Another 15 Household Products That Can Help Heal Cold Sores
When you're looking to get rid of an unsightly cold sore and the pain it causes, you might wonder what everyday products can help.
Fortunately, there are a lot of options.
In a previous post, we covered eight common household remedies for cold sores and the effectiveness of each. Today we're looking at 15 more household products and whether they can help heal your cold sore.
1. Can You Put Lemon on a Cold Sore?
Lemon juice is an astringent, which means that it causes body tissues to contract and shrink. Astringents can help dry out a cold sore, but other astringent options with less acidity may be better options. The acidity of lemon juice makes it extremely painful to apply to a cold sore!
Lemon juice also has antibacterial properties, meaning that it could theoretically protect your cold sore from becoming infected with bacteria. But because cold sores are caused by a herpes virus (most commonly by HSV-1), it's unlikely to help heal your cold sore any faster. It can also be irritating on an open active cold sore.
2. Can You Put Vanilla Extract on a Cold Sore?
Many people have found that dabbing a bit of organic vanilla extract on their cold sore can help to dry it out more quickly. This is likely due to vanilla extract's high alcohol content.
Vanilla itself also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce cold sore inflammation and pain. (Note: This does not apply to artificial vanilla.)
3. Can You Put Baking Soda on a Cold Sore?
You can find baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, in most modern kitchens. Baking soda has been touted by many as a way to assist in drying out cold sores.
Though no empirical studies exist to back up this claim, proponents suggest making a thick paste with water, dabbing it on the cold sore, and leaving it for about five minutes to encourage drying. Then repeat several times daily.
Be careful not to attempt drying out a cold sore that has already burst and scabbed over. It's better to keep cold sores moist at this stage.
4. Can You Put Hand Sanitizer on Cold Sores?
We can't recommend applying hand sanitizer directly to a cold sore. Though the alcohol content might help to dry out a cold sore, it would also likely be very painful and perhaps irritate the cold sore, which would not be good for healing.
However, it is a good idea to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently during a cold sore outbreak. This is because the virus that causes cold sores is extremely contagious.
Any time you touch your cold sore, you should cleanse your hands immediately after to avoid spreading the virus to others around you.
5. Can You Put Neosporin on a Cold Sore?
Neosporin is an antibiotic ointment, meaning it can fight bacteria, but it's not effective against viruses. Cold sores are caused by a virus rather than bacteria, so Neosporin can't address the cause of your cold sore.
Other topical other-the-counter products, like Abreva, are formulated specifically for cold sores. These are better options than Neosporin to help a cold sore heal faster.
However, after a cold sore has dried out, a dab of Neosporin could help keep the open skin from becoming infected with bacteria.
6. Can You Use Salt Water on a Cold Sore?
Salt water is a cheap, easy, and readily available solution that people use on canker sores, and it may also be effective against cold sores.
Applying salt water to your cold sore may be a little painful at first, but it could also provide a drying effect when your cold sore is still in the blistering phase. Salt also naturally soothes inflammation and pain (at least after that initial sting!) and fights infection.
7. Can You Put Tea Tree Oil on a Cold Sore?
Many people are dubious about the claims of all the conditions essential oils supposedly treat. But tea tree oil has proven antiseptic and antiviral qualities. One study specifically showed that tea tree oil had a significant antiviral effect upon the herpes virus (which causes cold sores) in laboratory settings.
More research is needed to specifically evaluate tea tree oil for cold sores in humans.
If you decide to try this in the meantime, dilute about three drops of the tea tree oil in one ounce of a carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil, before applying it to your cold sore. Undiluted tea tree oil (and other essential oils) can actually harm your skin, so this is an important step. Only apply once per day using cotton pads.
8. Can You Use Lemon Balm for a Cold Sore?
Instead of using freshly squeezed lemon juice, consider applying lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, to your cold sore instead.
Despite the name, lemon balm isn't related to the citrus fruit. It's actually an herb in the mint family that has a mild, lemony scent.
Studies have shown that an extract of lemon balm provides protection and antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus. If used in the early stages of a cold sore, lemon balm may help shorten the duration of the outbreak.
9. Can You Put Ice on a Cold Sore?
Whether it's for a skinned knee or a sprained ankle, ice is one of the go-to home treatments for many ailments. Cold sores are no exception.
