10 Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Using essential oils for cold sores is a popular remedy around the world, because these painful and unsightly sores in or around the mouth and lips are extremely common. Caused by the herpes simplex virus, cold sores occur when the virus enters the body near a break in the skin, typically on the lips or inside the mouth. The first notable symptom of a cold sore is pain or inflammation, and may even be accompanied by a fever (another name for cold sores is fever blisters). A sore throat may also be indicative of the virus acting on your body. When the blister eventually forms, it may be raised and red with inflammation, and will often break open and release a clear fluid. The blister then scabs over and begins to heal, usually disappearing completely within two weeks.

Herpes simplex is a very common virus that is highly contagious, and can be spread to others through the exchange of saliva or other bodily fluids. In other words, cold sores can be caused by everything from kissing someone to sharing utensils and razors. If you touch these cold sores or the fluid they secrete, and then touch another person or part of the body, such as the genitals, these cold sores can appear there too, although this is not as common as the oral form of herpes. Fortunately, using essential oils for cold sores allows the anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic and antioxidant powers of these oils to quickly treat these blisters and prevent them from flaring up again in the future. [1]

10 Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores

The most effective essential oils for cold sores include tea tree, geranium, lemon, bergamot, oregano, clove, ginger, turmeric, sandalwood, hyssop and myrrh oils.

A closeup of lips with cold sores.

Cold sores are an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Turmeric Oil

The high levels of curcumin found in turmeric oil make it a potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory remedy. Furthermore, the antioxidants in this oil can speed healing and help prevent these infections from taking hold again in the future. [2]

How to Use – Many people choose to mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 2-3 drops of turmeric oil, and then topically apply this to the site of the cold sore. Allow the mixture to soak in completely, and you’ll be impressed by how rapidly the symptoms disappear!

Ginger Oil

Studies have found that ginger oil, with its active ingredient gingerol, can directly inhibit the spread of the herpes simplex virus and prevent the appearance of cold sores. This is particularly effective if you use this oil as soon as the pain or discomfort of the cold sore appears. [3]

How to Use – You should mix 3-5 drops of ginger oil with a teaspoon of honey or olive oil, and then apply it directly to the site of the cold sore. Allow the mixture to absorb completely before wiping it off.

Clove Oil

Boasting powerful antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, clove oil is an ideal essential oil for reducing the swelling and redness of cold sores, fighting the underlying infection, and speeding the healing process to prevent scars or permanent marks. [4]

How to Use – Due to the potent nature of clove oil, be careful not to use this on cold sores inside the mouth, and always dilute the oil in coconut oil or honey. Then, topically apply the mixture to the external cold sore and enjoy the relief!

Hyssop Oil

There are proven antiviral and antiseptic properties of hyssop oil extract that can attack the herpes virus and speed its elimination from the body. This can also help prevent future cold sores, as once the virus is in your body, it can lay dormant until the next opportunity for a flare-up. [5]

How to Use – You can directly apply a few drops of hyssop oil to a cold sore, or the spot where you think a cold sore is going to appear. This will cause the sore to dry up and begin to heal much faster. Re-apply as needed, no more than twice a day.

Tea Tree Oil

As one of the most powerful antiviral and antiseptic oils ever discovered, tea tree oil is often the base for natural cold sore treatments. This oil is incredibly potent and concentrated, however, and should be used with caution, particularly around the mouth. It should never be ingested, so this is only appropriate for external cold sores. [6]

How to Use – Since this oil is so potent, you need to dilute 4-5 drops within 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Then, use a cotton swab to dab the oil directly onto the cold sore and hold it there for 5-10 minutes. Do this 2-3 times per day until the sore disappears!

Geranium Oil

Geranium oil isn’t the most common essential oil, but it possesses astringent and antiviral properties that can help it dry up cold sores extremely quickly, and treat the underlying infection as well. [7]

How to Use – This oil is highly concentrated, so only 1-2 drops on a cotton ball are required. Press the cotton ball to the site of the cold sore for 5-10 minutes and then remove. Repeat this 2-3 times per day, and the sore should be gone within a week.

Bergamot Oil

Antibiotic and antiviral components within this essential oil make it a formidable remedy for cold sores, as it can minimize the spread of the herpes simplex virus and speed the healing process at the same time! [8]

How to Use – Use a furocoumarin-free bergamot essential oil in very small amounts (3-4 drops) and mix that with coconut oil or almond oil (1 teaspoon). Directly apply this oil mixture to the site of the cold sore with a cotton ball for best results.

Lemon Oil

The astringent and antiseptic nature of lemon oil makes it perfect for clearing up cold sores. It first dries the cold sore and prevents it from spreading, while also soothing the painful and itchy quality. The antioxidants in lemon oil also help to boost the immune system against further infections. [9]

How to Use – You can use lemon oil directly on the skin, or mix it with a 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil. Topically apply to the site of the cold sore 2-3 times per day until it disappears.

Myrrh Oil

This ancient, powerful oil has antiviral and antiseptic qualities that make it highly effective for treating the underlying infection causing the cold sore. While this oil isn’t the most common, it can speed the healing process significantly. [10]

How to Use – One popular remedy is to mix equal parts myrrh oil and tea tree oil (only a few drops each) in a carrier oil, such as almond oil, and then dabbing it with a cotton swab on the cold sore. Repeat this 2-3 times per day until the cold sore dries up and disappears.

Oregano Oil

As one of the most popular essential oils for cold sores, oregano oil can cut the healing time down to a few days, or even less, due to its antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, including carvacrol and thymol. [11]

How to Use – You must dilute oregano oil in a carrier oil, typically jojoba oil or even honey, and then topically apply it to the site of the cold sore. Be sure not to touch the sore with your fingers, as this is how infection can spread!

Word of Warning

While the use of essential oils for cold sores is an effective strategy, the herpes simplex virus should be taken seriously, particularly if the symptoms of the virus are spreading to other parts of the body. Furthermore, essential oils are extremely potent and concentrated, and can therefore cause allergic reactions and skin irritation, particularly on mucus membranes, which is where cold sores typically form. Use essential oils for cold sores with caution, and if negative reactions occur, discontinue use immediately. If the symptoms of the cold sore are not eliminated within two weeks, you can seek medical attention for a more formal pharmaceutical treatment.

DMCA.com Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

Rate this article
Average rating 3.9 out of 5.0 based on 65 user(s).