevention and when to see a doctor.

A quick look at the best home remedies for herpes

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

A hot or cold compress may ease the pain and itchiness of a herpes lesion. Applying heat to the area around the lips can also stop blisters from forming during an oral herpes infection.

A cold compress is easy to make at home. Wrap a flannel around an ice pack and apply it to the painful area.

However, do not apply the ice pack directly to the skin. It is also advisable to wash the area gently with salt water.

In addition, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cool compresses can be beneficial if a person has eye herpes, as they can reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling in the lid area.

Individuals can purchase hot and cold compresses from various pharmacies and online stores.

Best heat therapy compress: Curad Ironman Hot or Cold Reusable Compress

Curad Ironman Hot or Cold Reusable Compress
  • Price: $11.99
  • Pros: delivers hot and cold therapy, also suitable for muscle pain
  • Cons: requires a microwave to heat up

This is a pack of two reusable compresses. A person can put them in the freezer to provide cold compression or heat them in the microwave for a warm compress.

A person can use both packs simultaneously to alternate between hot and cold therapy. It also states they are suitable for muscle pain.

The Curad Ironman Hot or Cold Reusable Compress costs $11.99.

One 2019 study suggests that applying kanuka honey may be as effective in treating oral herpes as applying antiviral creams.

In the study, it took 8 days for the sores to heal with antiviral cream and nine days with honey. However, oral herpes can get better within 1–2 weeks without treatment, and the study did not include a group that did not receive treatment.

It is also unclear whether the potential healing properties are unique to kanuka honey or whether they would be present in any type of honey.

People can purchase kanuka honey from various companies online.

Best honey: Mountain Valley Honey Kanuka Honey

Mountain Valley Honey Kanuka Honey
  • Price: $29.95
  • Pros: natural, research suggests it is effective against herpes
  • Cons: unsuitable for vegans, expensive

This raw kanuka honey comes from the white flowers of the kanuka tree in New Zealand.

The company states that its honey is 100% raw and unpasteurized. It can be used in food or as a face mask.

The company writes that with every purchase, $1 goes to Bright Hope World, which funds sustainable agricultural projects.

This product does not suit people following a vegan lifestyle.

Mountain Valley Honey’s Kanuka Honey costs $29.95.

Older studies suggest that garlic may have properties that can lower the activity of several viruses, including both types of HSV.

Some studies suggest that allicin, a compound in garlic, may be effective against HSV. However, there is no clear evidence to suggest that garlic can prevent, cure, or treat herpes.

A 2020 systematic review of research investigating the antiviral properties of the active ingredients in garlic concluded that garlic can prevent viral infections by stopping virus particles from entering cells and replicating.

While garlic may have effective properties against HSV, research notes that garlic contains volatile organic sulfur compounds. These compounds can cause burns when using raw garlic on the skin. The authors report that burns on the legs are common.

People should carefully consider the risk of burns when using raw garlic topically on their skin and around mucous membranes, such as the eyes, lips, and nose. If a person experiences any irritation, they should discontinue use and thoroughly wash the area immediately.

Different ways of using garlic include eating fresh garlic and taking garlic capsules.

Various companies sell garlic capsules and tablets online.

Best garlic supplement: Nature’s Bounty Garlic

Nature's Bounty Garlic 2000 mg.
  • Price: $28
  • Pros: comes in a pack of four, third-party tested
  • Cons: limited scientific evidence to prove garlic is effective against herpes

These tablets are odor-free and have an enteric coating. The company claims the enteric coating keeps the tablets intact until they reach the small intestine.

Each tablet contains 400 milligrams (mg) of garlic extract, which Nature’s Bounty states is equivalent to 2,000 mg of fresh garlic. The company recommends that people take one tablet up to three times daily with food.

Nature’s Bounty tests its products for purity and to ensure they are free of bacteria. Its ingredients are sourced from suppliers that meet Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards for supplements.

A pack of four bottles of Nature’s Bounty Garlic tablets costs $28.

Various vitamins may help protect the body against the virus and relieve symptoms.

Herpes infections are more likely to recur if a person has low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D can protect the body against infection by improving part of the immune system.

Additionally, the antioxidative properties of vitamin E may reduce the stress that infections such as herpes put on the cells of the immune system, thereby lowering the chance of infection.

Researchers are currently conducting clinical trials using vitamin E against herpes.

There is also ongoing research into the antiviral properties of vitamin C. Retrospective studies suggest that oral vitamin C in combination with antiviral treatment may reduce the recurrence of herpes simplex keratitis, a corneal infection resulting from HSV.

Companies and websites that sell vitamin supplements include:

Best vitamin D supplement: Pure Encapsulations D3 (Vegan) Liquid

  • Price: $34.95
  • Pros: vitamin D can support the immune system, easy to take
  • Cons: expensive, delivers above recommended daily dose of vitamin D

This vitamin D3 tincture is free of gluten and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Pure Encapsulations claims this product may help improve cardiovascular and immune health and support bone, prostate, and colon function.

