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Best Natural & Soothing Remedies for Cold Sores

8 min read

By Katherine George

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN

Cold sores are extremely unpleasant, and can even be a little embarrassing. Anyone who has experienced one can usually tell when one is coming on. A cold sore will typically occur at the corner of your mouth and the edge of the lip, and it’ll look like a tiny cluster of white blisters. In the beginning it feels like a little bit of tingling, then as it develops it will begin to burn.

Cold sores are caused and spread by saliva infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. These contagious fever blisters, which can linger on or around your mouth for up to a few weeks, are activated by stress, low immunity, or sun exposure. Luckily, there are a few things to try to either prevent a cold sore from happening, alleviate the pain, or even speed up the healing process. Here’s a long list of 18 natural and soothing remedies for cold sores…

Lip Balm with SPF

Too much sun exposure is often the trigger for a nasty cold sore. Many people have gotten better with sunscreen application, but one area that we often forget about is our lips! It’s just as important to protect your lips from harmful UV rays, they are still considered exposed skin. Sun-induced cold sores can be prevented by applying a lip balm with sunscreen. Look for SPF 15 or higher.


If you feel a cold sore brewing below the surface of your skin, you may be able to put a stop to it before it pokes out its ugly head.  Some gentle stress relieving exercise, like yoga, may help soothe anxiety triggers and hopefully the formation of fever blisters.

Cold Milk

Only a little dab will do the trick if you soak a cotton ball or the end of a q-tip in cold milk and rub it gently over your cold sore. Do the same if you feel the blister forming to prevent the blister from actually forming on the surface of your lip.

Petroleum Jelly

Smother that unsightly cold sore with petroleum jelly in order to soothe pain and speed the healing of cold sores.  The cooling jelly will also safeguard your blister from any secondary bacterial infections.

Licorice Powder

Licorice is definitely delicious, but it’s also got some secret health benefits! Reader’s Digest says it contains anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Of course we’re talking about the real licorice powder, not the red snack candy.

Licorice root is high in glycyrrhizic acid, an ingredient that has the power to prevent the cold sore virus from forming.  Mix a bit of licorice powder with vegetable oil to make a paste and apply a dab directly to your cold sore or brew a licorice tea.

Hand Sanitizer

A prime way to spread cold sores is via mouth to hand contact—for instance, you may accidentally touch your blister and shake hands with another person.

That’s why using hand sanitizer frequently may prevent the further spread of cold sores, either to someone else or to your eye, nose, or other parts of the body.


Even though a cold compress like ice won’t heal the cold sore or treat it, it will soothe symptoms like inflammation and redness. The cooling sensation may also provide some pain relief. writes that the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises using a cold towel or compress and holding it against the cold sore for about 5 to 10 minutes instead of putting ice directly on the affected area.

Swap Your Toothbrush

Just like you do following a cold or nasty flu bug, it’s always wise to swap out that old toothbrush for a new toothbrush after your cold sore has cleared up.

If you suffer from chronic cold sores, your toothbrush may be the place where the virus lives and continues to spread herpes simplex virus 1.

Aloe Vera

When we think of aloe vera we probably think of sunburns, but it’s got plenty of other uses, especially when it comes to skin conditions! Aloe vera can also be used to treat a cold sore.

This plant has so many great healing powers because it’s loaded with antioxidant vitamins, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids and hormones. There are plenty of aloe vera gels available which can be used to apply directly on the cold sore throughout the day to ease the pain and help encourage the healing process along.

Avoid Triggers

The best way to avoid triggers is to know what these triggers are. People who suffer from cold sores often have probably learned or realized that a herpes simplex virus outbreak is typically brought on by triggers like “emotional stress, exhaustion, a weakened immune system (sometimes caused by medications), infections, hormonal changes, and exposure to ultraviolet radiation (i.e. too much sun exposure),” writes Reader’s Digest.

The best way to prevent and treat a cold sore is by tackling any of the above triggers. Sometimes all that requires is a slight and easy lifestyle change like healthier eating habits, regular exercise, eliminate stress, and get more sleep.

Lemon Balm

According to Healthline, lemon balm (closely related to the mint family) has been known to reduce the redness and swelling of a blister, or in this case a cold sore. Unfortunately, it’s effects are limited as it does not improve pain and scabbing.

The best way to apply lemon balm is to purchase a lip balm that contains at least 1-percent of lemon balm or brew a lemon balm tea and create a compress. Both remedies will provide similar results.


