Best Home Remedies for Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex 1 – HSV1
Millions of people suffer from cold sores (also known as herpes simplex virus 1 – HSV1) every year. These often unsightly blemishes are not only a source of embarrassment for most people, but they can also be extremely painful.
Although there is no reason to feel embarrassed, most people tend to have negative associations with the herpes simplex type 1 virus. There are however certain home remedies that can help you to prevent or treat these blisters to minimize their impact on your daily life.
Natural Remedies for Cold Sores (Herpes Simplex Virus 1)
In the past, I wrote about the health qualities of honey and about the fact that you can use it as a natural remedy for shingles.
Raw honey is also effective against the HSV1 virus. In a study published in the Medical Science Monitor, topical application of honey was found to be safe and effective in the symptoms of lesions caused by the HSV1 virus.3 In this study, honey was shown to be more effective than acyclovir, a pharmaceutical cream normally used for herpes infections.
It is important to realize that some of the honey sold in supermarkets is processed and I already mentioned the fact that 75% of the honey sold in supermarkets is not real honey. If you want to use honey then you should select a product that contains all of the natural ingredients normally present in honey. Raw honey or Manuka honey are two types of honey best suited for healing purposes.
To use honey, apply a small amount of honey to the infected area three to four times a day. Use an ear bud or clean applicator to ensure you do not contaminate the honey while applying it.
Using honey, and not just for eating, is also one of the 70 habits featured in my e-book 70 Powerful Habits For A Great Health which will guide you how to take positive steps to improve your wellness and overall health.
Hydrogen Peroxide is a powerful antibacterial and antiviral compound that is extensively used in commercial settings, in our homes, and in medical practice to help prevent or kill viruses and bacteria. Most homes these days have products that contain hydrogen peroxide for cleaning purposes.
Although it is highly inadvisable to raid your cleaning closet for hydrogen peroxide, since most cleaners contain other substances that can harm your skin, you can get medicinal grade peroxide from your local pharmacist or drug store.
In a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, hydrogen peroxide was shown to be able to kill the HSV1 virus. 6
As a home remedy, you could add a drop of hydrogen peroxide to the affected area, but you should ensure you get your hydrogen peroxide from a drug store. Hydrogen peroxide is sold in different strengths so be sure to speak to the pharmacist about the strength you can use topically. If you are going to use hydrogen peroxide, then be aware that topical application can sting a little when applied.
I have already mentioned in my eBook The Herbal Remedies Guide, that you can use echinacea for various medical conditions. Echinacea can also offer you a way of treating your cold sore from the inside out and boosting your immune system thus offering you a way to help to prevent infections in the first place.
Echinacea has been used for centuries for its ability to boost immune function to help protect against possible infections.
In a study published in Plant Medica, researchers proved that extracts of Echinacea were effective for killing the HSV1 virus.7
Echinacea extracts (like this one) and supplements are available online and can be purchased at your local health store or pharmacy.
Most of us have heard of the power of vitamin C for boosting immune function, but not many individuals are aware that vitamin C can be taken internally as well as being applied for topical use.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and a study published in Medical Hypotheses, showed that vitamin C has definite antiviral properties.8
To take advantage of the curative, antioxidant, and antiviral properties of vitamin C as a topical application, you can make your own vitamin C paste. A few drops of water added to vitamin C powder (like this one) will produce a simple paste that you can apply to the affected area.
If you are going to use vitamin C, make sure you test a small area first. Vitamin C paste can be quite strong and may cause skin irritation. A variation on the paste can be made by adding honey instead of water, allowing you to benefit from the antiviral properties of both honey and vitamin C.
Honey and the products produced by the humble honeybee have been a favorite among traditional healers for centuries. Propolis is a product produced by bees that is used as glue in the hive. Propolis, a natural product from beehives, comprises a complex of chemicals, the most important group being flavonoids, which play a role in antiviral protection.