The serving size of this tincture is five drops. The product labeling states each serving contains 25 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D3.

This product is suitable for vegans who want to supplement their food with more vitamin D3, especially those who prefer a liquid form rather than a tablet.

Pure Encapsulations D3 (Vegan) Liquid cost $34.95.

Best vitamin E supplement: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Vitamin E

  • Price: $28.99
  • Pros: may support the immune system, can be added to drinks
  • Cons: delivers significantly more vitamin E than daily allowances recommend

These raw vitamin E capsules do not contain any GMOs, synthetic binders, fillers, or artificial flavors. Additional ingredients of this product include fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and selenium.

Garden of Life claims these vitamin supplements can help support eye and immune health.

This product is also suitable for vegetarians.

The company recommends people take two capsules daily, either with or without food. A person can also break the capsules apart and add the powder to their drinks.

Each serving size has the following nutritional facts:

  • Vitamin A: 900 mcg
  • Vitamin D: 50 mcg
  • Vitamin E: 125 mcg
  • Vitamin K: 72 mcg
  • Selenium: 61 mcg

These capsules may suit people who would like a supplement with multiple vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E.

Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Vitamin E costs $28.99.

Best vitamin C gummies: Nordic Naturals Vitamin C Gummies

  • Price: $14.95
  • Pros: easy to take, suitable for children and adults
  • Cons: contains added sugar, delivers significantly more vitamin C than is recommended for children

These vitamin C gummies are suitable for individuals 4 years and older. The gummies are vegetarian, vegan, and GMO-free.

Nordic Naturals claims that these gummies may have antioxidant properties that could help support a person’s immune system.

The company recommends that people take two gummies a day with food. Each gummy contains 250 mg of vitamin C.

These gummies are suitable for young children or those who struggle to swallow capsules or tablets.

Nordic Naturals Vitamin C Gummies cost $14.95. The company also offers a subscription service that reduces the cost of its products.

For genital herpes, applying petroleum jelly to the affected area can reduce the discomfort associated with urinating. It is important to wash the hands before and after using the jelly.

Medical professionals may also recommend prescription gels or ointments.

Vaseline is a popular brand that sells petroleum jelly in many stores and online.

Best for skin barrier: Vaseline 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly

  • Price: $3.29–17.70
  • Pros: available in a range of sizes, suitable for sensitive skin
  • Cons: reports of product hygiene issues from online sellers

A person can purchase Vaseline online through Amazon.

Vaseline states it is hypoallergenic and suitable for sensitive, dry skin.

It also claims that its product helps seal in moisture, which may help the skin heal naturally. Additionally, petroleum jelly creates a barrier between the skin and outside elements.

This Vaseline product may be best suited to people with cold sores.

Vaseline costs between $3.29–17.70, depending on the tub size.

For centuries, people have used pomegranate as a home remedy for infection. Pomegranate contains zinc, which can help reduce herpes infections.

Pomegranate also contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. These properties may support the immune system.

Other dietary recommendations include:

  • increasing intake of the amino acid lysine, though evidence as to its effectiveness is mixed
  • avoiding the amino acid arginine
  • avoiding excessive smoking and consumption of red wine and caffeine
  • identifying and removing food products that cause allergies

Soy protein, peanuts, walnuts, and fish are all rich sources of arginine. Avocados, chicken, cottage cheese, and pork are all sources of lysine.

An older study suggests that the following supplements may be effective at controlling herpes symptoms:

In a 2017 review, experts found that taking a minimum of 1 g of lysine per day, in combination with a low arginine diet, can help people manage their symptoms.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor supplements, so it is not always possible to know exactly what a product contains.

A person should always check with a doctor before taking supplements as they may interact with other medications or have adverse effects.

Companies that stock lysine supplements include CVSHealth.

Best L-Lysine supplement: CVS Pharmacy L-Lysine Caplets

Price: $11.29
Pros: suitable for smaller budgets, high volume per bottle, third-party tested
Cons: limited research into the effectiveness of L-lysine for herpes

These caplets are suitable for vegetarians and free of allergens such as yeast, wheat, gluten, milk, and lactose. They are also free of sugar.

CVS Pharmacy claims these caplets may help support healthy skin, collagen production, and tissue maintenance.

CVS states it requires third-party testing for all supplements.

The company recommends taking one caplet a day on an empty stomach. Each pill contains 1,000 mg of L-lysine.

CVS Pharmacy L-Lysin Caplets cost $11.29.

Best zinc supplement: Thorne Zinc Picolinate

  • Price: $17–$35
  • Pros: certain bottles hold sports certifications, comes in a choice of volumes
  • Cons: delivers over the recommended daily allowance of zinc, larger bottles are expensive

These zinc capsules are gluten, dairy, and soy-free.