Lysine is an amino acid that works great as a natural remedy to cold sores because it helps prevent the virus from growing and spreading. Reader’s Digest says it’s the best healer out of all the remedies available! This is based on research that shows “it thwarts the replication of the virus by interfering with the absorption of arginine, an amino acid that is suspected of being necessary for the herpes virus to replicate,” writes the source. Therefore lysine not only heals a cold sore, but it can prevent one from happening in the first place.

It can be taken in capsule form or applied directly to the skin. If you’re taking it in supplement form, Dr. Axe recommends taking 1,000-milligrams three times a day every day. For the best results, also eat foods that are high in lysine, like legumes, fish, turkey, chicken and vegetables.

Corn Starch Paste

Here’s another remedy that is super easy to whip up because it’s made of something that’s probably already sitting in your pantry somewhere — cornstarch. Reader’s Digest promises that a cornstarch paste made by mixing a little bit of cornstarch and water will help heal a cold sore. “Cornstarch neutralizes the pH of the sore (cold sores thrive in acidic environments), which will soothe pain and inflammation,” writes Reader’s Digest. All you have to do is whip it up and apply it to the affected area a few times a day.

Eat More Vitamin C, Zinc and Probiotic Foods

Cold sores often occur on people who have a weakened immune system, so one of the best ways to fight them off is by creating a strong immune system. One of the easiest ways to do this is through diet. Be sure to eat immune-boosting foods that contain vitamin C, zinc or probiotics.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to stock up on oranges because they aren’t the only foods that are high in vitamin C. Reader’s Digest points out that foods like berries, kiwis, citrus fruits, and melons are all a great source of vitamin C, and foods like shellfish, poultry, beans, and whole grains are loaded with zinc. In addition to these, the best probiotic food sources are yogurt, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, sauerkraut and natto, says Dr. Axe. As usual, vegetables are also an important part of a healthy diet which means they’ll help strengthen your immune system.

Stop Touching It

Whenever we have a little imperfection that is bothering us, especially when it’s on our face, we can’t help but touch it — constantly! You’re not alone in this bad habit. A lot of people do this. But like with acne or scabs, touching it will only make it worse. Our hands carry a lot of bacteria and germs, so touching it will introduce new bacteria to the infection which will interfere with the healing process. On top of this, cold sores are highly contagious, so touching it and then touching a shared surface could cause the virus to be passed on to another area of the body (like the genitals or eyes) or to another person.

If you must touch your cold sore, do so with a face towel or cold compress and dispose of it immediately either in the laundry or garbage. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands immediately afterward.

Red Wine

Looking for another reason to drink wine? Look no further! Just kidding…sadly, this remedy doesn’t require us to drink the wine (although no one is stopping you from indulging in that as well), instead you’re going to dap it on the cold sore.

There’s been a lot of research on the health benefits of resveratrol in red wine, and apparently this antioxidant can help relieve the inflammation of a cold sore. To create this remedy, Reader’s Digest says to let a little bit of wine sit in a saucer until the liquid evaporates, then use the solidified dregs to apply directly on the sore, it will ease the pain.

Apply Vanilla Oil or Extract

Both Dr. Axe and Reader’s Digest list vanilla extract and oil as a useful remedy for fighting a cold sore. This kitchen staple not only helps flavour food, but can also work as an anti-inflammatory that will reduce swelling and alleviate pain. “Some people believe the alcohol in pure vanilla extract makes it difficult for a cold sore virus to thrive, which would lessen the severity for an outbreak,” says Reader’s Digest. Vanilla oil in particular will help to fight infection and speed up the healing process, says Dr. Axe, who also recommends using the more pricey vanilla Co2 total extract because of its high quality.

These sources recommend applying the oil to the affected area until it begins to tingle. The best way to do this is to soak a cotton ball in the vanilla oil (or extract) and then hold it in place for one or two minutes. Dr. Axe says to do this four times a day until the cold sore heals. An added bonus is that it smells great!

Drink Echinacea Tea

This one is easy because all you have to do is sit and drink some tea! According to Dr. Axe, echinacea tea is great for people who have a weak immune system.

This health-wise brew is typically used to cure a cold because it gives the immune system a much-needed boost, but it can also help fight viruses like herpes simplex. Some other great benefits of echinacea tea are that it reduces inflammation and can help alleviate pain.


Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

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