Herbs to Help Cold Sores

The herpes simplex virus HSV-1 is the primary cause of cold sores, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It is transmitted via saliva, usually through kissing or sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils. There is no cure for HSV-1; however, there are herbs you can use to reduce the incidence of cold sores and to speed healing when they do occur. Always consult your health practitioner before taking herbal supplements or applying herbs topically.

Tea Tree

Tea tree is an herb that originated in Australia, and is now available as an essential oil in North America and Europe. Tea tree oil is an effective antiseptic, says Dian Duncin Buchman, Ph.D, author of “Herbal Medicine.” It is also used to speed the healing of cold sores. Buchman recommends mixing 4 drops of tea tree essential oil with 4 tablespoons of olive or almond oil, and applying the mixture to the cold sore three to four times daily.


Goldenseal is a perennial plant that is found in wooded areas throughout North America. It is available as an herbal supplement in health food stores and some larger supermarkets. This herb is considered a natural antibiotic, and is used for cold sores, sore throats and other maladies. Take 250 to 500mg of goldenseal twice a day to help ward off cold sores, says Joe Graedon, author of “The People’s Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies.”

Pregnant women and people with heart conditions or epilepsy should avoid goldenseal. This herb can affect blood pressure and bile secretion, and can stimulate uterine contractions.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, also known as bee balm, is an aromatic herb you can grow in your garden, says Graedon. The herb contains caffeic acid, which has anti-herpes properties. Graedon recommends placing 2 to 4 tablespoons of dried lemon balm in 6 ounces of boiling water, and allowing the lemon balm to steep for 10 minutes. Soak a cotton ball in the lemon balm tea and apply it to cold sores three or four times a day.

About this Author

Owen Pearson is a copywriter who began writing professionally in 2001 and focuses on nutritional and health topics. He has been a vegetarian since 1995. Pearson obtained a bachelor\’s degree in art from the University of Rio Grande in 1997.