Over 80% of the population of America suffers from cold sores (1). Whether they appear once and never return, or become a chronic condition, millions of people seek solutions to no avail.
Cold sores are painful, uncomfortable, and can make someone feel incredibly self-conscious. I used to suffer from them quite often – that is, until I cleared up my diet and started taking crucial supplements to ensure they never came back.
What Is A Cold Sore?
To start, a cold sore, or fever blister, is not a canker sore. Canker sores are often mistaken for cold sores. Canker sores, however, can only be situated on mucous membranes, and they never pop up outside of the mouth.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), an infection that may cause a single outbreak, or several outbreaks throughout a person’s life. Until the cold sore is scabbed or crusted, it is extremely contagious and can be spread to other parts of the body including the eyes, nose and genitals.
Cold sores look like blisters, and it usually lasts for seven to 10 days, at which time it is contagious. Once it breaks and oozes, it will develop a yellow scab with new skin growing underneath.
While most people suffer from the painful blister for 7-10 days, I’ve come across remedies that reduce this healing time in as little as 2 days.
Most conventional treatments for cold sores are antiviral creams and oral medications. These reduce the duration of cold sores by a few days, but they are definitely not reliable (and come with negative side effects, too).
The natural cold sore remedies I mention below are safe, inexpensive, and work just as well if not better than conventional creams and pills. The natural cold sore remedies not only reduce frequency and duration of cold sores, but they boost the immune system, and relieve pain and swelling.
Before I get into the remedies, however, there are a few points I’d like to make on lifestyle changes that will significantly reduce the occurrence of getting a cold sore outbreak.
Cold Sore Lifestyle Changes
If you want to reduce the occurrence of getting cold sores, whether oral or genital, you want to take a look at your lifestyle.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, eating well, or taking good care of yourself, you can be rest assured that your cold sores will pop up time and time again. I know so many people who suffer from cold sores on the regular – but a simple look at their lifestyle often doesn’t surprise me.
Here are a few tips to ensuring this virus doesn’t rule your life:
1. Start eating better. Opt for immune system boosting foods like leafy greens, herbs, vegetables and fresh fruit. Consuming high-antioxidant foods like chaga tea, blueberries, goji berries, oregano, citrus fruits, broccoli, ginger, garlic, and turmeric are all great options. Since our immune system starts in our gut, be sure to also include probiotic-rich foods like apple cider vinegar, kombucha, probiotic capsules, and sauerkraut.
2. Get more sleep. If you want a healthy, strong immune system, you need more sleep, and earlier bed times. Try to get to bed before 11pm, and make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night. I aim for 8-9 hours every night.
3. Hydrate yourself. Drinking enough water throughout the day will ensure you’re flushing out toxins that can trigger a viral response in the body (aka. a cold sore outbreak). Hydrating yourself will make sure all the cells in your body are functioning well.
4. Consume vitamin E-rich foods. Vitamin E helps repair damaged skin, reduces inflammation and has antioxidant properties (2). You can boost your levels by eating more vitamin E-rich foods like almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados, sunflower seeds and olive oil!
5. Consume vitamin C-rich foods. Getting enough vitamin C in your diet isn’t that hard if you like eating fruit and veggies. It will help boost your white blood cell count, which protects your body against bacteria and viruses (and outbreaks). It can be found abundantly in foods like oranges, red pepper, green peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit and kiwi.
6. Get a new toothbrush. Your toothbrush might carry the herpes simplex virus that caused the cold sore in the first place, so it is best to chuck your brush and get a new one, especially if you’ve had an outbreak.
7. Don’t touch your cold sores. Make sure you keep your hands clean after touching a cold sore. Until it crusts over and heals, it is highly contagious, and could be spread to other parts of the body. If you use a face towel, make sure you throw it in the dirty laundry after using it to reduce spread to other areas of the body, or other family members.
Cold Sore Remedies
The remedies mentioned below are tried and true – experiment with them and see which one works best for your body. Sometimes a combination works best. You just need to try out yourself to see how your body reacts.
1. H-Balm by Forces of Nature
This blend of different homeopathic medicines and essential oils is by far my number one remedy for reducing the duration and occurrence of cold sores. H-Balm contains ingredients that activate the immune system to help fight outbreaks and promote healthy skin. It can be used on the bottom of your feet for overall immune support, or it can be used on the areas of your body where cold sores tend to pop-up to reduce their occurrence. If you have the feeling that a cold sore is going to come, apply the oil on and you will likely stop it from ever popping up. If it does happen to pop up, apply this oil on the cold sore right away, and after one night the cold sore should start to crust over and heal.
The great thing about H-Balm is that the more you use it, the fewer outbreaks you’ll have. The oil physically kills the virus on contact and makes it less likely to re-appear in the area you apply.
L-lysine is an amino acid that works as a natural herpes treatment when taken by the mouth or applied directly to the skin. It prevents the herpes virus from growing (3). Take 1,000 milligrams three times daily as a preventative measure, and double the dose if you happen to get an outbreak.
3. Olive Leaf
Olive leaf has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal and immune boosting properties. The properties of olive leaf can literally inactivate the virus and alleviate symptoms with regular usage (4). Not only will olive leaf protect you against HSV outbreaks, but it will improve your susceptibility to colds and other viruses over time.
4. Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel is another great remedy to use on the cold sore itself to ease discomfort and pain, and speed the healing process. It contains antioxidant vitamins, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids and hormones that help with healing and preventing further infection (5).
5. Supplement with Zinc
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that most of us are deprived of. Even if you’re getting zinc in your diet from foods, you should always include a supplement to up your levels. It is needed to maintain health, reduce inflammation and boost immunity. It has also been found as an effective treatment in those suffering from recurrent cold sore outbreaks (6). Always choose an ionic zinc sulfate supplement, and be sure to include foods in your diet high in zinc like pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, mushrooms and cashews.
6. Peppermint Essential Oil
According to a study published in 2013, peppermint oil is an effective antiviral that possesses inhibitory activity against HSV-1 and HSV-2 (7). The researchers found that peppermint oil exhibited high levels of virucidal activity against both HSV-1 and HSV-2. Over 99% of the herpes virus, when incubated with peppermint oil, was killed. The oil was most effective in the beginning stages than when used in later stages.
7. Vanilla CO2 Total Extract
Vanilla is a major anti-inflammatory, and can help fight the HSV infection, as well as speed up the healing process (8). Apply a little bit of vanilla CO2 extract to the area of concern as soon as you feel a tingling sensation. Hold on the area for one to two minutes and do this four times daily until the cold sore heals.
8. Echinacea Tea
Echinacea tea is a great way to boost the immune system and prevent cold sore outbreaks. It is especially great for those with a weakened immune system. It is an effective antiviral and antibacterial and can be drunk up to three times a day at the sign of any tingling sensation you might feel on your lip or elsewhere.