Cold sores are painful blisters that appear on the lips and surrounding facial area (including the nose, ouch!). They can be triggered by dehydration, stress, sunburn, fever, a cold or flu…but the main cause of them is the herpes simplex virus. They are very contagious to both young & old and can easily be passed from one person to another.
Did you know: This virus can cause blindness if it gets in your eyes. Keep fingers away from mouth and don’t touch anywhere around your eyes until you have thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water.
So ugly and nasty! As soon as they appear, we’re all scrambling and wanting to get rid of them as fast as possible. Help is here!
I’ve organized a handy list of several different remedies that I’ve tried for healing or preventing cold sores from forming and they have worked for me. I’ve also included a bunch that come highly recommended.
Quick Tip: Something very beneficial is to hold a cool, damp cloth against the outbreak right when it happens. This will help soothe things while also fighting it off.
Suggested List of Remedies
It’s most effective to apply a treatment as soon as you notice the “tingling” that happens right before a blister appears. Some of these may burn a bit or cause a sting, numb the spot with an ice cube first if that bothers you.
Try *one at a time*, do not apply everything at once. Dab with the chosen treatment several times a day. See what works for you and note it well so you’re prepared for a future outbreak. Many of these work at drying things out quickly so that they will crust over and pass as soon as possible.
- Aloe Vera Gel (is there anything this wonder plant can’t tackle?)
- Vitamin E Oil
- Nail Polish Remover
- Toothpaste: Dab some on and leave there as long as possible.
- Tea Tree
- Witch Hazel
- Lemon Balm E.O. (see recipes at the bottom of this page for a lip salve and a healing tea infusion)
- A used tea bag that has been cooled. This will help with pain relief too.
- Baking Soda
- Vanilla Extract: (the real stuff) I believe it’s the alcohol content that is especially beneficial.
- Corn Starch & Water Paste (apply as a plaster and let dry, remove after 10 minutes or so; do this a few times each day).
- Hydrogen Peroxide
Keep treating frequently throughout the day until it disappears completely. I know some people pick and poke and try to get the lesion to pop or drain, but that’s never worked well for me (only a bigger mess, maybe a cluster of eruptions and a possible scar to deal with).
- I find it also helps to keep the lips covered with chapstick or balm, slathering it on constantly as soon as I feel one forming. This will keep lips nourished. (see homemade recipe at bottom of page that is targeted just for cold sores).
- Once you’ve had them a few times, you know the signs when they’re about to appear again. To help stop an eruption, try applying ice over the sensitive area.
- If you’re dealing with one that is especially painful, try something like Orajel toothache analgesic. This will numb the area a bit and make things more tolerable.
- Please remember to use separate hand towels, bath towels, and wash cloths. You’re dealing with the herpes simplex virus and it’s very contagious. Also avoid sharing utensils, dishes, cups and kissing for awhile.
- After things have healed and lesion is gone, throw out your toothbrush…there’s likely a trace of the virus on the bristles and you may re-infect yourself by continuing to use it.
I found a recipe by James Wong in the book “Grow Your Own Drugs”. This is intended to attack the virus itself and nurture the blister into healing.
Lemon Lip Salve
Shelf life: up to one year
50g fresh lemon balm leaves
3 TBS wheatgerm oil
115 ml olive oil
1 TBS honey
1 TBS beeswax
5 drops tea tree
- Wash, strip & chop the herbs finely.
- Place one third of the chopped leaves into a pot, add the wheatgerm and olive oil.
- Stir over a low heat, crushing the pieces while you stir.
- Heat for 10 minutes or so.
- Once it starts bubbling, remove from heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes.
- Strain the batch through a muslin lined sieve, squeeze leaves to get all the liquid out then throw out the leaf bits.
- Repeat the above steps twice more (working with 1/3 of the leaf batch each instance), but always use the same oil mixture you just strained.
- Next you place all the strained batch in the pan on a gentle heat and add the honey and beeswax.
- Stir until everything’s nicely melted.
- Remove from heat and add the Tea Tree.
- Pour this salve into small sterilized jars and allow to set (solid). Will take about 10 minutes.
- To use: Generously apply to blister until it is gone. Use a clean finger with every dip into the salve pot.
Another effective home remedy using this herb:
- Toss 4 tsp of freshly chopped lemon balm into 1 cup of boiling water.