Thorne claims that these supplements may support immune and reproductive health. Each capsule contains 30 mg of zinc.

The company recommends taking one capsule per day.

It is important to note that 30 mg of zinc is more than double the daily recommended value, which the National Institutes of Health states is 8–11 mg for adults.

A person can choose between bottles containing 60 or 180 capsules. They can also choose a bottle that holds National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification for sport, meaning the product has been tested and found to be free of banned substances.

Thorne Zinc Picolinate 30 mg costs $17–35.

The use of certain essential oils can reduce viral spread among HSV-1 cells.

Oils that may help include:

  • garden thyme
  • a flowering plant called Zataria multiflora
  • Eucalyptus caesia
  • rosemary
  • wormwood
  • hinoki cypress
  • the medicinal plant Tripterygium hypoglaucum
  • compounds in the oil of cloves and the essential oil of cinnamon and basil

A person can use oils in a diffuser, diluted in a carrier oil, added to a bath, or massaged on the skin.

People should not consume essential oils, as some are toxic and can cause harm.

When using essential oils for aromatherapy, it is also important to consider anyone else in the area. Some essential oils are harmful to pets and pregnant or nursing people.

Using a carrier oil is important, as the essential oil may cause adverse effects if a person applies it directly to the skin. Carrier oils include almond oil and olive oil.

Researchers are conducting clinical trials to test for other potentially effective home remedies, including sesame oil, organic coconut oil, and jojoba oil.

There is not yet enough evidence to prove that a specific oil can help a person manage herpes symptoms.

People can buy essential and carrier oils online or in stores. The brand Pura D’Or sells a range of carrier oils online.

Best oils: Pura D’Or Essential Oil Set

  • Price: $24.99
  • Pros: includes a wide range of oils, USDA organic certified
  • Cons: may contain oils that have not been studied for effectiveness in herpes

This set contains 10 essential oils, including:

  • lemon
  • lavender
  • frankincense
  • eucalyptus
  • cedarwood
  • peppermint
  • lemongrass
  • rosemary
  • tea tree
  • sweet orange

Pura D’Or writes that a person can use these oils topically, but they must dilute the oils with a carrier oil first.

This pack may be best for people who want to explore a range of essential oils. However, this pack may contain oils that have not been studied for their effectiveness against a herpes skin rash.

A person should speak with a doctor before using essential oils for this purpose.

The company claims these oils are certified USDA organic.

This set of 10 carrier oils costs $24.99.

Some medications can lower the chance of spreading the herpes virus and reduce the severity and frequency of the symptoms.

The main drugs doctors will prescribe for this purpose are antiviral medications. These include acyclovir, famciclovir, valacyclovir, and penciclovir.

According to MedlinePlus, acyclovir can reduce first-time or repeated outbreaks that occur when individuals have genital herpes. It also reduces pain and speeds up the healing process in those who have chickenpox and shingles.

Some people may prefer taking valacyclovir and famciclovir, as they require less frequent dosing than acyclovir. However, these medications do not have approval for use in children.

A doctor can prescribe antiviral medications to take orally, intravenously, or in the form of a topical cream.

A doctor may also recommend oral over topical treatment in some cases. For example, a 2017 study notes that oral acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir are more effective than topical versions of the medications for treating herpes labialis.

Online companies that offer herpes medications include:

  • Price: dependent on medication
  • Pros: offers free shipping, medication can arrive in 3–5 days
  • Cons: does not offer consultations with a doctor

This telehealth service provides prescription herpes medication, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir.

To use this service, people must have a current prescription or contact a doctor online through Blink Health.

Blink Health offers home delivery for medication, or people can pick up medication at a local pharmacy. According to Blink Health, it works with over 35,000 pharmacies, including Walmart Pharmacy, Safeway, and Albertson.

Blink Health is suitable for people who cannot get to a pharmacy in person and would prefer their medication delivered to a location of their choice. Blink Health claims to find the lowest price for medication, which may help to save people money on their prescriptions.

The company has a 1.91 customer rating on Better Business Bureau (BBB) and a 2-star rating on Trustpilot, based on 90 and 45 reviews, respectively. Positive reviews mention quick deliveries and more stable pricing, whereas negative reviews raise concerns about billing and customer service.

Best for online consultations: Lemonaid

  • Price: $25 for consultation and prescription, cost of medication varies
  • Pros: convenient online appointments and medication delivery
  • Cons: does not accept insurance for consultations

This telehealth company provides prescription medications for herpes.

People must fill in an online health questionnaire and provide a photo ID. Depending on the state a person resides in, Lemonaid may require a video or telephone consultation with a healthcare professional.

The company offers preventive treatment with a prescription that lasts for 1 year or immediate treatment for current herpes flare-ups.

