Studies have shown some essential oils may have antiviral activity against HSV-1. Essential oils and topical treatments can irritate your skin, so you should always test a small area of the skin first before use.
You’ll also need to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil (vegetable or nut oil). The ratio is about one drop of essential oil per one teaspoon of carrier oil. Use a clean cotton swab or pad when applying these essential oils, which helps avoid contamination and reinfection.
Here are nine natural home remedies for fever blisters:
Ice can help treat inflammation by reducing blood flow to the area. It also numbs the area so that there’s less pain. But this treatment is only temporary, and it doesn’t affect the virus in any way or promote healing.
How to use: To treat a cold sore, wrap an ice pack with a towel or cloth. Place it on the cold sore for at least 5 minutes and no more than 15 minutes. Never apply ice directly to the skin as this can cause significant injury.
Frequency of use: Use an ice pack three times daily for up to 5 days or until your sores are no longer painful.
2. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
One 2012 study found that Melissa officinalis could kill the herpes simplex virus in some cases and affect how the virus attaches to host cells.
How to use: Apply a cream, ointment, or lip balm containing lemon balm to the affected area several times per day. You may also put diluted essential oil on a cotton ball and hold it on the sores for a few minutes.
Frequency of use: Continue using lemon balm for a few days after your sores heal.
L-lysine is an amino acid that may help shorten the duration of a fever blister. People report benefits from taking this supplement as a preventive and treatment.
According to Harvard Health Publications, lysine can inhibit the amino acid that promotes the growth of the fever blisters. However, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness. It may also have a role in limiting fever blister outbreaks.
How to use: Research doses range from 500 to 3,000 milligrams (mg). Follow the recommendation on the package.
Frequency of use: Take L-lysine daily as a preventive supplement.
Shop for L-lysine supplements online.
4. Zinc therapy
Zinc is an essential mineral that can help wounds heal, and topical zinc may help with fever blisters. One 2001 study found that a cream containing zinc oxide and glycine shortened the duration of cold sores compared to a placebo cream.
A more recent study showed zinc oxide may also have a role in preventing the herpes simplex virus from entering cells.
How to use: A 2005 pilot study saw a reduced frequency of outbreaks when participants took zinc sulfate supplements. They took 22.5 mg twice a day for 2 months, skipped 6 months, then twice a day for another two months. For topical treatments, you’ll want to apply a zinc oxide cream four times a day.
Frequency of use: Continue applying topical zinc oxide cream until your sores heal. Take a zinc supplement daily as a preventive measure.
Shop for zinc cream online.
5. Oregano oil
On a cellular level, oregano oil is shown to inhibit different animal and human viruses, including herpes. It’s unclear what dose is needed to provide benefits.
How to use: Apply diluted oregano oil to a cotton ball and apply it to the affected area several times throughout the day.
Frequency of use: Continue treatment until your blisters heal completely.
6. Licorice extract
Licorice root is gaining popularity as a treatment option for cold sores. A 2014 cell study found more evidence of licorice’s antiherpetic activity, but its effects on the virus in humans still need more research.
How to use: You can apply diluted licorice extract, like this one from Nature’s Answer, to your fever blister with a cotton swab or fingertips. If you’re using pills, make them into a paste with coconut or almond oil and apply to the affected area. Talk with your doctor before taking licorice root orally, as it may cause unintended side effects.
Frequency of use: Apply the licorice extract or paste several times daily until your blisters heal.
7. Tea tree oil
A review of tea tree oil studies suggests that it may be a useful antiviral treatment. It may also help to speed up the healing process and limit plaque formation.
How to use: Use topically by adding diluted tea tree oil to a cotton ball. Dab it on the sore spot several times per day.
Frequency of use: Continue treatment until your skin heals completely.
Shop for therapeutic-grade tea tree oil online.
8. Witch hazel
A 1996 study found witch hazel may be effective in fighting the herpes virus and in reducing inflammation. Witch hazel is also an astringent and dries out the area, which may help with healing.
How to use: Apply witch hazel (such as Thayers Organic) directly to the skin using a moistened cotton ball. Hold it onto your skin using light pressure, and be careful not to rub.
Frequency of use: Continue treatment until your skin fully heals.
9. Apple cider vinegar
Some people report benefits from using apple cider vinegar (ACV) for fever blisters. While there’s no evidence for ACV and herpes, research shows that ACV may have anti-infective and antifungal properties.
However, it should be used cautiously on wounds given its acidic properties and potential damage to tissue. It’s not recommended for bacterial infections of the skin.
How to use: Use a cotton ball and apply diluted ACV to the affected area several times per day. You can hold it there for a few minutes at a time.
Frequency of use: Continue treatment until your skin heals.
ACV is unsafe to consume in large amounts and can cause skin irritation.
Risks and warnings
The above remedies may not be safe for you to use if you’re pregnant or nursing. Avoid using essential oils on children or older adults. Learn how to treat cold sores in babies.
Always begin with a small amount of your chosen remedy to see how your skin reacts, and discontinue use if it irritates your skin with a prolonged burning sensation. Discontinue any home treatments if the outbreak gets worse.
Talk with your doctor if you plan on taking oral supplements. Herbal remedies and supplements can interact with any medications and cause unintended side effects.