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What are the Best Natural Remedies for Cold Sores?

Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Updated May 17, 2024
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Natural remedies for cold sores include lysine, tea tree oil, slippery elm and lemon balm. Applying Vaseline® to a cold sore can also help prevent a fever blister from becoming too irritated or from cracking as a sore begins to dry. Certain preventive actions can help reduce the number of cold sore outbreaks, including wearing sunscreen, not sharing personal items, avoiding intimate contact during an outbreak and reducing stress. Most natural remedies for cold sores are also considered safe and effective.

Cold sores will generally heal on their own if left alone, but there are herbs and other remedies which can reduce the discomfort they cause. While many natural remedies for cold sores have not been clinically proven to be effective, individuals who are prone to herpes sores have used natural remedies and provide anecdotal evidence of their success. One such remedy widely believed to be effective is lysine. Also known as L-lysine, studies of this essential amino acid have found that it may prevent outbreaks and some who suffer from cold sores claim that lysine also helps limit the length and severity of a cold sore outbreak.

Herpes cannot be cured, but natural remedies for cold sores may be useful in suppressing future outbreaks and can significantly minimize healing times. One such frequently used remedy is lemon balm. Clinical studies have shown that ointments containing this herb help heal cold sores. The herb can also be used in raw form by crushing lemon balm leaves in boiling water, allowing the mixture to cool and then using a cotton swab to apply it directly to a sore several times each day.

Slippery elm is also used by many who prefer using natural remedies for cold sores. Slippery elm is high in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation. It also coats cold sores with a substance called mucilage, which offers soothing relief from pain and itching. This herb is not recommended for use by pregnant women, however, as ingredients in parts of the slippery elm tree have been known to cause miscarriages.

Tea tree oil is believed to be among the best natural remedies for cold sores. The oil is most effective when the physical itching or tingling symptoms that often precede a cold sore are first felt. By applying tea tree oil to the area, a cold sore often will not surface. Natural remedies for cold sores, such as tea tree oil, are found in most health food stores.

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