People can choose home delivery or pick up their medication at a local pharmacy.

However, Lemonaid does not offer genital herpes prescription medications for people using the service for the first time. In this case, users must go to a doctor or gynecologist for an initial diagnosis.

The majority of Lemonaid consultation fees cost a flat rate of $25. This fee does not cover the cost of medication.

The table below is an overview of the above products and services:

Type of treatment ProConRequires a prescriptionPrice
Curadcompressreusablerequires microwave to heatno$11.99
Mountain Valleyhoneynatural productunsuitable for vegansno$29.95
Nature’s Bountysupplementthird-party testedlimited evidence for effectivenessno$28
Pure Encapsulationssupplementvitamin D can support the immune systemexpensiveno$34.95
Garden of Lifesupplementmay support the immune systemdelivers above recommended daily allowance of vitamin Eno$28.99
Nordic Naturalssupplementsuitable for children and adultscontains added sugarno$14.95
Vaselinetopical jellysuitable for sensitive skinmixed online reviewsno$3.29–17.70
CVS Pharmacysupplementsuitable for smaller budgetslimited evidence for effectivenessno$11.29
Thorne Researchsupplementsome products are NSF Certified for Sportlarger bottles are expensiveno$17–35
Pura D’Oroilincludes wide range of oilsmay contain oils unsuitable for herpes skin rashno$24.99
Blink Healthtelehealth servicecan deliver medication in 3–5 daysdoes not offer doctor consultationsyesdependent on medication
Lemonaidtelehealth serviceconvenient online appointments and medication deliverydoes not accept insurance for consultationsyes$25 consultation fee

A person with herpes may wish to consider the following factors when looking for a home remedy:

  • Safety: There is often limited scientific evidence of the effectiveness of many home remedies for herpes. A person should speak with a doctor before trying a home remedy to discuss the safety of their chosen treatment. If they develop adverse reactions to a home remedy, they should stop using it immediately and seek medical advice.
  • Herpes severity: If a person has a severe herpes infection or recurrent herpes flare-ups, they should consider speaking with a doctor for medication. While there is currently no cure for herpes, doctor-prescribed medication may be more effective than home remedies with limited evidence of effectiveness.
  • Ingredients: Not all home remedies for herpes will be FDA regulated or approved. A person should always read the ingredients in their chosen herpes treatment and avoid products that do not clearly state the ingredients.
  • Skin reactions: Some oils and other topical products can cause skin irritation. People with sensitive skin should check the ingredients before using these products and avoid products that include ingredients they are sensitive to. A person should stop using products that they develop a reaction to.
  • Cost: Some products can be expensive. A person should consider how often they will need to use their herpes remedy and consider a product that will be effective and fit their budget.

Most cases of herpes will produce no symptoms. However, if there are any symptoms, a person should avoid engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

A condom or another barrier method may offer some protection, but it may not entirely stop the transmission.

It is best to have an open discussion about herpes with a new sexual partner and consider taking a herpes test. If one person receives a diagnosis of herpes, they should inform all their recent sexual partners, who may also need a test and treatment.

Learn more about the best at-home herpes tests here.

A person should see a doctor for testing if they have had sex with someone with herpes or if they have any symptoms.

If a person with herpes is pregnant, they should consult a medical professional. Although rare, the herpes virus may pass to the fetus before, during, or immediately after delivery. This could cause neonatal herpes, which can be dangerous.

Here are some of the top questions about herpes treatments.

How do you get rid of herpes right away?

There is no cure for herpes. It will take time to reduce herpes symptoms. However, a person can speak with a doctor to get antiviral medication to help reduce the severity of a person’s symptoms within a few days. A person should try to begin treatment within 24 hours of symptoms beginning.

Can herpes be cured without treatment?

No. There is no cure for herpes, and treatment does not eliminate the virus from the body. Treatment can help reduce symptoms but cannot eliminate the risk of spreading herpes to other people.

What triggers herpes outbreaks?

According to a 2018 article, the initial outbreak of genital herpes is usually the result of skin contact, normally during sexual activity, including oral sex. Further outbreaks can be caused by having multiple sexual partners, stress, sunlight, colds, menstruation, and wearing tight clothes.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) writes that cold sores can be triggered by stress, fatigue, colds, flu, strong sunlight, and menstruation.

What happens if herpes goes untreated?

The first outbreak of genital herpes can be the most severe and can cause complications such as vaginal yeast infections, urinating problems, and meningitis.

Treatment may not be necessary for subsequent outbreaks, but anyone experiencing very regular or severe outbreaks should speak with a doctor about preventive treatment.

HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause genital and oral herpes infections. There is currently no cure for herpes, and the infection will remain in a person’s system for life.

However, some medications can lower the frequency and severity of symptoms. Some home remedies, including compresses, vitamins, and certain oils, may work. Making dietary changes can also help.