Cold sores are a common viral infection stemming from the herpes simplex virus. They tend to form characteristic groups of blisters on the lips or near the mouth. When the blisters break open, they ooze a highly contagious liquid, which makes it easy to spread to others. If left untreated, cold sores can take up to 2 weeks to heal. Because of their pesky and sometimes painful nature, most people prefer not to ride out the 2 weeks. At the moment, there is no cure for cold sores. Luckily, however, there are a number of effective cold sore remedies that are available over-the-counter(OTC) and even at home which are designed to help speed up the healing process.
Abreva is a common and popular OTC treatment for cold sores. According to their website, it is the only non-prescription remedy proven to minimize healing time. When used many times a day immediately following the first sign of a tingle, it also helps to lessen the pain of an outbreak. Its active ingredient, 10% Docosanol, works at the cellular level to block the virus from entering healthy skin cells.
Zilactin is an antibacterial cold sore relief gel. It’s active ingredient is 10% Benzyl Peroxide, an antiseptic agent that also helps with pain and itching. It’s best to be used after the appearance of a cold sore.
Herpecin-L Cold Sore Treatment
Herpecin-L is a lip balm that treats and prevents cold sores. It contains the amino acid Lysine, which absorbs the infectious qualities the sore. SPF 30 and vitamins B6, C & E condition the skin and protect it from the sun. It’s best to be used at the first sign of a cold sore.
Zovirax (Acyclovir) is an OTC cold sore remedy that also treats the pain and itching associated with the condition. It shortens the lifespan of the cold sore outbreak, and stops the virus from spreading in weak immune systems. Zovirax works best when taken at the start of an outbreak. It is available in capsule, tablet, and liquid form. Consult your doctor before taking any new drugs.
Valacyclovir is used to treat a number of viral infections. For cold sores, it slows the growth and spread of the herpes virus so the immune system can fight off infection. It will also aid in preventing further outbreaks. Valacyclovir is an option for those who have tried other treatments unsuccessfully. It is available via prescription from your doctor. It should be used within 48 hours of the outbreak.
Lysine is one of many natural cold sore remedies. It is a natural amino acid that contains cold sore fighting properties. It can be taken in supplement form or as a cream/ointment applied to the affected area. Studies have shown that lysine supplements shorten the duration of a cold sore by inhibiting the replication of the herpes simplex virus. The suggested dosage for cold sore treatment is 1000mg daily for up to 12 months. Lysine increases the body’s calcium absorption rate so it is advisable to limit calcium intake while on a lysine supplement.
There has been some anecdotal evidence that refined and unrefined coconut oil are effective remedies for cold sores. Coconut oil contains antiviral and antibacterial qualities that may be helpful in the treatment of various forms of herpes. For treatment, take one tablespoon of the oil per day. It can be mixed into a meal or beverage of your choice for taste purposes.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a natural digestive supplement, known to most people as the living culture used in yogurt. While it is beneficial for intestinal and digestive problems, it also has properties that make it a viable treatment for core sores. Acidophilus can be purchased in capsule form, but only pills made with live cultures are effective for outbreaks. This usually requires refrigeration. Consuming yogurt may be helpful as well, however, supplement form is a stronger and more effective treatment.
Olive Leaf Extract
Olive leaf extract is a herbal substance derived from the leaf of the olive tree. It contains medicinal properties that make it a suitable candidate for the treatment of a variety of illnesses, including herpes simplex. Phytochemical Oleuropein is the antibacterial and antiviral compound present in olive leaf extract. It prevents amino acid production, which stunts the growth of viruses and bacteria in the body. It can be ingested as an extract or tea for the treatment of cold sores. Typically, it is best to begin treatment at the first sign of tingling, before the cold sore appears.
Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is made from the leaves and flowers of the oregano plant. There are no current clinical trials for oil of oregano, however, it contains powerful antioxidants and antimicrobial properties that make it a potentially versatile treatment option. For cold sores, the oil may help to relieve symptoms of the blisters while preventing future breakouts. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties to combat the swelling around the affected area. Oil of oregano can be taken as a few drops under the tongue several times daily, or applied topically on the outbreak.
Vitamin C is often touted as the remedy for colds and viruses, which coincidentally makes it a useful option to treat cold sores. Outbreaks tend to occur when the immune system is compromised. With vitamin C’s immune boosting properties, it allows the body to fight off the herpes virus while prevent a recurrence. For a more effective regimen, moderate doses of vitamin C may be taken in conjunction with lysine or other immune boosting supplements.
Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that prevents infection and promotes healing. When applied to a cold sore it may cause pain and tingling. To prevent damage to sensitive skin, dilute the peroxide with water before applying to the area. If the sores are inside the mouth, it can be swished or gargled onto the affected area. Although hydrogen peroxide helps to heal an existing sore, it may not prevent further breakouts.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil contains antiseptic, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. It can potentially reduce the breakout by up to 50%. The oil is available in various strengths, ranging from 10% to 100%. Tea tree oil over 30% may be the most effective for cold sore treatment. To treat, apply a few drops directly onto the breakout via q-tip or cotton swab several times a day until the outbreak subsides. It is best to treat the affected area at the first sign of a tingle.
Tips for Treating Cold Sores
There are several ways to ease the symptoms of cold sores while treating the area with a cold sore remedy of your choice.
- Cover cold sores with petroleum-based jelly to speed up healing and protect from further infection.
- Take OTC painkillers to help with the pain caused by blisters.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight by using a sunscreen lip balm on the affected area.
- Do not consume acidic foods while suffering from an outbreak.
- Try stress reduction techniques to prevent recurrent outbreaks.
- Change your toothbrush after a cold sore subsides to prevent reinfection.