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How Effective Are Essential Oils For Cold Sores?

An image of a woman pointing at a cold sore on her mouthCold sores, often referred to as fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus. They are painful and itchy. What is more, they tend to form an unsightly sore on your lip that many people find embarrassing. In most cases, treatment includes antivirals and anti-inflammatories, but a natural approach also works. This natural approach includes essential oils for cold sores.

Many studies show that essential oils for cold sores contain compounds that may help address the problem with few or no side effects. Many commonly used drugs used in treating cold sores have side effects.

Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Cold sores result from infection by the herpes simplex virus. There is only one way you get infected with it, and that is via direct contact, like when kissing, drinking from the same cup, or even sharing a towel with someone who has the virus. Furthermore, there is no cure. The upside, however, is that the virus may stay inactive for long periods.

Cold sores usually, after a period of inactivity, break out due to what is called a trigger. Examples of triggers include sun exposure, the common cold, hormone fluctuation, a weakened immune system, or stress.

Cold sore symptoms differ from person to person. The most common symptoms include:

  • A tingling feeling in the lip area
  • Soreness around your mouth and lips
  • Itching, irritation, or dryness in the mouth and lip area
  • Small blisters on your lip or in your mouth

There is only one way to prevent cold sores and that is by not getting infected with the herpes simplex virus. If you have the virus, you could help prevent flareups by identifying and avoiding your triggers.

The medical profession currently tends to address cold sores using antivirals, but essential oils for cold sores may prove equally effective.

Do remember, however, that cold sores indicate your body is fighting inflammation. Furthermore, they could spread to other parts of your body if not treated properly. They could, for example, start forming on your hand if you have abrasion and touch a cold sore on your lip.

Cold Sores and Your Inflammatory Response

Your body’s inflammatory response forms part of your immune system. Inflammation shows that your immune system is trying to deal with a stressor. In the case of cold sores, the stressor is the herpes simplex virus.

Once inside your body, the virus enters individual cells. Your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response, governed by the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, kicks into gear. In so doing, cortisol levels become elevated while other body functions increase, decrease, or stop to deal with the threat. Your immune system, part of your NEM, kicks into action and, via an inflammatory response, tries to get rid of the virus.

The components of your immune system acting as mediators are leukocytes, i.e. white blood cells, called monocytes and macrophages. They release chemical agents targeting the virus which causes an inflammation circuit response. While this would get rid of a foreign invader under normal circumstances, it is not the case with the herpes simplex virus. Each time you experience a trigger, the cycle repeats itself. This could, ultimately, result in a constant state of inflammation that, in the long-term, could result in various health issues and further complicate adrenal fatigue.

While prevention is better than cure, those with the herpes simplex virus could, by identifying and avoiding your triggers, providing your immune system and adrenal support, and using essential oils for cold sores, manage the virus.

Please you cannot kill the herpes simplex virus because activation tends to occur in different areas of your body at different times. Research has no explanation for this phenomenon.

Different Essential Oils for Cold Sores

There are many different essential oils for cold sores that help fight this inflammatory response system while encouraging the healing process.

Tea Tree Oil

An image of 7 jars of different essential oils for cold soresShown to have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties, tea tree oil is a great option in the arsenal of essential oils for cold sores. One publication even strongly indicates that it may kill off the herpes simplex virus. But do remember, however, this would only address a localized outbreak as is the case with a cold sore.

Because of the oil’s volatility, you should always mix it with a carrier oil and not use it more than twice a day during an outbreak. You should also not use it to address outbreaks more than twice a year because prolonged use could cause skin damage.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has both antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. These may help reduce the effect of cold sores and help with healing. It also tends to soothe your skin when applied. Do take care to mix the oil with a carrier oil before application to avoid irritation and dab on the affected area about four times daily while the problem persists.


Lavender is one of the essential oils for cold sores that do not need dilution before application. But it is always safer to first use it in diluted form and then in an undiluted form once you find there is no negative reaction.

While it may not directly affect the virus, it may help with the healing process by decreasing pain and inflammation.

Lemon Balm Oil

Lemon balm oil is unique in that it can penetrate the skin and actively interact with the herpes virus due to its antiviral effect. To use this oil, dilute it with a carrier oil and apply it to the cold sore four times daily.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is probably one of the most widely used essential oils for cold sores. Studies show it can curb herpes virus activity. This could be due to the oil’s antiviral, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. Apply, in diluted form, to the affected area three to four times a day.