- Cover and steep for 15 minutes then allow to cool.
- Once it’s cool, dab this infusion to the sore throughout the a day (a cotton ball, q-tip or cotton pad will do the trick).
- Keep refrigerated.
Do you have any tried and true treatments that I missed? Please share in the discussion area below for others to review :).
Please Note: These are from my collection, none are intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. This information is provided for general knowledge purposes only.
I use a little bit of “Super Lysine Plus” cream as soon as the tingle starts. The active ingredients in this are Zinc Oxide and L-Lysine. I works 90% of the time. You can purchase it at a health food store or drug store.
This remedy caused scarring and a lack of feeling in the area used. The outline of my lip is gone in this area, and lipstick doesn’t like to stay on my lip there either. It helped in ridding me of my sore, but wasn’t worth the permanent loss of feeling and scarring.
I think I’ve tried everything for my cold sores, including Doctor prescribed medications! The worst thing for me was creams, I wanted to “dry” out the cold sore, not keep it moist, which made it worse. After trying, what I thought was everything, my Doctor suggested L-Lysine. It’s a capsule and it not only helps prevent cold sores, but aids in calcium absorption and retention. You can purchase it at any health or drug store. I take one a day and increase if I do get a cold sore. If my cold sore does break out (which is rare since taking the L-Lysine) I then use a clear water type liquid prescribed by my Doctor called Sab- Idoxuridine (it’s expensive but very little is used). I’ve used these two things now for about 10 years and my cold sores are very few and far between 🙂
Thanks for the tips guys! I’ve heard a lot of good things about L-Lysine, but have never tried it.
I have been bothered with cold sores all my life. There are 2 remedies I found that help.
1. There are L-Lysine pills available in the vitamin aisle. I take one twice a day when I begin to feel the beginning “tingle.”
2. Vitamin E tablets (not the ones in the oils…pure tablets) just take a pin, poke hole , smear on lip area where needed. place pin into pill to store until needed again.
Silly question…..Vitamin E….not in the oils but pure tablets……not sure what you mean. I am not sure which ones you mean…..I thought all vitamin e tablets were oil. Can you please explain further? 🙂
i think they are referring to the vitamin E that comes in a bottle with a brush. Don’t get that kind, just the capsules. this is my best guess hope it helps
Uncoated aspirin, dissolved in a bit of water to form a paste. Apply paste to tingling area/blister.
Aloe vera, direct from the plant (more effective than commercial gel products). Apply to tingling area/blister.
I use a product called Zilactin. It coats the cold sore like a mini waterproof Bandaid. I use it as soon as I feel the tingling feeling before the blister erupts and it will usually cut the time in half to completely heal.
Thanks for the tips I have used Vicks vapo rub and it works well also. As soon as you feel the tingle start putting it on and keep applying it will either keep it from blistering or will shorten the outbreak.
I’ve had very good luck with just an ice cube, particularly when I catch the cold sore at the first signs. I wrap an ice cube in a paper towel, leaving part of the cube exposed, then apply the ice to the cold sore for as long as I can stand it. Repeat a couple of times until the ice cube melts. Repeat entire process if necessary, but the most I’ve had to do it is twice. Sometimes even if the cold sore has become puffy this will still work and the cold sore just disappears like it was never there.
The ice cube trick works for me every time. I haven’t had a cold sore since I discovered this method. As soon as I feel one starting I hold an ice cube on the spot for as long as I can stand it and it never develops.
This morning on my way to work I felt a pinch on my lip then noticed a tiny little bump. I took some ice out of my iced coffee and held the ice there the whole way there. About an hour after I got to work, I got another ice cube and put it on my lip again. Usually by now (4 hours after I first notice it forming) it’s itchy and has doubled in size. It’s not itching and the size is the same as when I first noticed it. This i the first time I have tried the ice cube trick and *knock on wood* it seems to be working. I usually get them once a year or once every 2 years.
Once you first notice it, try the ice cube thing. Not sure it works for everyone, but it seems to be working for me!
I use zine and L-lysine. I carry both (available at health food stores) with me at all times. As soon as I feel that tingle, I take a zinc and 2 L-Lysine. Like Kansas Alan said above, I haven’t been bothered by cold sores for over 10 years. (yeah!)
Over dosing on Vit C helps the body to cure it’s self, I start with 1000 as soon as the tingling starts & one tablet every 4 hours .
