Top 10+ Essential Oils For Cold Sores

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Top 10 Essential Oils For Cold SoresImage – © edwardderule –

Herpes simplex is a common viral infection of the skin or mucous membranes. It causes intermittent skin lesions – cold sores – which are unpleasant, unsightly and highly contagious. We’ve created a master list of essential oils that have been found by scientific research to have action against herpes / cold sores – and it’s on this page.

Herpes is considered “incurable” according to current medical opinion, however there is a standard medical treatment for the outbreaks – acyclovir (aka. Zovirax®) – as well as several alternative treatments in use. Short-term treatment with acyclovir can accelerate the healing of outbreaks, and continued acyclovir therapy is often prescribed for people with frequent recurrences. However, while this drug can reduce the recurrence rate by 60-90 percent, it has been known to cause a wide array of serious side effects; including vomiting, dizziness, pain, agitation, [1] kidney failure, hepatitis, and anaphylaxis. [2]

Numerous alternative / natural treatments for herpes outbreaks are in use today and a considerable amount of lab research has been done. Several herbs and essential oils are regarded as beneficial when applied topically – and several are even considered antiviral against acyclovir-resistant herpes strains. We’ve gathered a mountain of research that has been done into essential oils and herbs for cold sores / herpes and presented it here. We ended up with way more than 10 essential oils and so we’ve arranged them with what we think are the most useful essential oils towards the top.

One interesting thing we discovered is that you may achieve even greater success using a blend of oils that have been found beneficial. More on that later.

Safety Note: Owing to the strength of undiluted essential oils, it is always advised for safety to dilute the essential oil. Typically, a mix of one teaspoon of coconut or olive oil with 5-10 drops of the essential oil is used to create a salve, of which a small amount can be applied (using a Q-tip or cotton swab) carefully to a cold sore several times per day.


Tea Tree

Tea Tree Essential Oil is one of the most popular and best studied essential oils for herpes. There has been some support from science suggesting that Tea Tree oil may have an action against the Herpes simplex virus when applied topically as soon after the onset of the cold sore as possible. [3][4] Don’t delay: If you can commence application of tea tree at the earliest sign of the cold sore outbreak (tingling sensation), you may be able to stop it in its tracks before it really takes hold. Note that it’s typically advised to dilute the tea tree prior to use (olive oil, coconut oil or similar is fine) – though to be honest (although I DO NOT recommend it officially), I have used neat tea tree in this way numerous times and I am none the worse for wear. Using a cotton bud, I dabbed a tiny spot of tea tree right onto the outbreak and it seemed to stop it in its tracks. Be careful never to ingest tea tree oil, it is toxic when taken internally. (Don’t confuse it with the kind of tea that people drink, because that is made from a completely different plant!)

In clinical studies, tea tree oil has been shown to possess antiherpetic, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties, as well as to accelerate the healing process of herpes labialis. Applying diluted essential oils three to four times daily for the antiherpetic treatment of affected areas is recommended. [5]


Sandalwood Essential Oil has been demonstrated by scientific studies to show strong antiviral activity against the herpes virus strain HSV-1 and 2, suppressing the replication of the viruses in a dose-dependent manner. [6][7]


Reishi has been found [8][9] to have action against the herpes virus and in 2007 was found (as part of a multi-herb formula) to shorten the recovery time from symptoms of an outbreak. [10] Please note – Reishi is available typically as either a herbal extract or in powder form (capsules).

Apple Mint

Mentha suaveolens

A little-known contender! Demonstrated in a 2014 study to have an inhibitory concentration (IC50) over 2x better than Tea Tree EO! This is interesting: A synergistic action **(see notes below on combining oils) against HSV-1 was also observed when each oil was added in combination with acyclovir. [11]

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has been the subject of considerable study with regard to its effects against herpes and is considered as one of the best essential oil treatments. [12]


Peppermint: Found by scientists to be strongly active against Herpes type 1 and 2. [13]


Sage: Ethanol extracts of sage were found to have a dual mode of action against HSV-1 and HSV-2; effective against both “free” viruses, and against viral activity in pre-treated host cells. [14] Although the study indicates an interesting possibility for a dual-action topical treatment, I am wondering if these results might indicate some potential for actual cure of the virus. Another study combined sage and rhubarb and the combination of the two was found more effective. [15]

Aqueous extracts from peppermint, sage and lemon balm leaves display potent anti-HIV-1 activity by increasing the virion density. (A virion is a “complete virus particle”) [16][17]

Camomile / Chamomile

Camomile essential oil – was found by scientists to have high selectivity index and significant action against HSV2, indicating potential topical therapeutic application as virucidal agent for treatment of herpes genitalis. [18]

Olbas Oil

(note – this is a blend of 6 essential oils)

Olbas oil showed high activity and high selectivity against HSV-1. [19] Interestingly, olbas was shown to affect the virus before adsorption, but not after penetration into the host cell, thus Olbas exerted a direct antiviral effect on HSV. Note that olbas is not an essential oil, but is a blend of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Cajeput, Wintergreen, Juniper and Clove – several of which have been found to have anti-herpes activity in other studies.


Clove has been found active against HSV by another study. [20]

Thyme, Oregano and more

Thymol and carvacrol (principal components in Thyme and Oregano essential oils) showed significant antiviral activity against HSV-1. [21] Thymol is named after the fact that it is a predominant component of thyme essential oil – however it is also found in many other plants, including the bee balms Monarda fistulosa and Monarda didyma. Carvacrol is present in the essential oil of Origanum vulgare (oregano), oil of thyme (between 5% and 75% ), oil of pepperwort, wild bergamot, Satureja (Savory) (between 1% and 45%), Origanum majorana (Marjoram) (50%) and Dittany of Crete (60-80%.) [22]


Lebanon Cedar Essential Oil (Cedrus libani) – found to have action against HSV-1 and 2. [23]

Dwarf Pine, Anise, Camomile

Dwarf Pine, Anise and Camomile essential oils exhibited high levels of antiviral activity against acyclovir-sensitive HSV strain KOS and acyclovir-resistant clinical HSV isolates as well as aciclovir-resistant strain Angelotti. [24]

Ginger, Hyssop

Ginger, Hyssop, Thyme, Sandalwood: All essential oils exhibited high levels of virucidal activity against HSV-1. [25]


Manuka Oil (Leptospermum scoparium) “New Zealand Tea Tree” [26]

A few other obscure ones noted in studies…

Tree Wormwood (Artemisia arborescens) demonstrated a direct antiviral (virucidal) effect against HSV-1 and HSV-2. [27]

Lantana grisebachii essential oil has shown selective inhibitory activity against HSV and DENV by direct virus inactivation. The oil from L. grisebachii was also an effective inhibitor of HSV-2 and acyclovir resistant variants of herpes virus. [28]

Aloysia gratissima, Artemisia douglasiana, Eupatorium patens and T. absinthioides inactivated HSV-1 at 65-125 ppm. [29]

Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan). Ethanolic extract showed strong effects against HSV-1 and HSV-2. [30]

Combining Essential Oils For Greater Effect

** It was interesting to note the “synergistic combination effect” of apple mint and tea tree essential oils against herpes – and it got me thinking. From analysis of the numerous studies referenced above, it seems that certain essential oils appear to act at different phases of the viral life cycle – suggesting that combining essential oils or their active components may create a more “complete” antiviral agent.

There is also the possibility that the increased complexity of a mixture of oils makes it even more difficult for a virus to develop immunity – as there is more than one agent acting against it: Bacteria and insect pest populations develop tolerance to single molecule pesticides yet essential oils remain active against them – so it may be possible that in a similar manner, the more complex the molecular mix, the more difficult it is for the virus to overcome it.

There is much opportunity for research here and I would value a comparison of various mixtures of essential oils to determine if there are further synergistic effects. It certainly seems that it may be valuable to combine oils that act on different phases of the viral life-cycle, in order to create a “complete” natural topical anti-herpes application.

The Viral Life-Cycle

For those wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the way essential oils work as antivirals, first learn and understand the sequence of the viral life cycle. In the scientific studies, it is typical to introduce the essential oils at different points in the viral life cycle, in order to learn more about the mechanism of action:

“In order to find out the mechanism of action, EOMS, PEO and TTO were added to the cells at different times during the virus life-cycle. Results obtained by yield reduction assay indicated that the antiviral activity of both compounds was principally due to an effect after viral adsorption. Indeed, no reduction of virus yield was observed when cells were treated during viral adsorption or pre-treated before viral infection. In particular, PEO exerted a strong inhibitory effect by interfering with a late step of HSV-1 life-cycle. HSV-1 infection is known to induce a pro-oxidative state with depletion of the main intracellular antioxidant glutathione and this redox change in the cell is important for viral replication. Interestingly, the treatment with PEO corrected this deficit, thus suggesting that the compound could interfere with some redox-sensitive cellular pathways exploited for viral replication.” [31]

More Natural Remedies For Herpes:

1) L-lysine supplementation / L-arginine limitation. L-lysine supplementation is considered very valuable in preventing outbreaks. It is also thought that if taken at the first sign of the characteristic “tingling” that signifies the beginning of an outbreak, it may nip it in the bud or speed up the healing process. The converse of this is also true – an imbalance of too much arginine and too little lysine is thought to be a possible trigger for outbreaks, so you may wish to look up a list of foods high in arginine and lower your intake of these (sensibly of course).

2) Colloidal Silver. Some are claiming that this can nip an outbreak in the bud, I haven’t tried it.

3) Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Adenosine monophosphate have also been suggested as natural treatments for herpes.

4) Even more home remedies for cold sores here:

































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One thought on “Top 10+ Essential Oils For Cold Sores

  1. Lysine works best for me but the essential oils listed are certainly worth a try….. thanks for the list…

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