9 Best Cold Sore Treatments: Medication, Devices, and Home Remedies

Cold sores are not an uncommon occurrence. However, many people fail to realize that the Herpes Simplex Virus that causes them is already in their system. As a result, about 90% of people will get one during their lifetime. The best cold sore treatment options can be either prescribed, purchased over-the-counter or made at home. Here are a few options you might want to consider before your next outbreak.

Best Cold Sore Treatment Options by Prescription

medical bottle and pills spilled out of it

1. Acyclovir (aka Xerese and Zovirax)

Acyclovir is a synthetic nucleoside analog medication designed to prevent outbreaks of cold sores due to an immunodeficiency virus. It comes in tablet form, injections and a cream depending on the type of virus being treated. I cannot be used by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers since it can be passed through the milk to the baby. It doesn’t react well to many medication and side effects can include nausea, diarrhea and hives among other things.

2. Valacyclovir (aka Valtrex)

Valacyclovir takes a slightly different approach in that it is a suppressive therapy that helps control symptoms of cold sores but does not treat or cure the disease. It is classified as an antiviral medication. Side effects can include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, agitation, confusion and kidney problems among other things.

3. Famciclovir (aka Famvir)

Famvir is an antiviral that is orally administered. It is a synthetic acyclic guanine derivative. Side effects can include weakness, increased thirst, loss of appetite, vomiting and urinating less than usual to name a few. Although it is often prescribed for recurrent episodes, it is primarily used as suppressive therapy. It is not prescribed for patients younger than 18 and it is not known whether it is transmittable through mother’s milk.

Best Cold Sore Treatment Options Available Over-the-Counter

4. Virulite Cold Sore Machine

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The Virulite Cold Sore Machine is a technology that treats cold sores by stimulating your immune system. When placed over a cold sore it emits 1072 nanometers of light in pulsating bursts. Your immune system responds to the attack the intrusion allowing you to heal more quickly. In fact, in clinical studies it was shown to eradicate the cold sores in half the time of other options.

5. Herp-B-Gone

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When it comes to finding the best cold sore treatment, Herp-B-Gone is getting very high marks. It’s a newer product, having just come out in 2015, that is all-natural and works by killing the virus, thus speeding up the healing process. The product contains ingredients like coconut oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, shitake mushroom LE and much more. It’s a cream that is applied directly to the sore. Customer reviews indicate that it can work in as little as one day.

6. Orajel Single Dose

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Orajel has long been known for its ability to stop pain and it works well for cold sores. It comes with 2 vials in a single-dose applicator and once all the medicine from a vial has been applied you should feel immediate relief. The key ingredient is benzocaine. However, other antiseptic ingredients have been added that help heal cold sores faster and stop them from spreading.

Best Cold Sore Treatment Options You Can Make at Home

7. Lemon Balm

DIY Lemon Balm

What You Need

  • 2 tablespoons carrier oil;
  • 1 lemon balm tea bag;
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons beeswax (grated);
  • 1 teaspoon honey;
  • 10 drops lemon balm essential oil;
  • Sealable small jar;
  • Double boiler.

How to Apply

Mix the carrier oil and a handful of leaves from a lemon balm tea bag in a small jar. Cover and place in the sun for 2 weeks shaking and turning it occasionally. Strain out the leaves and, in a double boiler, heat the oil, beeswax and honey until melted. Remove from the heat and add lemon balm essential oil. Set in an ice bath and whisk rapidly until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Spoon the balm into a glass jar and seal. It makes enough to last a year and will last that long as well.

8. A Mix of Essential Oils

small bottles of essential oils

What You Need

  • 2 drops of lavender essential oil;
  • 2 drops of peppermint essential oil;
  • 2 drops of tea tree essential oil;
  • 2 tablespoons sweet oil (can be found at Walmart – used for ear aches);
  • Sealable small jar.

How to Apply

Mix lavender essential oil, peppermint essential oil, tea tree essential oil and sweet oil in a small jar. Just shake before using. Since cold sores are contagious, use a q-tip to apply it.

9. St. John’s Wort and Lemon Balm

dried St John's Wort

What You Need

  • 1 cup coconut oil or other carrier oil;
  • 1 tablespoon dried herb St. John’s Wort;
  • 1 tablespoon dried herb lemon balm;
  • 2 tablespoon beeswax;
  • 2 tablespoons cacao butter;
  • 10 drops lemon balm essential oil;
  • Cheesecloth;
  • Double boiler;
  • Sealable glass jar.

How to Apply

Melt coconut oil in a double boiler. Heat to a simmer then add St. John’s Wort (dried herb) and Lemon Balm (dried herb). Simmer for 2 hours or until the oil becomes the color of the herbs. Strain through a cheesecloth and wring it out. To make the balm, add the oil you made to beeswax, cacao butter and Lemon Balm essential oil. Heat in a double boiler until all the ingredients have melted. Allow to cool and spoon into containers that can be sealed.

The Bottom Line

Cold sores are not caused by colds as the name suggests. Nor are they caused by a fever. They are caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex Virus that resulted from an infection you acquired sometime during your lifetime. They can actually show up anywhere on your body although they most often occur outside the mouth and lips. Cold sores are also highly contagious.

The good thing is that cold sores only last 7 to 10 days without treatment. However, the best cold sore treatment options can shorten that time considerably and make the discomfort much more bearable.

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