As soon as I sense the tingle I take 2- L-lysine and 2 Vitamin E. I repeat every 3-5 hours for a few days. Most of the time, it never gets past the tingling stage.
I find that too much Vitamine C causes the cold sores for me. I think this may be caused by a digestion problem,I have to limit my juice & fruit, but I take L-Lysine every day and double up if I feel a tingle. It works great. If I get a sore I use camphor on it to dry it up.
Yes, anything that is to acidic used to give me cold sores.
Me too! If I drink a tasty glass of OJ, I’m DONE for! Lol
My grandmother passed this on to me as a young child. This one is free nothing to buy and no doctors to see.
When the tingle starts tear a few small pieces (1 1/2 square)of brown paper bag (no printing). Put this in a glass bowl in your kitchen sink. Light the paper let it burn then dump the ashes out in your sink. There is a yellow film left in the botton of your glass dish. Immediatly while it is still warm – rub your finger on on the stain at the bottom of the bowl, apply to the tingle area. It does leave a yellowish stain but it goes away in a day or so. This has worked for me over and over again even after it has formed a blister. It dry it out.
Ever since getting sun poision, mine (inflames and spread accross the interior of my lip-very painful). Any of the following work: *I do drain the liquid of the exterior blister or treatment other than Zovirax pills doesn’t work*
1000 L-Lysine & 1000 Vit C & 500 Vit E several times a day. OR
Dab camphophenic with a Q-tip (new tip every time) OR
Household bleach (EXTERIOR eruptions ONLY)
Keep the area clean – outbreaks are VERY contagous, the intimate areas are especially suseptible to contamination.
I make 2 lip balms – 1 w/LLysine and Vit E and 1 w/vit E or petroleum base and zinc. Whe the infection is gone I cut off the tips of the balms and store for the next bout. I also discard my toothbrush after the break out is over. Never reuse an exposed item. Wash it with hot water and bleach-away from everyday clothes. **however, there are lip balms @ the local pharmacy.
Please tho keep in mind that Stress, poor eating habits, overly acidic foods, vitamin deficiency and some types of lipblams help to cause the break outs.
Abreva works wonders for me. It is a bit expensive (and I know not a home remedy), but I’ve used it for years and it shortens the cycle of my blister and helps it not break out as intensely. Cold sores (or fever blisters as we call them in my family) act quickly, so make sure you act faster…I keep this in my purse ALL the time so that I can get it as soon as I feel the tingle. Minutes literally do count here.
I agree with the Lysine method. Taking Lysine everyday (and upping the amount if you have an outbreak) will help as well.
I have gotten a precription of Acyclovir from my doctor as well. This really helps the outbreak stop quickly.
i have been using which its not really home made–but Avons Clearskin-pimple treatment ! it works wonders!
TAKE SOME LYSINE. This is an essential amino acid you get in the vitamin section. Take it daily for a month and any time you have a tingle. I have not had a cold sore for over 2 years!!! I was plagued with them monthly, corresponding to my cycle and stress. THIS IS A WONDER CURE. You will tell your friends.
I have used Vanilla Extract. It works well to dry it out quickly.
I remember my grandmother telling me, when I was a young girl…I’m almost 63 now…to use ear wax on cold sores. Would you believe it really works! In all my years, I’ve only had one cold sore..and thats because I didn’t put the ear wax on as soon as I felt the tingle. I know…it sounds gross, but just put a little on as soon as you feel the cold sore’s tingle (preferrably overnight) and you’ll never have to worry about those unsightly cold sores (or fever blisters as my grandmother used to call them) any more.
thank you Helen for posting this. My husband told me about this remedy that he learned from his mother. It did sound gross when I first heard of it, but you are right, as soon as u feel the tingle, apply ear wax and that’s all you’ll ever have is the tingle . . . . .
I get cold sores all the time, I’m talking once or twice a month and when I do get them I get a few together. Today I got 4 coldsores on my top lip hence why I’m on google searching home remedies.