According to one study on the effect of propolis on the HSV1 virus that was published in the Journal of Phytomedicine, propolis prevents the replication of the virus, which means that propolis would stop the virus from developing and spreading.2
Raw honey often contains propolis and you can purchase propolis extracts (like this one), which you can apply topically to help treat the cold sore and to help prevent the cold sore from developing and spreading.
L-Lysine is an essential amino acid, and amino acids are the building blocks of biological processes in the body. Studies published in the Alternative Medicine Review found that the topical use of a cream containing L-Lysine was able to prevent or reduce the replication of the HSV1 virus.
In this small trial of 20 patients, the L-Lysine cream resolved 40% of the patients’ cold sores within 3 days, and the cream resolved 87% of the cold sores within 6 days.1
Foods high in L-Lysine include chicken, turkey and fish. Although not strictly a home remedy, ensuring your diet contains sufficient lysine or investing in a lysine cream (like this one) can help you to prevent or treat cold sores.
Essential Oils for Cold Sores
The topical application of essential oils has been a part of traditional healing for centuries. Many of the essential oils used today offer antimicrobial or antibacterial properties.
In a study published in the Journal of Phytomedicine, peppermint oil was found to prevent and protect against the HSV1 virus. This study showed that peppermint oil was even effective against drug resistant forms of HSV1.4 In another study published in the same Journal, Sandalwood oil was also shown to be effective against the HSV1 virus. 5
If you want to use essential oils to treat your cold sores, be sure to invest in high quality essential oils that offer the purest form of the oil. Mix a drop or two of the essential oil in a carrier oil (such jojoba orcoconut oil) and apply to the affected area. Once again, use an applicator or dropper to apply the oil to avoid contamination of your oils.
If you are interested to learn more about essential oils you can find useful information in my e-bookMagical Aromatherapy. This e-book will help you to discover the power of essential oils and the most effective ways to use them.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that organic and unrefined coconut oil might be effective for treating cold sores. Coconut oil is an effective agent for treating a wide variety of infections and other conditions and can be effective for treating cold sores (herpes simplex).
If you catch it early, applying coconut oil to the cold sore (with a q-tip and not finger-tip) may keep the cold sore from “popping” and getting all weepy and nasty. Coconut oil attacks the virus in the blister stage and immediately works to start shrinking the blister without it actually opening up and draining. Remember to consume a dosage of coconut oil during an active outbreak as well.
Because stress can cause the herpes virus to come out of dormancy, reducing the amount of stress in your life is one way to prevent cold sores. You can use these 7 meditation techniques to reduce stress, exercise, and avoid the causes of stress.
Ice may not reduce the duration of a breakout, but it can ease the discomfort and inflammation of cold sores. Apply a cold pack directly to the sores for temporary relief.
Other Alternative Treatments for Cold Sores
There are many additional natural and alternative treatments for cold sores:
Aloe Vera has been found to be effective against the HSV1 in a trial done on genital herpes in men.9
Rhubarb and Sage have also been used for cold sores. Licorice, vanilla, and witch hazel may also help with cold sores.
If you do suffer from regular cold sores, then make sure you boost your immune system with vitamin C and herbal extracts like Echinacea to help treat cold sores from the inside out as well (also read my article on how to boost your immune system naturally).
Cold Sore Precautions
There is some confusion about when and for how long cold sores are contagious and what precautions you should take during an outbreak. Here are a few guidelines you may want to follow to avoid spreading cold sores or making an existing infection worse:
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact (avoid kissing) when a cold sore is visible or when it’s healing as the virus can be spread in this way (a cold sore must be completely healed for it not to be contagious).
- Do not share drinking glasses, straws, utensils, toothbrushes, or lip-care products until your cold sore has completely healed.
- Wash your hands after you touch a cold sore. It is possible to spread the virus to other parts of your body if it remains on your fingertips. For example, rubbing your eyes after touching a cold sore can transfer viral particles to this area, resulting in serious problems.
- Don’t itch or pick at cold sore scabs! I know it’s hard to leave a cold sore alone, but if you don’t it will prolong healing, increase the risk of scarring, and potentially spread viral particles to other areas.