Cold sores cause swelling, inflammation and pain in the area where they appear. The cold from ice reduces that swelling and inflammation and numbs the cold sore pain just like it would for a sprained ankle.
10. Can You Use Witch Hazel on a Cold Sore?
Witch hazel is made from the leaves and bark of the Hamamelis virginiana tree. It's often sold in a liquid called witch hazel water.
Witch hazel is an astringent, containing tannins that have powerful antioxidant properties and that help to tighten and dry the skin. This could help to dry a cold sore during its early stages and perhaps promote healing.
One study also showed that witch hazel may have an antiviral effect against HSV-1.
11. Can You Put Manuka Honey on a Cold Sore?
In addition to being delicious, honey also has anti-inflammatory properties.
One particular type of honey — Manuka honey — appears to be especially effective and has antimicrobial properties as well.
Manuka honey is made by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush (Leptospermum scoparium) in New Zealand. Australia has a similar product, but legal disputes over naming rights continue to keep the Australian version in limbo.
Manuka honey in its raw, unpasteurized form may decrease the pain, swelling and inflammation of cold sores. One study showed that kanuka honey, a close "cousin" of manuka honey, is just as effective as common, over-the-counter topical drugs for healing cold sores.
Another study showed kanuka honey performed just as well as prescription acyclovir in reducing cold sore healing time.
Honey may also be an effective treatment for those who suffer from canker sores, as well.
12. Can You Put a Tea Bag on a Cold Sore?
Black or green tea both contain high amounts of tannins, an astringent known for helping to tighten skin and heal wounds. Studies have shown that tannins inhibit cell infection from herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2. Since HSV-1 is what commonly causes cold sores, this household remedy could prove extremely beneficial.
Additionally, cooled unflavored green tea bags could potentially act as cold compresses to reduce redness and swelling around cold sores.
13. Can Zinc Help a Cold Sore?
Zinc is a mineral that contributes to immune health and promotes healing in the body. It's found in foods like meats, nuts, seeds, eggs and whole grains. Because immune health is so important to preventing cold sore outbreaks, optimizing your zinc intake could help to stop future outbreaks before they start.
Zinc oxide has been used to protect skin from sun damage, which can provoke a cold sore outbreak, and also to soothe diaper rashes and other minor skin irritations. Zinc oxide also appears to be effective in shortening the duration of cold sore outbreaks. One study showed that frequent and immediate application of a zinc oxide cream decreased both the time and severity of HSV-1 outbreaks.
14. Can You Use Colloidal Silver on a Cold Sore?
Colloidal silver is a liquid containing microscopic silver particles that has been touted as a remedy for many health conditions. Though it is sometimes recommended as a dietary supplement, the FDA warns that colloidal silver can actually be dangerous to your health and produce detrimental side effects such as argyria.
Colloidal silver does have some appropriate and safe applications for topical treatments. There is very little research on this remedy for cold sores, but one study suggests that silver nanoparticles could interfere with HSV-1 infectivity and reproduction.
There is much more anecdotal evidence supporting the use of colloidal silver for cold sores. The method most often recommended is to apply colloidal silver ointment directly to your cold sore.
15. Can You Use Camphor on a Cold Sore?
Camphor today is made from turpentine oil and has anti-inflammatory and pain-fighting properties. As a skin protectant, camphor can alleviate pain and itching caused by cold sores, but it will not kill the herpes virus that causes cold sores.
You should apply topical camphor with caution around the mouth, however. Ingestion of camphor is considered unsafe, and it can cause toxicity very quickly. This is even a consideration with applying camphor to broken skin, where it can also enter the body.
If you would like to try camphor versus another cold sore remedy, consult with your doctor or pharmacist regarding the safest way to use it.
An Alternative to Experimental Household Products
Many of the remedies listed in this post are experimental, with little to no medical research showing their safety or effectiveness. While some have plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who swear by them for relief, others, like camphor, can pose potential problems.
If you're looking for a cold sore solution with no side effects and a proven effectiveness against cold sores, look no further than red light therapy. Clinically proven red light therapy, like that used in the Luminance RED Lip Sore Treatment Device, produces a remarkable reduction in the pain, healing time and frequency of cold sore outbreaks.
For example, studies show that treatment with red light can reduce cold sore healing time by 49% and increase the time between outbreaks from 21 days to 263 days.