So far tried various creams but not found anything to cure it fast, usually take a week – also tried cold sore plasters but don’t like thought of something being stuck to my lips for days. Will try the ice remedy now.
i was getting these all the time, too. the ice worked for me most of the time- but sometimes at work i could not break away from the classroom to go get ice right away-then b/c i waited awhile, a cold sore would erupt, then i had to deal w/ it for a week and a half!!!!!! But i read this somewhere and it works EVERY TIME for about a year or two now, and i do not have to be near an ice machine. Acne treatment- any of them that have sacalytic acid (i am sure that i misspelled that!) burt’s bees has it in there, but also at walmart in the makeup section- a brand call “elf” zit zapper has this ingerdient in there. and it costs only 1 dollar! Works- just when you feel that tingle-rub it on there- i keep it up a few more times- like every hour or so maybe 3 or 4 times. this has NEVER failed me yet!!! NO BLISTER EVER HAS APPERARED since i do this!!!!!
I always used to get coldsores around my cycle each month.
as the first sign of a tingle , hold an ice cube on the sore as long as you can.
I also put some facial mudd on to dry it up , esp over night 🙂
My mom is 86 & has just recently has gotten a few on her lip.. The Dr said they are uusally brought on my stress..
SO relax everyone :_)
I always use rubbing alcohol to scrub the area with a gauze pad or an alcohol swipe. Burns like crazy, but it goes away in a matter of hours….The alcohol kills the Herpes virus.
apply a lot of alcohol to sore or if possible…… may sound stupid but chewing tobacco works excellent if its open. The tobacco works as a antiseptic and i had it killed and healing the next day.
A paste of coffee granules and a bit of hot water will dry the spot up quite quickly.
I could not stress my agreement more about L-Lysine! I used to get cold sores 2-4x a month. I would go weeks without being able to even kiss my husband. I tried Abreva and Acyclovir (800mg/5x a day with horrible side effects!!). I still got cold sores even while I was taking the Acyclovir. My diet was impeccable and my stress was minimal. I tried immune boosting herbs and vitamins. Nothing worked. Then I read in an article online that lysine can help prevent breakouts. I’ve been taking 1000mg of lysine 1x a day for 6 months now and I haven’t had one breakout since. If I’m stressed/tired/sick I increase it to 1000mg 2x a day.
Seriously. Try it if you haven’t.
I rotated lavender and tea tree oil 3 times a day about a month ago just as I felt it coming on and it was gone in 3 days and never opened up to make the big nasty sore. Minimal pain and itching. I’ve battled these for years and this worked great. I was completely amazed!
My Granny always told me to put a dab of vanilla extract on it. It worked & healed it fast & eased the pain cause there is alcohol in it. It also tasted kind of good
I use Zinc Oxide Cream the min. I feel the tingle. I haven’t had a cold sore in 4 years and I use to get them every 3 months. The DR would prescribe meds that did not help. The Zinc Oxide is around 2.00 for a tube that lasts forever.
What works for me the most is mouth wash! Just dabbing some on every couple of hours. Its works fast though it can be a bit painful. I’m definiately going to try sime of your ideas. Thanks
Paragoric is the answer for my cold sores. You must have a prescription but 2 ounces will last forever. Dab on with cotton swab when tingling first begins and continue to use until healed.
I never found an all-natural remedy that’s totally worked. I mentioned it to my doctor – she gave me Valtrex pills (you only take 1 or 2 in a days time). The prescription can be expensive so my doctor gave me some sample packs for the first few times.
I took one pill when I started to feel the “tingle” – I took them a couple different times & no cold sore appeared (& if it did it was just a small red bump).
I haven’t had to take a pill AT ALL in past 3 years & haven’t had any cold sores in at least 3 or 4 years.
Closest thing to a cure is my guess! I am so grateful it worked – I used to get cold sores constantly & they were always huge & painful & awful.
Applying Vaseline or Aquaphor at first tingle, keep it coated and it will never scab and be gone in 2 days, learned from working as a dermatology nurse for 8 years
I have tried basically everything (including getting them burnt with a laser at a dentist office) and nothing helped. With mine, I have to dry them out – not keep them moist. But I started using Campho Phenique from the grocery store. It is by all the other cold sore/canker sore/lip treatment things, but instead of $16+ dollars like Abreva, it is under $5! I start applying it as soon as I feel the tingling and as long as I keep applying it, the sore never opens up and is completely gone within a few days.
Mixture paste with toothpaste and salt. Keep it on for an hour then repeat if need to dry out sore.
Always wear a lip balm with SPF30 when in the sun. I get cold sores if I don’t do this. Thanks for the interesting and helpful solutions
Surprisingly, applying Listerine mouthwash with a cotton ball helps to relieve the discomfort and helps the fever blister heal more quickly.
