Cold sores? I despise them. Unfortunately, I am one of the not-so-lucky people who get them. Repeatedly. Lately, it seems that I’ve been getting them more frequently—no doubt due to stress.
You see, stress happens to be my biggest trigger for the painful sores, but illness, sleep deprivation, exposure, and more can all contribute to a cold sore outbreak. Now, as soon as I feel one coming on, I turn to proven effective essential oils.
Also known as fever blisters, cold sores are most frequently caused by the herpes simplex virus and are usually spread by contact or kissing. At the onset of a cold sore, the area may turn red and begin itching or tingling.
Quickly after that, a blister forms and crusts over until the sore eventually heals. Not only are they unsightly, but they can also be very painful. And on top of all that, it can take several weeks before the sore is completely healed. Ugh!
The good news is that if treated at the first sign of onset, the duration of the cold sore can be shortened or even possibly eliminated altogether. The bad news is it can be tricky to do since the onset usually happens pretty quickly.
The Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores
Over-the-counter treatment options are available for cold sores, but did you know that several essential oils are considered beneficial when treating them as well [source]? Not only are essential oils a completely natural alternative to OTC remedies (which, let’s be honest, is always a plus), but they’ve been shown to be an effective alternative to boot [source].
Below, I’ve listed six of the best essential oils for cold sores, and as a bonus, I’ve included a simple recipe for a DIY lip balm.
Melissa essential oil—also known as lemon balm—is generally regarded as one of the most well-known essential oils for cold sores [source]. In fact, a study published in 2012 found that even in low concentrations, Melissa showed elevated antiviral activity and inhibited the herpes virus from binding to cells [source].
Melissa is frequently listed among aromatherapy texts as one of the best—if not THE best—essential oil for cold sores. It’s important to note that Melissa is an extremely pricey essential oil, but the good news is, only a very little bit is needed!
Eucalyptus is another essential oil considered useful for cold sores—and much less expensive. Eucalyptus contains potent antibacterial and antiviral properties [source]. It not only benefits the cold sore but it is considered beneficial for the immune system as well. It is a potent antioxidant [source] that also contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties to help with pain and inflammation [source].
When I am dealing with a cold sore, eucalyptus is the essential oil that I reach for first. The cooling sensation of the oil brings my inflamed lip much needed relief. I consider eucalyptus a must-have essential oil for illness in general, so I always have a bottle on hand!
3. Tea Tree
Tea tree essential oil contains potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal therapeutic properties. It’s extremely beneficial in a number of situations, including cold sore outbreaks.
Not only does tea tree possess antiviral activities that are considered effective against herpes viruses [source], it also contains potent anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, it is commonly used when dealing with inflamed and irritated skin, making it a great choice to consider if you’re dealing with a painful and irritated cold sore.
Lavender makes the cut on this list due to its soothing properties. Lavender is one of the most commonly used essential oils, and for good reason—it’s beneficial for just about anything!
If your cold sore is especially inflamed and painful, lavender is an excellent choice to help relieve pain. Most commonly known for its skin-soothing properties, it is also considered beneficial when dealing with inflammation [source].
Lavender may not have the antiviral properties exhibited by some of the other essential oils on this list, but it’s definitely one of the best for inflamed and painful skin.
Peppermint essential oil is frequently used for cold sores. When the skin is sore and inflamed, its cooling and pain-relieving properties can provide immediate relief to the burning sensation of the blister, not to mention that it also contains potent antiviral properties.
In fact, peppermint essential oil was found to directly affect the herpes virus and may be beneficial for those dealing with recurrent outbreaks. It was also shown to be effective in treating one of the virus strains resistant to antiviral medication [source].
Chamomile is another essential oil that has gentle, skin-soothing properties. Like lavender and tea tree, it can be used on a number of skin problems and is especially helpful when dealing with inflammation. However, that’s not all that chamomile is good for.
I tend to think of chamomile as a sort of gentle giant. It is one of the gentler essential oils, but it packs a big punch when it comes to therapeutic properties. In fact, research has shown that chamomile essential oil was active against the herpes virus without any irritating effects [source].
No More Cold Sores Lip Balm
Makes 1 tube of lip balm.
*Do not use more than two drops of peppermint EO per lip balm tube. The cooling properties of peppermint can cause a strong tingling sensation that some individuals may find uncomfortable.
No More Cold Sores Lip Balm
- Double boiler
- 5 mL lip balm tube
- 1 pipette
- Combine beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and avocado oil in a double boiler. Warm on low heat until beeswax is completely melted.
- Remove from the heat and stir until thoroughly mixed. Add essential oils and stir again. Using the pipette, transfer the melted mixture to lip balm tube. Let it completely harden before use.
Schnitzler P. Essential oils for the treatment of herpes simplex virus infections. Chemotherapy. 2019.
Garber A, et al. Review of whole plant extracts with activity against herpes simplex viruses in vitro and in vivo. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2021.
Vanti G, et al. Glycerosome of Melissa officinalis L. essential oil for effective anti-HSV type 1. Molecules. 2020.
Astani A, et al. Melissa officinalis extract inhibits attachment of herpes simplex virus in vitro. Chemotherapy. 2012.
Sabo VA, et al. Antimicrobial activity of Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehn. plant extracts and essential oils: a review. Ind Crops Prod. 2019.
Bullon P, et al. Value-added compound recovery from invasive forest for biofunctional applications: Eucalyptus species as a case study. Molecules. 2020.
Jun YS, et al. Effect of eucalyptus oil inhalation on pain and inflammatory responses after total knee replacement: a randomized clinical trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013.
Carson CF, et al. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006.
Da Silva GL, et al. Antioxidant, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of lavender essential oil. An Acad Bras Ciênc. 2015.
Schumacher A, et al. Virucidal effect of peppermint oil on the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in vitro. Phytomedicine. 2003.
Koch C, et al. Efficacy of anise oil, dwarf-pine oil and chamomile oil against thymidine-kinase-positive and thymidine-kinase-negative herpesviruses. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified physician who has been practicing for more than 20 years. Learn more about Hello Glow's medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.85