Cold sores are little blisters that are filled with fluid and are caused by a particular strain of the herpes simplex virus. They crop up on or around the lips, and they typically run their course within 7-10 days (starting with tingling or itching before the sores appear). Cold sores may clear up more quickly with antiviral creams, but there are also some highly effective home remedies that are well worth trying. Here are eleven of the best.
Licorice is a source of Glycyrrhizic acid, which inhibits the actions of cold sore virus cells. Even just chewing some licorice can do the trick here, though note that a lot of candy is merely flavoured with a licorice taste and won’t actually contain the active ingredient. Licorice tea is also a useful alternative.
2. Sleeping upright
While you’re suffering from a cold sore breakout, try to adjust your sleeping position so that your head is elevated. Even just a few extra pillows should help, assisting gravity in naturally draining the blisters more quickly. In contrast, sleeping on your back can encourage excess fluid to settle in the lip area while you rest, leaving you with a puffier, more painful face.
Ice definitely helps to reduce the pain associated with cold sores, and some people also swear by ice when it comes to shortening the lifespan of the blisters. However, this latter remedy is only likely to work if you ice the area as soon as you feel the cold sores starting to develop. You can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables, but be sure to place fabric between your skin and the frozen object (in order to prevent burns).
Once you’ve caught the cold sore strain of the herpes virus, you’ll have multiple outbreaks of cold sores in your life. Studies on potential triggers for these flare-ups show a relationship between stress and cold sores, so it’s smart to address underlying causes of stress in your life. Find ways to help yourself relax after a difficult day, and set aside particular periods devoted only to things you love doing. There is also a connection between cold sores and illness, so taking good care of yourself can be doubly effective.
A powerful amino acid, lysine is marketed in supplement form and also available in a cream. There are plenty of studies supporting the claim that lysine supplements help to guard against future cold sore breakouts, so you might want to consider a daily dose. It can also reduce the severity of any flare-ups that do occur.
6. Lemon balm
Lemon balm is a close relative of mint, and it seems to shorten the healing time of cold sores. There is also some evidence that it reduces future flare-ups. Look for a lemon lip balm containing 1% (or greater) of lemon balm—you can find this type of treatment in many drug stores.
This is one of the easiest remedies to try. Just dip a cotton ball into a cup of milk, and press the ball against your cold sores. You should notice a reduction in pain levels almost immediately. Further, as with ice treatments, you may be able to significantly shorten your healing time if you treat the area with milk as soon as you feel cold sores starting to develop.
Propolis is synthetic beeswax, and it’s a very popular alternative treatment for cold sores. If you apply a 3% propolis cream as soon as you get the telltale tingle or burning that you know signals the onset of cold sores, you should be able to cut down the length of the breakout period.
9. Vanilla extract
Vanilla extract is a famous traditional remedy that allegedly works at least in part because of the alcohol content. It appears that vanilla extra inhibit virus replication and helps to get rid of cold sores (or at least causes them to disappear more quickly). Simply dab a little of the liquid onto the cold sores 3-4 times a day until your cold sores disappear.
10. Change your toothbrush
While getting a new toothbrush won’t make your current cold sores go away, it can help to reduce your chances of having another breakout in the near future. It is thought that the bristles can harbor the virus, so consider keeping a handy supply of toothbrushes in the bathroom cupboard.
11. Aloe vera
Finally, you might already have considered applying aloe vera to your cold sores in order to soothe the burning sensation. However, it turns out that aloe vera doesn’t just soothe—there is also promising preliminary research suggesting that it heals other strains of the herpes virus, so it may help to heal cold sores as well.