For anyone who gets a herpes cold sore from time to time (medically known as Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1)), you know how unpleasant this ailment can be. These sores show up on the lips/mouth and can be quite painful and unsightly -- and are highly contagious. Along those lines, this means no smooching (the biggest reason I dislike having this virus), no sharing food or drink with friends and loved ones, and also generally means feeling low-energy and rundown.
In the past, this virus also elicited feelings of shame and embarrassment for me due to the visible nature of this virus on the face, and I wanted to hide away until the sore was gone. I have since come to realize that the herpes virus is quite common and is nothing to be ashamed of, and not only that—it is a signal that I am not giving my body the proper rest and care that it so needs and deserves—these tend to show up during times of stress and anxiety. It has been a lesson in taking care of myself in many ways—I have learned many remedies in the 20 years since my first outbreak that have made these cold sores much more manageable and pain-free, and with much less severity and duration. And, if I take care of my body right in between, an entire year or more can go by without a sign of ‘em.
It is common to find many of the following natural topical remedies suggested around the internet as different ways to help with herpes, and I personally am suggesting the use of *all* of these remedies systematically in a particular and strategic way while you have your cold sore. A strategic battle against herpes! (I will write another article soon about supplements to take during the virus, as well as another about prevention, but let’s take it one step at a time).
The following recommendations are a system I have come up with over the past two years, after many more years of experimenting previously. I have found great success with it—to the point of keeping the cold sore so small right from the beginning that most people don’t even know that it is there. (The only negative of this is having to sometimes inform people that you have a cold sore, which I find to be a bit awkward, but is a nice exchange as far as I am concerned).
How to Treat Cold Sores (Oral Herpes)
The second you start to feel tingling on your lip or face, start icing the area. It can be challenging to tune into this as it can be quite subtle, so, I often wind up starting with the ice once I feel the tiniest bump start to rise on my lip. I ice the spot for about 10 minutes at a time. I do this as many times as I can throughout the day, usually 3-5 times. The ice slows the growth of the sore, and if caught early enough, can prevent the sore from fully arriving altogether. (Though that is usually if you do it before the bump arrives and as soon as you feel the tingling.)
All of that said—if your cold sore does fully manifest, keep icing it for at least the first few days—this will not only slow its growth, but it really helps with the pain and burning sensation. I cannot stress enough how helpful the ice is for the pain.
2. Hydrogen peroxide
This is a remedy that I have started using in the past year or two, and I *love* it. While there are varying assertions as related to medical research as to whether or not this topical remedy works, I am sharing it because I myself have personally found great success with it. I start using hydrogen peroxide as soon as there is a bump to see or feel, though its results are more obvious when the sore reaches the “open” state—be prepared to see the sores bubble and turn white after application if the sore has progressed to that stage.
Basically, this solution works for at least two reasons: 1. Swabbing peroxide on open sores creates an instant oxygenating reaction, and viruses do not survive well when bombarded with oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. 2. Through the reaction created with this solution, it helps to “dry out” the sore faster, moving it towards healing—much faster than without.
I apply hydrogen peroxide about 3-5 times a day as well (like the ice) and do this until the sore has started moving into the healing/scabbing phase—pretty much when application of the solution no longer bubbles when applied.
3. Manuka honey
This has been a recent discovery for me, and, I think it may be one of the most powerful healing agents when it comes to the herpes cold sore that I have found so far. The honey serves as an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory, and I have seen my cold sores disappear quickly since the use of this special honey. I apply it before bedtime and let it do its work while I sleep, (and wake up with the sore significantly reduced in the morning!) and also apply it throughout the day after icing and applying the hydrogen peroxide.
And, not all honeys will work as well as this one—it is Manuka Honey in particular that will really work on the herpes cold sore, with its special properties relating to the bee’s extracting process and the chemical compound reactions created from this type of honey that only grows in Australia and New Zealand.
4. Lysine lip stuff
As you might imagine, icing your lip and walking around with honey on it, as well as potentially having a white spot from hydrogen peroxide on your lip, may be a bit awkward, not to mention possibly inconvenient to apply on a regular basis when outside the home. While I am lucky to work from home, sometimes I need to be out in the world, and don’t have the time or ability to apply these remedies throughout the day. For these in-between times, (and just in general) I like to use a product called “Super Lysine Plus, cold sore treatment” by Quantum Health. This keeps the cold sore cool (soothes that burning feeling) and also keeps the sore moist and happy, while applying Lysine —a supplement well known for counteracting herpes.
While I spoke earlier about “drying out” the sore as being helpful, it is also (oddly) important to keep the sore moist to a certain degree. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it is important to both dry out the sore but also keep it moist and soothed so that it doesn’t crack and bleed as it progresses towards healing. Use your best intuition/judgment for this, and, feel free to apply this stuff liberally at all points in the succession of the cold sore, including when it is needing some cooling/soothing as well as towards the end of the cold sore lifespan when it is starting to close up.
5. Calendula Healing lip stuff: “Herp Elim” by Wishgarden
This is a lip balm by WishGarden that has been recommended to me by many herbalists and practitioners. I don’t use this until I have reached the point where my cold sore is now past the “active” phase; I am no longer trying to “fight the virus” and want to move into the straight-up healing process. The main ingredients in this product are propolis, yerba manza, calendula, echinacea, burdock, myrrh, wild geranium, mullein flower, vitamin E in a mixture of olive oil, coconut oil and beeswax.
Ideally, you will have been careful enough in your use of the above products that you won’t experience much cracking or bleeding, but this stuff is what will both prevent that as well as help move it past that phase and into healing up. I use this until my cold sore has completely healed.
Best of luck, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. And, stay tuned for my upcoming articles about herpes prevention, as well as supplements to take during an outbreak.