The Best Essential Oils To Treat Herpes Cold Sores

by Joshua Matzkin

Cold sores are a common skin condition that can be caused by viral infection or by hot weather. They're contagious and often show up in the same area on both sides of your mouth. It's possible to get cold sores from touching someone who has them, but you also could have cold sores without ever having been near another person with cold sores. If you've experienced cold sore symptoms for more than two weeks, it is best to see a doctor before treating yourself with essential oils!

However, using essential oils for cold sores may help get you to sore-free skin faster

More people are joining the essential oil and aromatherapy movement in recent years thanks to a modern day push toward more natural, eco-friendly living and the effect of essential oils look promising. One of the most researched characteristics of essential oils as they relate to health and wellness are their proven antifungal and antibacterial properties, especially for aiding skin conditions.

Here, we’ll discuss how you can use these potent plant extracts to treat cold sores for faster relief. 

Woman with herpes that treats her cold sores with essential oils

What Causes Cold Sores?

Cold sores are a symptom of a type of herpes caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

There are two forms of the virus, herpes simplex virus type 1 (oral) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (genital). In general, genital herpes can only be transmitted by sexual contact with a partner infected with HSV-2.

The virus manifests as outbreaks of fluid-filled blisters that eventually burst, causing painful sores and broken, irritated skin in the genitals or the around the mouth, lips and face. The sensation of a burst sore is often painful and embarrassing.

Sores affecting the lips and nose called fever blisters or cold sores, are caused by HSV-1 which is transmitted through exchange of oral fluids by kissing, sharing utensils, toothbrushes, etc. or the active sores themselves. There is no cure for the virus, and although the sores heal over time, they often recur and the healing process can be difficult and uncomfortable. The stress associated with the breakouts can have other physiological effects as well.

Cold Sore Treatments

Cold sore symptoms can be treated with certain antiviral medications to relieve pain and possibly prevent more sores from forming in the short term by providing immune system support. These drugs will not cure you of the virus, however, and need to be taken early after symptoms appear to have any real effect. 

But researchers are finding that certain essential oils, a more natural possible solution with less potential side effects, may be just as effective as a prescription antiviral medication approved by the food and drug administration (FDA). 

Essential oil treatments for viral infections to inhibit sore outbreaks could be especially useful to those with certain drug allergies or are dedicated to finding natural solutions. 

Here are the best essential oils for cold sores: 


A laboratory study shows peppermint oil significantly reduced live HSV-1 and HSV-2 virus cultures by 99%, even in strains which have become resistant to certain prescription drugs. This oil also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Lemon Balm

A similar study showed that rosmarinic acid, a component in lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) plants, was 80-96% effective against drug resistant strains

Tea Tree

Tea Tree essential oil is renowned for its antibacterial properties. Applied as a topical, research shows it's useful to treat skin conditions caused by and fungus such as acne and athlete’s foot. The antiviral activity of tea tree oil is similarly established with numerous medical studies.


    Oregano essential oil has been a staple in at-home cold sore remedies for years. It’s been shown to combat the virus pretty effectively. 


      Chamomile oil was effective in a study against the virus. Chamomile is also good for reducing inflammation. 

      Other Oils

      Research is still on going but there are other oils that shows virucidal properties as well, including ginger, sandalwood, and thyme oil.

      Other Treatments

      Substitute treatment intended to relieve high level symptoms for cold sores should however, be discussed with your doctor due to varying levels of severity and people's individual reactions to oils. 

      Patch tests are needed before applying to infection site to feel confident that you can use these oils without suffering adverse reactions or severe skin irritation. 

      While often an effective home remedy known for tremendous antiviral properties, essential oils are strong, concentrated compounds that should be used very carefully.

      How To Use Essential Oils For Cold Sores 

      Here are some tips on how to use these proven oils to battle cold sores. 

      Dilute your oil of choice

       Essential oils can often be irritating to the skin, so should always be diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oil when applied topically. 5 drops in your oil of choice and you're ready to go. Read more on how to safely apply essential oils to skin

        Perform a patch test

        Keep in mind that for any new skin product, whether store bought or homemade, it is important to perform a patch test to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions or allergies to the ingredients. Apply a small amount of the mixture to your inner arm, somewhere where agitation is unlikely by clothing and leave on for 30 minutes to an hour. 

          Watch for negative reactions

          Look out for any negative reactions your skin may be having to the essential oils on an open cold sore. Some slight stinging is to be expected, but further inflammation, redness, or burning is indicative of a negative reaction and use should be immediately discontinued. 

            Apply diluted oils with a cotton swab or q-tip

            You can also add oils to a lip balm base for easier application. Make sure you're using a clean cotton swab or q-tip to avoid further infection.

              Consult your doctor

              Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about using essential oils on your cold sores before you try it. They may have further suggestions or warnings for your particular case. 

                This unique method to treating herpes cold sores might still take a little long to show results at first. Keep applying your oil of choice (at the appropriate drop dilution in carrier oil) regularly for a couple of weeks. 


                If you want to experience one of the top forms of effective home remedies, open yourself up to the world of essential oils. These healing compounds, while not a replacement for medication, can be helpful in alleviating discomfort cause by viruses.

                Using an essential oil could help treat herpes cold sores in a more natural way, easing symptoms and shortening recovery time. There are plenty of scientifically proven virucidal oils available to choose from, but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider on the best treatment for you.
                Tags: wellness
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