Cold Sores/Herpes: Herbal First Aid


Cold sores are red, fluid-filled blisters that show up on the face on or near the mouth. Most cold sores (or fever blisters) are caused by a variety of the herpes virus. Cold sores show up when a person is under stress or has a compromised immune system. Fortunately, these little annoyances do not cause other health complications, and they will signal their arrival by beginning with a slight tingle to the area they are preparing to infect. This is the ideal time to hit them with herbs.

Commonly, people refer to canker sores that appear inside the mouth as cold sores too. We, at the Practical Herbalist, are making a distinction between blisters that appear outside the mouth and blisters that appear on the inside of the mouth. They have very different causes and thus, very different treatments.

Herbal Allies for Treatment of Cold Sores

Licorice root is a naturally sweet antiviral plant that comes in a large variety of forms. Teas, syrups, tinctures, glycerites or dried root are all viable options for taking this immune stimulating herb. Licorice may be used as a topical treatment for cold sores (3 or 4 times a day) or as a mouthwash for oral blisters. Feel free to use licorice root to sweeten tea instead of sugar or just chew on a piece of dried licorice root instead of candy.

Lemon Balm is another delicious herb that has properties which specifically attack the herpes virus. The combination of lemon and mint flavor make it blessedly easy to give to children who suffer from cold sores. Teas, tinctures or glycerites several times a day go a long way to treat pesky cold sores. Lemon Balm essential oil (also called Melissa essential oil) may be dabbed on the wound if diluted with olive or almond oil or with a form of licorice as mentioned above.

Lavender is every one’s favorite antiviral herb. The essential oil can be used the same way lemon balm essential oil is used with dilution. The other benefit of lavender is that it eases the pain and inflammation that accompanies cold sores.

List of Herbal Allies for Treatment of Cold Sores

Nutrition for Treatment of Cold Sores

If you have the herpes virus, it will stay in your system indefinitely. It lays dormant in your bones until your selenium or vitamin E levels deplete. Nuts are a good source of selenium and vitamin E. One Brazil nut, for example has twice the RDA for selenium. Eating a Brazil nut every other day is an easy way to keep a healthy dose of minerals in the body.

L-Lysine is the number one nutritional treatment for cold sores and mouth ulcers. L-Lysine is an essential amino acid that has been shown to stop the herpes virus from spreading. This is an amino acid that is easy to get from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Check remedy section for recipes that treat this condition.


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