I hold a used tea bag (black or green), still warm, to the sore to remove the sting/itch but I’m not sure that it actually speeds healing time.
I have had Cold sores for decades! When I feel the tingle I reach for a Q-tip dipped into Tea Tree oil. An ice cube to the tingle, helps keep the swelling down. Cycle the cube on & off as it melts. Over the Counter Hydrocortisone cream is Effective if you reapply it every hour or so as the blister is trying to form. I alternate Tea Tree with Hydrocortisone every couple of hours, & apply the ice as soon as tingling starts again. I know that Hydrocort cream is a medication,not a natural remedy, but If I don’t use it I will get a terrible blister that doesn’t heal for weeks.
In full diclosure I have had to seek Antiviral oral meds, I have had them so badly, due to an autoimmune condition. But for some breakouts that are not as severe, Tea Tree oil & ice cubes are miraculous! It is also very helpful to take an antiiflammatory like Aspirin /Buffered aspirin, to help your body fight the inflammation, internally.
I find ear wax is the best. Sounds gross but works like a charm!!
I at the first sign of tingle will put toothpaste on it, and sprinkle a little gold bond in my hand and press to lips. leave on overnight. hardly ever breaks through skin and is gone by the next day .
Call your dentist or dermatologist. They do laser treatments. Which removes it with a little scab.out should be done as soon as you see the blister form. Also its just a little zap. But best because they do not ever come back in the same spot again.
Water & vinegar- swoosh around like mouth wash, spit out, repeat a segond time.
I am on this site for the first time and WOW 🙂 love all the tips. Coldsores are like warts, they are in your blood if you get your first one you will get them again. My aunt and I are very prone to them as soon as a get sick or stressed and my immune system is low…. you can bet your bottom dollar one will form…… have always been using creams, but the coldsores still last like 2 weeks, until I bought a tube of Tea tree gel….. my coldsores are gone in 4 days. the trick is to try them out completely so they can form a scab and go away….. DONT keep them moisture it only allows the blistering parts to ooze and grow more….. I am 25 and been getting them since I was around 5 years old. Trust me 🙂 it works.
EVERYONE: You need to be really careful what you put on those cold sores, as whatever you put ON them ends up in your bloodstream and goes through your body. *I* would not use anything like bleach (OMG!) or especially tooth paste. Most tooth paste’s contain the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which is the foaming agent. I found out this CAUSES cancer and mouth sores – I don’t use toothpaste w/it in it at all anymore. It’s important to figure out WHY you get them. It’s not only caused by stress, it’s also caused by certain chemicals in certain foods. For me, it’s chocolate and I can’t eat the Snackwell vanilla Vienna cookies! Pay attention to what you’re eating and you’ll have less & less of them as you figure out what foods you eat that bring them on. Good Luck!
Also, getting one end of a Q tip wet and rubbing that on the cold sore then put some baby powder in your hand and scoop some up with the dry end of the Q tip an apply on cold sore. That usually does the job for me!
Im trying the vanilla extract now. Along with alternating applications of ice.
I cant feel the tingle anymore but its still there. We will see in the morning.
Ill eventually try theseALL out at some point to see what works best.
Ive seen ear wax pop up a lot so that will be tried the next outbreak.
When at school I also do ice asap
I have a pocket in my bag filled with creams and applicable liquids and balms
But stress and eating wrong makes it worse.
I get them one after another.
I have started taking a probiotic and it helps me from having cold sores! Toothpaste always dried mine up when I did get them!
I have been getting coldsores for most of my life. I have read alot of remidies that I haven’t heard of. Thanks toall who wrote them.
I’ve used every over the counter treatment and nothing ever worked. My cold sores got huge and ugly and took 2 weeks or more to heal. This time I’m in a wedding and was desperate for a quick & inexpensive cure. I Tried the ice cube trick, alternating with applying tee tree oil, which I hand on hand,
with a q-tip. OMG!!! Success! The blister never completely formed and within 2 days was just a lil dot on my lip. Not noticable at all!! 🙂 I will use this treatment from now on! I iced the lip 4 times a day, followed by tea tree oil.
As soon as you feel the tingle crush peppermint tums into a paste and dab it on your lips. Usually the blister won’t even appear.