Essential oils are reputed to have a variety of different benefits and uses, including the treatment of cold sores. So, what does research have to say about it? While limited, studies do indicate that using certain essential oils for cold sores may be effective in the treatment of herpes simplex, the virus that causes cold sores. In this article, we will cover some of the most commonly recommended oils for cold sores as well as the correct methods of use. Additionally, it’s important to always make sure you are using high-quality products as essential oils are not regulated. Keep reading to find out the best essential oils for cold sores.
Using Essential Oils for Cold Sores
Cold sores—sometimes referred to as fever blisters—are infections caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Once you have HSV, factors such as weak immunity, hormones, or exposure to changing weather patterns can bring on an outbreak. The blisters, which are open sores, generally form around the mouth. There is no cure for HSV, though doctors can prescribe various treatments. These are usually antiviral and over-the-counter pain relief medications.
Research indicates that using essential oils for cold sores can work in two different ways:
- Direct virucidal activity
- Interacting with HSV to inhibit cell adsorption
Though preliminary research is promising, more human trials are necessary for essential oils to be labelled as concrete treatment.
10 Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores: Fact or Fiction
Tea tree oil contains constituents with antiseptic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil may be effective in reducing symptoms of cold sores, as in in-vitro studies it displays a high level of antiviral activity against HSV.
If you wish to use tea tree to treat your cold sores, remember that essential oils should never be put directly onto the skin. Instead, use a carrier oil to dilute the oil first, using 6-10 drops for every ounce of carrier oil.
Using peppermint oil for cold sores is not a new method of treatment. In fact, peppermint oil is one of the more thoroughly researched oils in terms of HSV. Studies indicate that peppermint oil acts as a virucidal agent against herpes simplex, and may potentially be an effective topical treatment. Peppermint also has some analgesic effects, meaning it can also offer some pain relief.This makes it one of our favorites on this list of the best essential oils for cold sores. To use peppermint oil for cold sores, dilute it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, then apply directly to the sore with a sterile cotton bud.
For decades, the use of oregano oil for cold sores and skin ailments has been highly recommended. Oregano contains constituents with antibacterial properties, and research indicates it may be effective in terms of wound healing. This is of note, as more and more bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant. Though there is a lack of evidence on the use of oregano oil for cold sores, many people claim it can prove beneficial. As always, dilute oregano oil with a mild carrier oil before applying it to the skin.
Ginger oil is a warming oil and can be effective at reducing pain resulting from HSV. Additionally, it was part of a study looking at the best essential oils for cold sores. Results indicate that ginger may be a potential antiviral agent against HSV, though more research is necessary. Use a mild carrier oil such as jojoba or sweet almond, and start with 5-6 drops of ginger oil per ounce. Apply to a test area of the skin first to make sure no irritation occurs. After 24 hours, if there is no sign of a reaction, use a cotton bud to gently apply the mixture to the affected area.
The effect of essential oils on cold sores is mainly anecdotal. However, one study involving thyme oil indicates strong antiviral activity against HSV. Like other essential oils, only a limited amount of testing has been conducted. If you are suffering from cold sores it is best to consult with a medical professional, and use thyme oil as an adjunct treatment under their advice.
Eucalyptus essential oil is another oil with some research to back it up. Studies indicate that it shows significant antiviral effects against HSV, meaning it can potentially reduce the duration and effects of cold sores. This makes it one of the best essential oils for cold sores. Additionally, its cooling, soothing effect may also help with pain relief. Like the other oils on this list, always dilute eucalyptus oil with a carrier oil first before applying it to the skin.
7. Lemon Balm Oil
In vitro testing on lemon balm oil shows promising results in regards to inhibiting virus activity. However, these results don’t necessarily indicate that lemon balm oil will be effective in human patients, though they do suggest it may have a future role in treatments. Use diluted lemon balm oil up to four times a day on the affected area.
8. Vanilla Oil
Vanilla oil (or even vanilla extract) is commonly recommended to treat cold sores, but there is really no basis for it. While the extract contains some alcohol, meaning it can potentially dry out the cold sore, it won’t do anything to kill the virus. If you like the smell, add vanilla oil to your essential oil blend for cold sores for a little extra fragrance, though we do not consider this oil as one of the best essential oils for cold sores.
Lavender essential oil is many people’s go-to for all kinds of different skin ailments. It is thought to be able to soothe irritated skin, and help heal minor wounds. Cold sores are often painful, and lavender oil may be able to provide some relief, as well as helping to reduce inflammation. If you are suffering from an HSV outbreak, it is best to see a medical professional for antiviral treatment. However, using lavender oil for cold sores may prove to be an effective adjunct therapy, at least in terms of reducing symptoms such as pain and itching.
Chamomile essential oil is a natural extract, coming from the chamomile plant. It is widely used in traditional medicine to soothe the skin, and research indicates it may be effective against drug-resistant strains of HSV. To use chamomile oil to help reduce symptoms of cold sores, dilute the oil and gently dab onto sores.
Pure essential oils have very high concentration levels, which makes them very potent. This means they are much too strong to directly apply to the skin. If essential oils are not diluted it can lead to stinging, burning, and irritation. Always make sure you are diluting the oil first, using 6-10 drops of oil for every ounce of carrier oil. You should never ingest essential oils, so be careful when using them close to your mouth.
Cold sores can be painful, annoying, and unnerving. Research on what essential oils are good for cold sores and how to treat them is limited. However, it is possible certain oils may help or at least be able to reduce discomfort. It is always best to consult with a medical professional, especially if you are suffering from continuous outbreaks. Always discontinue use if there are any signs of irritation or discomfort, and make sure to properly dilute oils before applying to the skin. You can also try creating an essential oil blend for cold sores, using a mix of the oils listed. Just be sure to follow proper dilution guidelines, as outlined by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy.