- Cold sores are a very common viral infection, caused by the HSV-1 virus.
- Essential oils are known for their antiviral properties.
- Research suggests essential oils may stop an outbreak of cold sores.
- Best essential oils for cold sores include tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and thyme oil.
- Prescription medication with acyclovir, valacyclovir, or denavir offer quick relief for most cold sore outbreaks.
What Are Cold Sores?
Cold sores are itchy, painful blisters that usually appear on or around your lips. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 67 percent of people globally carry that virus.
Once you get infected with HSV-1, the virus stays in your body. From time to time, you may experience an outbreak of blisters and other symptoms, such as fever or sore throat. Cold sores are highly infectious, so you should be careful not to transmit them to others.
Do Essential Oils Work for Cold Sores?
Essential oils are one of the most popular home remedies for cold sores. Many people believe they have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Scientific research is underway to verify whether this is true, and the results have been promising.
In a study of several essential oil types, including eucalyptus, rosemary, and Zataria multiflora Boiss (a thyme-like plant common in some parts of Asia), researchers found that at higher concentrations, these substances can halt the spread of HSV-1. However, more research is needed to assess the effectiveness of essential oils for cold sores.
How To Use Essential Oils for Cold Sores?
If you want to try essential oils to treat cold sores, remember that they are not intended for ingestion. These are concentrated extracts, so just a few drops mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut, will be enough. Massage the mixture into the affected area.
You may also dilute essential oils in water and use the liquid as mouthwash or to dab blister-covered skin. If you feel itching or stinging, stop the use of oils and rinse with water.
Be careful if you have allergies, and don’t use essential oils as treatment for small children. It’s best to consult a doctor and/or naturopath before trying essential oils for HSV-1 virus.
What Are the Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores?
There are dozens of essential oils available, each with its own healing qualities. Here are some of the substances that have been tested on HSV-1.
Tea Tree Oil
This oil is a popular antiseptic, thanks to its chemical composition containing monoterpenes. Lab studies suggest it has the power to reduce viral activity of HSV-1 and inhibit its spread.
This essential oil was the subject of an in vitro study of herpes viruses. Peppermint oil showed high effectiveness in harnessing the virus causing cold sores. It was also active against a strain of HSV-1 resistant to standard treatment with acyclovir.
This essential oil was studied alongside tea tree oil and showed antiviral action against herpes simplex virus type 1. Another study analyzing several essential oils, including thyme, ginger, and sandalwood, revealed they were effective for the resistant strain of HSV-1.
A study to verify if certain essential oils, including chamomile and anise, could fight the resistant strains of HSV-1 delivered optimistic results. Experts concluded these oils might be useful in the treatment of cold sores.
Do Essential Oils Work as Well as Prescription Medications for Cold Sores?
Essential oils promise a natural solution to an outbreak of cold sores, and you may try them to see if they bring any relief. If you carry a resistant strain of HSV-1, oils may prove helpful. You should, however, speak with your healthcare provider before using them. If you notice discomfort, stop using the oils immediately and contact your doctor.
When you have a cold sore, however, you want to treat it as soon as possible. While essential oils can help, they are not as strong and often take longer to work than prescription drugs. With a prescription antiviral, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or denavir, you should get better within a few days.
These treatments have been available for decades and have proven to be safe and effective for most people.
Getting Effective Treatment for Cold Sores
The key to getting relief for cold sores is to act fast. The sooner you start taking your medication, the shorter your recovery period will be. Always take the medicines as prescribed and do not shorten the treatment period.
When you have visible blisters which have not dried out, avoid kissing other people, and maintain extra hygiene to lower the risk of transmission. With small, regular doses of medication, you can prevent or reduce the number of outbreaks and lower the risk of infecting others. Talk to your doctor about available options.
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Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.