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 will discuss several home remedies that may help a person manage the symptoms of herpes. It will also cover prevention and when to see a doctor.

A woman buys honey, which is one of the home remedies for herpes.Share on Pinterest
Home remedies, including compresses, honey, and garlic, may help manage the symptoms of herpes.

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.

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

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

In the study, it took 8 days for the sores to heal with antiviral cream and 9 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 not yet clear whether the potential healing properties are unique to kanuka honey or whether they would be the same with any type of honey.

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.

There are different ways of using garlic, including eating fresh garlic and taking garlic capsules.

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

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

The antioxidative properties of vitamin E may lower the stress that infections such as herpes puts on the cells of the immune system, thereby lowering the chance of infection.

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

A person can increase their vitamin intake by making dietary changes or taking supplements. Exposing the skin to sunlight can also increase vitamin D levels.

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

A pharmacy will sell other gels that are specifically for herpes infections.

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

Other dietary recommendations include:

  • increasing the 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.

Older studies suggest that the following supplements may be effective at controlling herpes symptoms:

According to the International Council on Amino Acid Science, taking lysine supplements may help prevent outbreaks of cold sores. However, the evidence for this came from older sources.

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

Always check with a doctor before taking supplements. They may interact with other medications or have negative effects.

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

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

Besides oral consumption, a person can also use oils in a diffuser, in bathwater, or by mixing them with a diluting oil and applying them to the affected area.

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

Researchers are carrying out 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.

There are medications available that can lower the chance of spreading the herpes virus and reduce the severity and frequency of the symptoms.

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

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

Most cases of herpes will produce no symptoms. However, if there are any symptoms, it is best to avoid engaging in oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

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

It is best to have an open discussion with a new sexual partner about herpes and consider undergoing a 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.

A person should see a doctor for testing if they have engaged in sexual activity with a person who has herpes or if they themselves have any symptoms.

If a woman 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.

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