Have you developed painful sores around your lips or small itchy blisters around your genitals? It is probably herpes, which is caused by the herpes virus. Most of them self-clear within 7-10 days without any treatment. You may feel tingling or burning sensation initially. Then small yellowish blisters appear, and finally, they crust off with pain. But yes, the feeling of discomfort and pain will ruin your smile. You need some relief from inflammation and pain and faster healing. Continue reading if you want to know about simple and effective home remedies to treat herpes at home. These remedies might not replace the medical treatment but will reduce your symptoms of pain and will accelerate the healing process. (1) (2) (3)
If you have had herpes earlier, you know well it recurs due to some triggers, which we will discuss below. It is possible that you may not have any symptoms even if you are infected, and signs will sometimes appear later. Herpes is treated symptomatically, and medical treatment is not always recommended. You can try natural home remedies to reduce inflammation and tingling. They are usually adequate. However, you should always consult your doctor if these tricks aren’t working or you have a severe infection. (1) (2) (3)
Table of Contents
- What Causes Cold sores – Herpes Simplex Virus
- Triggers of Cold sores
- Treating Herpes Cold Sores
- 15 Home Remedies for Herpes or Cold sores
- 1. Cold or Warm Compressors
- 2. A Topical Paste of Baking Soda or Garlic
- 3. Apple cider vinegar
- 4. Dietary changes
- 5. Supplements
- 6. Aloe vera gel
- 7. Tea tree oil
- 8. Other Essential oils
- 9. Witch hazel
- 10. Licorice root
- 11. Echinacea extract
- 12. Manuka honey
- 13. Epsom salt
- 14. Green tea
- 15. Lemon balm extract
- How long cold sores remain contagious?
- Preventive Measures to Keep Herpes at Bay:
- When to see a doctor
What Causes Cold sores – Herpes Simplex Virus
Herpes simplex virus type 1 is responsible for cold sores around the mouth and face while its type 2 causes genital ulcers. Rarely the type 2 (HSV-2) can cause cold sores if someone has oral-genital sex with the person having genital herpes. (2) (4)
The herpes simplex viruses are very contagious and spread from one person to another by direct contact or through secretions. It is also possible that someone has got the virus, and it remains inactive and dormant for an extended period before it starts showing symptoms. At times some environmental and internal triggering factors activate the virus, and it shows up as an outbreak of blisters. (3)
Once you have got infected, it usually recurs three to four times a year in response to triggers such as overexposure to sunlight, injury, or monthly periods in females. Some people may not get another episode after the initial infection, or some may not have it all despite having the dormant virus. (2)
Triggers of Cold sores
The factors which can trigger outbreaks of cold sores include:(2) (5)
- Any infections, such as a throat infection
- having fever
- psychological stress or emotional upsets
- fatigue and exhaustion
- physical injury at that site
- during menstrual periods
- bright sunlight
However, an outbreak can occur without any apparent trigger.
Treating Herpes Cold Sores
Cold sores usually clear up themselves within a week or two, even if you don’t take any medication. Doctors may sometimes recommend antiviral tablets or cream to help speed recovery and alleviate symptoms, but there is no complete cure. Medical treatment is indicated in complications. Natural and home remedies are usually sufficient enough to relieve symptoms and providing soothing to your cold sores, and you should try them first. (2) (5)
If you have got cold sores then some general advice to follow are:(1)
- drink plenty of water and avoid dehydration
- do not take spicy or salty foods
- change your toothbrush immediately, and if brushing is painful, you can use an antiseptic mouthwash
- don’t share utensils and food during the symptoms with anyone
- avoid touching your cold sores, except when to apply the cream, don’t peel off scabs, and do not share your cold sore cream with anyone else.
15 Home Remedies for Herpes or Cold sores
These remedies include the simplest and rapidly effective home remedies, dietary changes, supplements, and herbal home remedies.
1. Cold or Warm Compressors
Warm compresses are proven effective in reducing the pain of inflammation and selling at any site. You can use dry heat compresses by a clean piece of clothing by ironing or microwaving it an applying it on cold sores. This will reduce swelling, and after a few minutes, you will feel much relief from pain. (6)
Similarly, cold compresses also help settle down inflammatory processes at the sores and will provide you immediate relief from burning sensation and swelling. Apply an ice pack wrapped in clean, soft cloth repeatedly for a few minutes. (6)
2. A Topical Paste of Baking Soda or Garlic
Baking soda paste has been shown very useful in drying out the cold sores as well as quick healing. To use it, make a paste of baking soda and dab it on your sores with a cotton ball. You can also use corn starch paste instead if you don’t have it right now, which will provide similar effects.
Some older researches have indicated garlic has antiviral properties, and it is effective against both strains of herpes virus HSV-1 and HSV-2. To use it, crush up a few garlic cloves and make a paste with olive oil. Apply this paste on your sores 3-4 times a day. (7)
3. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is well known for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties besides its other health benefits. It has been used for several hundred years in numerous health conditions as an effective home remedy. For cold sores, mix one part of apple cider vinegar with three parts of water and apply on sores several times a day. This will help to heal.
4. Dietary changes
Eating the right food and avoiding an unhealthy diet will boost up your immune system and help you fight against the herpes virus. Numerous studies have suggested that immune system function improve and help fight against various disease if your diet and eating habits are healthy. Here are some evidence-based dietary suggestions. (8)
Some vegetables are rich in antioxidants, and they will reduce inflammation and help faster healing of cold sores. These include Cauliflower, spinach, kale, and tomatoes. They also contain free-radical binding antioxidants and more lysine amino acids, which are beneficial in herpes. (9)
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in salmon, mackerel, flaxseed, and chia seeds. They are helpful in any chronic inflammatory disease process as they support the immune system. (10)
A healthy amount of proteins is required to fight against any disease. Make sure your diet contains the right amount of healthy proteins and fewer fatty acids. (8)
Supplements may help support your immune system and suppress outbreaks of cold sores. They are available over the counter and not regulated by the FDA or other authorities. It’s better to take the advice of healthcare professionals before starting them if you are already taking any medications for anything. You can use zinc, vitamin B complex, lysine, and probiotics.
