Best essential oils for treating cold sores

10 essential oils for cold sores
MaryAnn de Pietro
by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Cold sores, which are also
called fever blisters, can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing. They are
typically caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Cold sores can be treated with
antiviral medications, which may shorten how long the symptoms last. There are
various home remedies, as well, which are used to ease their discomfort.
Furthermore, a lot of studies
have been done that show compounds in certain essential oils may help treat
cold sores.
Essential oils might have some
advantages over medication. For instance, essential oils usually cause fewer
side effects than antiviral drugs.
Although they may be helpful
in treating the symptoms of the herpes simplex virus, essential oils can be
harmful if taken orally. When used to treat cold sores, the oils are applied
topically to the skin only after they are mixed with a carrier oil, such as
sweet almond oil or coconut oil.
In this article, we take a
look at 10 essential oils that research suggests may be able to help treat cold
Essential oils for cold sores

The following essential oils
may be useful for treating cold sores:
Lavender oil has been used for
years to treat a variety of issues, including skin irritation and bruises.
Although it may not have any
effect on the virus, lavender oil may be helpful in reducing pain associated
with cold sores. In one study, lavender oil appeared to have the potential to decrease
pain and inflammation.
The first time someone uses
lavender oil, they should dilute it with a carrier oil. If there is no
reaction, they might be able to use a stronger mix.
Lavender oil can also be used
undiluted, as it does not usually irritate the skin. One or two drops of
lavender oil can be applied directly to the sore.

Peppermint oil

In one study, peppermint oil
was shown to inhibit the activity of both the herpes virus type 1 and type 2.
The study concluded that peppermint oil might be useful in treating recurrent
herpes infections.
A few drops of peppermint oil
diluted with a milder oil, such as almond oil, can be applied to the sore.

Chrysanthemum oil

Although chrysanthemum oil may
not specifically treat the herpes simplex virus, research has suggested that
the oil has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may reduce symptoms.
Allergies to chrysanthemum oil
are not uncommon. It is best to test a small area of the skin before using the
essential oil on a cold sore. Never apply directly to the skin, and always
dilute in a carrier oil.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil may be useful
in treating cold sores due to its anti-inflammatory ability.
A paper in the Journal of
Ethnopharmacology indicated that eucalyptus oil could decrease inflammation. By
reducing inflammation, eucalyptus may speed up the healing process of a cold
Users should be sure to dilute
eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil before applying it to the skin to avoid
irritation. Eucalyptus is a known allergen, so people should not use it if they
have a reaction.

Clove oil

The effect of clove has been
studied on the herpes simplex virus as well as other viruses, including
hepatitis C.
Clove may have an
antimicrobial and antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus. It also may
decrease pain associated with a cold sore.
Clove is irritating if applied
directly to the skin. It should be diluted with a milder oil, such as coconut
oil. Users should use caution when applying the mixture to the sore.

Chamomile oil

Chamomile oil interrupts
absorption of the herpes virus into the cells differently than antiviral drugs,
according to some research.
This oil may also be useful in
treating drug-resistant strains of herpes. Again, chamomile oil must be diluted
in a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.
Tea tree oil

According to a review
published in the International Journal of Dermatology, tea tree oil has shown
the ability to stop or kill the herpes simplex virus.
The oil is strong, so it is
best to use it with caution. Users should dilute it with a carrier oil to
decrease the chances of a skin irritation.
Hyssop oil

Research on hyssop oil showed
that the essential oil caused a decrease in viral activity.
A few drops of hyssop oil can
be diluted and applied to the cold sore.
Lemon balm oil

Lemon balm oil, which is also
called Melissa extract, may have an antiviral effect on the herpes simplex
One study indicated that the
oil prevents the herpes virus from penetrating the cells.
Users should apply the diluted
oil to the cold sore with a cotton swab three or four times a day for best
Thyme oil

Thyme oil has been examined to
determine its ability to treat herpes simplex virus type 1. The results of one
study indicated that the essential oil shows antiviral action against the
Thyme oil should always be
diluted with a carrier oil before it is applied to the cold sore.
Risks and considerations

When using essential oils to
treat cold sores, it is important to understand the risks. Some essential oils
can be irritating to the skin and may damage the skin if they are used too
An allergic reaction is also
possible when using essential oils. Hives, redness, or itching at the site of
application are signs of an allergic reaction.
If signs of an allergic
reaction develop, people should stop using the oil immediately.
Diluting an essential oil with
a carrier oil may be useful and necessary. Dilution means the carrier oils
provide better absorption as well as less irritation to the skin.
Common carrier oils used to
dilute essential oils include:

  • coconut oil
  • sweet almond oil
  • olive oil
The ratio of essential oil to
carrier oil may vary. Typically, a ratio of 2–5 drops of essential oil diluted
in 1 ounce of a carrier oil is used.

Additional home remedies for
cold sores

In addition to essential oils,
there are also other natural home remedies that can ease the symptoms of cold
Home remedies that may help
ease cold sore symptoms when applied include:

  • aloe vera
  • hot or cold compress
  • zinc
  • vitamin E
  • witch hazel
Home remedies do not kill the
herpes virus or prevent future flare-ups of cold sores. Instead, home remedies
may ease cold sore symptoms, such as pain, redness, and itching.


Cold sores can be painful and
annoying. The essential oils listed here may help decrease symptoms and treat
the sores.
It is wise to keep in mind
that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who regulate
medications, do not control the use of essential oils.
It may be helpful to consult
with a certified aromatherapist to find the best brands and uses of various
essential oils for cold sores.
If cold sores occur
frequently, it is also best to consult a doctor to work out if additional
treatments are needed.
The essential oils listed in
this article are available for purchase online.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.