What are Essential Oils for Cold Sores?
Essential oils are naturally occurring substances that have medicinal properties. They contain molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen (Ci:O). The most common essential oil used in medicine is Lavandula Angustifolia (lavender) which contains many different compounds including terpenes and flavonoids. Terpenes are aromatic plant chemicals that give plants their aroma. Flavonoids are pigments found in the leaves, flowers or fruit of plants such as lavender and other members of the mint family. These compounds may act on immune system cells to prevent infection and stimulate wound healing. Some studies suggest they may even reduce pain from arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
The most commonly used essential oils for treating cold sores include:
Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) – This is one of the best known essential oils for treating cold sores. It is often used in creams and ointments. Lavender oil has been shown to kill viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. It also helps with inflammation, fever blisters and eczema flare ups.
Lemon (Citrus limon) – This oil is a good disinfectant and can kill the cold sore virus. It is also antiseptic and a good cleansing tonic for skin infections. It is important to dilute lemon oil before applying to the skin and not let it come in direct contact with mucous membranes (the inside of the nose for example).
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – This is a great disinfectant which helps fight bacteria and fungus that can infect cold sores. It is also effective against the cold sore virus. Studies have shown that tea tree oil improves healing time and reduces pain from cold sores. It is important to dilute tea tree oil before using on skin.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – This is a very strong oil that can irritate the skin. It is best used diluted for cold sores. Rosemary oil is a natural antioxidant and it helps fight infection, reduces pain and speeds wound healing. It also has a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – This is another good antiviral and antiseptic oil that helps to heal sores. It has a cooling effect on the skin and relieves pain and itch. It dilutes well in a carrier oil for topical application. Peppermint oil should not be taken orally because it can cause heartburn and may lower the seizure threshold in people with epilepsy.
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) – This is another good disinfectant. It kills bacteria, fungi and viruses and helps your immune system fight off infection. Manuka oil has natural antibiotic and antioxidant properties. It is used to treat wounds, skin problems, acne and other skin infections.
It also speeds wound healing.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) – This is another powerful and effective antiseptic that can kill the cold sore virus and other pathogens. It is also an expectorant, decongestant and anti-inflammatory. It may be beneficial in treating respiratory conditions such as colds and coughs.
How to use essential oils for cold sores
Using essential oils for cold sores is fairly straightforward. You can apply them directly to the cold sore using one of the following methods:
Dilute one drop of oil in 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil like almond or coconut oil. Then massage into the skin around the cold sore.
Dilute one drop of oil in 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil and gently apply it to the cold sore using a Q-tip.
You can also make a salve that you can apply to the cold sore. To do this, combine 1 cup of coconut oil or sweet almond oil with 2 tablespoons dried herbs such as lavender, rosemary, peppermint, thyme, marjoram or oregano. Heat the mixture gently and then let it cool before applying to the skin.
Most essential oils need to be diluted before use. You should never apply a undiluted essential oil, as they are very strong and can cause damage if used wrongly.
What essential oils should not be used for cold sores?
Some essential oils such as most citrus oils are phototoxic. This means that if applied before exposure to sunlight, you may get a severe skin burn where the oil has made contact. These oils must never be used on cold sores.
Other oils, such as wintergreen, are toxic if taken internally and must not be used on the skin at all.
Some individuals may also be allergic to certain oils. If you know you are sensitive to a particular oil, do not use it.
Finally, do not use oils that are marked ‘aromatherapy grade’ or ‘therapeutic grade’. These oils are not the same quality as ‘essential oil’ or ‘pure oil’. You can read more about essential oils vs aromatherapy oils here.
How to get rid of a cold sore fast using essential oils
The following recipe for a cold sore cream has proven very effective for me and others who have tried it. I generally make it as an herbal salve and I store it in a small jar.
To make this cream you will need the following:
1 cup of coconut oil (or sweet almond oil)
5 tablespoons dried herbs: lavender flowers (Lavandula angustifolia), calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis), comfrey leaves (Symphytum officinale), plantain leaves (Plantago major), and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
2 tablespoons beeswax granules (you can substitute two tablespoons of almond oil for the beeswax if you want a liquid salve that is easier to apply)
Before you make the salve, it is important that you sterilize everything that will come into contact with the salve. This includes the container, spoon and your hands. Most importantly, make sure you wash your hands before touching your face so as to prevent introducing any bacteria and yeast into the open cold sore.
To make the salve, place a small saucepan over a low heat and add the coconut oil. If you are using wax rather than oil, place the wax in a glass bowl and place this bowl over a smaller saucepan of gently simmering water. Slowly the wax will melt. Add the herbs to the liquid oil or wax and stir to make sure they are all coated.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Carefully pour the liquid into your storage container (a small jar or tin), and allow to cool. Once it is cool, cap the jar and keep in a cool, dark place.
To use the salve, gently massage a small amount of salve into the cold sore using your finger. Do not rub! Also, do not apply the salve too often as this may cause the area to become irritated.
The recipe as listed above will last up to a year if stored in a cool, dark place.
You can also substitute tea tree essential oil for the lemon balm essential oil, if you prefer.
I have found this combination of herbs and oils to be incredibly effective for curing most external conditions, including cold sores. I hope it can help you too!
You may also find our article on ‘how to get rid of a cold sore fast naturally’ helpful.
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You might also enjoy our in-depth article on how to use essential oils:
How to Use Essential Oils: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
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Sources & references used in this article:
Commercial essential oils as potential antimicrobials to treat skin diseases by A Orchard, S van Vuuren – Evidence-Based Complementary and …, 2017 – hindawi.com
Antibacterial activity of essential oils from Eucalyptus and of selected components against multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens by S Mulyaningsih, F Sporer, J Reichling… – Pharmaceutical …, 2011 – Taylor & Francis
Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review by W Sellar – 2005 – Random House