How to Treat Cold Sores at Home

Commonly known as fever blisters, cold sores are caused by HSV-1 virus, or otherwise known as Herpes Simplex Virus. They appear as blisters or fluid-filled pockets beneath the surface of the skin. Usually, they appear around the mouth or on the lips. Cold sores last between 7 and 10 days and can break open ooze, and crust over.

For many people, those seven to ten days can be brutal. And to make matters worse, according to the World Health Organization, more than two-thirds of the people worldwide are infected with the virus. That means it is just a matter of time when the cold sores will appear on your face.

The good news is that you can find relief in many home remedies. Once you are armed with home remedies, you can wait for the next flare-up prepared. Stress, hormonal fluctuations, illness, sun exposure, fever, or surgery, all of these can trigger breakouts and recurring cold sores.

Difference between pimples and cold sores

Being that visually, pimples and cold sores look similar, many people mistake them. But you should be able to tell the difference, by the way, the bumps forms and feels. Here are some main differences between the two:

  • Colds sores show up in one area of the lower lip each time but can also show up on the upper lip. Pimples, on the other hand, appear anywhere on your lips and face
  • Cold sores itch, burn, and tingle, while pimples are just painful to the touch
  • While cold sores are made up of few tiny blisters clustering together, pimples have a single blackhead

Symptoms of cold sores

The American Academy of Dermatology states that the outbreak of the HSV-virus occurs within 2 to 20 days after exposure.

The initial symptoms include burning and tingling sensation around the edges of your lips and nose. They are followed by symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Headache

Few hours after the initial burning and tingling sensation, a small red pimple or painful blisters form. They dry out and crust over time on their own, and that takes between 8 and 12 days. The good news is that you can speed up that process.

What can you do at home?

Some home remedies for cold sores will help limit the spread of the virus. Others, reduce the chance of further infections. And there are those that reduce pain and discomfort. We have to stress that not every treatment works for every individual. However, with a wide range of natural products, you can find the one that works best for you.

Lemon balm extract

Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. For this remedy, you need a lip balm with 1% lemon balm. The remedy can reduce the redness and swelling. And there are even studies that show this home remedy is effective against cold sores and blisters.

It is worth noting, however, that symptoms such as pain and scabbing do not improve with the use of lemon balm. You can also make an alternative to the lip balm, by using a compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea).

Lomatium root

This plant is native to western North America and is considered one of the best anti-viral treatments. The antibiotic activity of the plant is just too good to ignore. When you have cold sores, all you have to do is take 1ml or 500mg of lomatium root four times per day.


Propolis is bee glue, a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing beeswax and saliva. The benefits of propolis include helping against cold-related illnesses, analgesic action in treating asthma and bronchitis, and antiviral effect helpful in treating and preventing flu and herpes.

For your cold sores, just apply propolis tincture to the affected area four times per day.

Vitamin C

Cold sores are basically a viral infection, and the best remedy for viruses is vitamin C. You can consume as a supplement, or consume more fruits and veggies rich in vitamin C (oranges, lemons, green peppers, broccoli, and spinach).

However, while fruits and veggies are great for prevention, when you get a cold sore breakout, you need a higher dosage of vitamin C. That means taking 1,000mg of vitamin C and 500mg of bioflavonoids three times per day.


Applying ice will not reduce the duration of the breakout. However, it will reduce the inflammation and the discomfort you might be feeling. It is one of the cheapest and simplest remedies for reducing swelling. It is just a temporary relief for cold sores, but one worth trying.

Aloe vera

This plant is widely available to grow at your home. Aloe vera can help with all sorts of skin problems, so it might be time to think whether you want it your home or not. Apply it topically to soothe the skin when you experience cold sores breakouts.

Licorice powder

Licorice root has a reputation of being helpful for sensitive skin. It is also packed with helpful antioxidants that will protect you from environmental pollutants.

For this remedy, you need to mix licorice powder, water, and petroleum jelly. Apply directly to your cold sores to provide relief.


Used widely to soothe irritations of the skin, cornstarch is another ingredient you can find in your kitchen to soothe cold sores. Mix 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with cold water until you get a consistency of peanut butter. With a cotton pad, apply directly to your lips and allow it to dry. Wash afterward.


Widely known as an immune booster, Echinacea can protect the immune system and reduce symptoms of colds and flu. You can also use it to reduce symptoms of infections, in this case, the HSV-1 virus infection.

Consume Echinacea as a supplement or as tea, it is your choice.

When to seek medical attention

If the cold sores do not improve within a week, despite trying natural remedies for cold sores, it might be time to seek help. Or if the symptoms are severe, it is better that you consult a physician for some prescription treatments.

While they are rare, complications from HSV-1 virus can happen. And if your immune system is weak, these outbreaks can become frequent. If the virus spreads to other parts of the body, for example, the fingertips, complications can arise.

Your doctor may prescribe you medications like:

  • Acyclovir
  • Valacyclovir
  • Penciclovir
  • Famciclovir

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