Taking zinc might reduce the number of outbreaks you experience each year. Take 3mg per day to resist herpes outbreak if you feel at risk due to exposures of triggers. (11)
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex supplements contain all of the B-group vitamins. These vitamins have various roles in your metabolism, and they will help boost your energy and support the immune system. (12)
Lysine is a vital amino acid that promotes healthy tissue growth and immune functions and necessary for fighting against diseases. Various researches are undergoing for its effectiveness in herpes infection, and some reports suggest that taking a daily dose of 500 mg to 3,000 mg of lysine may prove beneficial. (13)
Probiotics strengthen your generalized immune function and help fight against herpes infection. The simplest probiotic you can start with is yogurt, which contains lactobacillus. (13) (14)
Topical herbal pastes and solutions
When used correctly, certain topicals can help speed up the healing process, relieve burning, itching, and numb discomfort.
6. Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera gel is well known for its countless benefits for skin health. It has more than 70 active components, which include anti-inflammatory antiseptic and antiviral ingredients. It is said the must-have plant at home. To use, extract aloe vera gel from its leaf and apply directly on sores. If you don’t have it at home, you can buy organic aloe gel from the market. Using 3-4 times a day will soothe your sores and heal quickly. (15)
7. Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is effective in reducing pain and discomfort caused by cold sores. Besides its other numerous skin health effects, it also has antiviral properties.to use this, you can dilute tea tree oil in any other carrier oil and apply on sores 3-4 times a day with a cotton swab. (16)
8. Other Essential oils
Many essential oils have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, which can relieve ongoing pain, burning, or tingling sensation caused by herpes cold sores. These oils include Tea tree oil, clove oil, rosemary oil, or vitamin E oil, Chamomile essential oil, Ginger essential oil, Thyme essential oil, Greek sage oil, Eucalyptus oil, Mexican oregano oil. They do not have any side effects, and you can apply directly. Some people may have an allergy to any of these, so it’s better to dilute it with a carrier oil that you use routinely. (17)
9. Witch hazel
Witch hazel has antiviral properties and is useful as a home remedy to treat herpes. You can use a pure form of it to apply directly to sores. You can also dilute it if your skin is so much sensitive. (18)
10. Licorice root
To use the licorice route, firstly grind licorice root and make powder. Mis some water in it and make a paste. Apply the paste directly on your lips or face and let it dry for 20 minutes, after which you can wash and rinse. Using this 2-3 times a day will surprisingly heal you up very quickly. Licorice has antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory substances. (19)
11. Echinacea extract
Echinacea extract has a soothing effect on the skin and provides immediate relief to burning sores. It also has an effective antiviral mechanism against both the strains of herpes virus. You can apply this extract directly to existing cold sores without dilution as needed. Furthermore, echinacea tea is helpful along with it if you want to take 2-3 cups every day. (20)
12. Manuka honey
Some older researches suggest that manuka honey has significant antiviral effects that are comparable to acyclovir, an antiviral drug. It is effective against HSV-1 and HSV-2. You can apply manuka honey directly without dilution. (21)
13. Epsom salt
Epsom salt is a hygroscopic agent. It will dry out cold sore lesions and heal them quickly. It is useful for genital sores and blisters. To use it, mix a cup of Epsom salt in your bathtub and take a bath for 15 minutes. Repeat this twice a day. (22)
14. Green tea
Green tea has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Taking one or two cups of green tea will prevent the recurrence of cold sore outbreaks, and if you have it already, it will speed up recovery and healing. Studies have also suggested that green tea also contains antiviral properties. (23)
15. Lemon balm extract
Lemon balm oils are extracted from lemon leaves and are effective against HSV-2, which causes genital herpes. It also provides symptomatic relief from burning, itching, and swelling. To use lemon balm extract, dilute it first in any carrier oil and apply on genital ulcers. (24)
How long cold sores remain contagious?
Cold sores remain contagious from the time you start feeling tingling or burning to when the cold sore has completely faded out and healed. (2)
Preventive Measures to Keep Herpes at Bay:
Herpes keeps on recurring. The thing we can do is to reduce the relapses and duration of symptoms every time we get it. There is some general advice we can follow to prevent its recurrence. (2) (4)
- Use condoms to avoid transmission of infection to your partner and vice versa.
- Wear comfortable, loose-fitting cotton clothes.
- Avoid sharing personal belongings, such as towels, toothbrushes, lipsticks, undergarments, and others.
- Avoid triggering factors listed above, which cause a new cold sore outbreak.
- Manage your Stress because Physical or mental stress affects your immune system directly. Do exercise regularly and focus on your diet.
- Avoid oral sex or sexual contact when the sores or blisters are the inactive stages.
When to see a doctor
Consult your physician if;(2)
- the cold sores have not started to heal even after ten days
- the cold sore is very large or painful not responding to simple painkillers such as paracetamol
- your child has painful and swollen gums and sores in the mouth (gingivostomatitis)
- you are pregnant. There is a risk of transferring herpes to newborns.
- You are immunocompromised – for example, because of chemotherapy or diabetes
These simple home remedies are immediate relief to deal with active symptoms of cold sores and genital ulcers so that you can enjoy everyday life without discomfort. Although many of them are trusted and proven beneficial in this condition, these are not definitive for a cure. Please consult your health professional if these tricks are not working or you are getting it worse.