Clove Oil

In folklore, placing a clove in a tooth cavity helps reduce the pain. Studies show that cloves have painkilling properties. When applying clove oil to a cold sore, it may help reduce pain. But clove oil also has antimicrobial and antiviral properties that address the virus itself. So, with regards to essential oils for cold sores, clove oil is a good option. It acts as a topical anesthetic while fighting the virus at the same time.

Sandalwood Oil

Research shows that sandalwood can fight the herpes simplex virus. It has an extraordinarily strong scent that some people do not enjoy. To use, simply mix with a carrier oil and apply it directly to the affected area. You can do so a few times a day.

Chrysanthemum Oil

While no studies confirm chrysanthemum oil may specifically address the herpes simplex virus, it does indicate that it has strong anti-inflammatory properties. These anti-inflammatory properties may play a role in reducing the symptoms. When using this oil, always make sure you first mix it with a carrier oil.

On a point of caution, please keep in mind that some people are allergic to chrysanthemum oil. If unsure, first do a small test patch of the oil dilution on your arm and leave for an hour or two to see whether you have a sensitivity to this oil.

Thyme Oil

An image showing bottles of essential oils for cold sores and fresh herbs Thyme oil has strong antiviral properties. Studies on the oil show it may address viral infections in general, and the cold sore virus in particular. Regarding its action on herpes simplex, it has shown efficiency of 80% in trials.

Once again, like most essential oils for cold sores, do remember to dilute the oil before applying to a cold sore.

Ginger Oil

Certain components in ginger oil, according to research, reduces the symptoms of cold sores. In a dilution applied topically, it may also speed up the healing process.

Anise Oil

A study on the effectiveness of anise oil in addressing the herpes simplex virus shows that it may suppress an infection. In so doing, it could help address an active cold sore outbreak.

Oregano Oil

Another of the most popular essential oils for cold sores, research on oregano oil shows that when dabbing an oregano oil solution onto a cold sore it helps address inflammation and helps the affected area heal quicker.

Hyssop Oil

Research shows that using a diluted solution of hyssop oil on the affected area a few times a day may result in decreased viral activity.

Vanilla Oil

No research on vanilla oils shows that it has antiviral activity, although it does have anti-inflammatory properties that may help speed up your cold sore recovery time. It does, however, interrupt the entering of the virus into your cells. It may thus prove a good option to help with healing and stopping the spread of cold sore infection.

Chamomile Oil

Chamomile oil, according to studies, can address even drug-resistance herpes strains. It also has a soothing effect when directly applied to a cold sore as soon as you feel its onset. This is one of the few essential oils for cold sores that do not need diluting before use.

A Word of Caution When Considering Essential Oils for Cold Sores

You should only use essential oils for cold sores topically, and, in most cases, in a diluted form. This is because these oils could damage your skin if applied directly. Good carrier oils include virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and sweet almond oil. Good essential oil to carrier oil ratio is three drops essential oil to an ounce of carrier oil.

Interestingly, by diluting your essential oil with carrier oil you may not only reduce your risk of irritated skin but may also allow for better absorption.

Furthermore, do take care not to apply the oil to your cold sore too often, as this could irritate. Two to three times per day is a good guideline to stick to. Also, it is not unheard of that some people have allergic reactions or develop sensitivities to certain of these oils. Doing a patch test first is recommended. Also, if you see any signs of an allergic reaction, stop using the oil immediately, and seek medical attention.

Lastly, the best advice about using essential oils for cold sores is to do so with the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner well-versed in the use of these oils. They are best able to determine the particular dosage for your needs and could better assist you as to which essential oil is best suited to you for your particular needs. Remember, certain of these oils could cause a reaction when you have other underlying health conditions or using certain medications.


Cold sores are painful, disfiguring, and often very annoying. The essential oils mentioned could all help in decreasing your symptoms and speed up your recovery time.

If you are suffering from cold sores due to the herpes simplex virus, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation.

    An image showing a herpes simplex diagnosis

  1. Determine your stressors that bring out an outbreak and try to avoid them.
  2. Explore the topical use of essential oils in addressing the problem.
  3. Talk to your healthcare professional about using essential oils and which would be most suitable for you, taking into account the medications you currently use and your general state of health.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with the use of essential oils for cold sores to address herpes simplex outbreaks, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we privately discuss your issue. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Essential oils for cold sores do not directly impact your adrenal glands or your adrenal health. They do, however, help address cold sores resulting from the herpes simplex virus. Each outbreak sees your body activating its inflammatory response which does affect adrenal health.

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