Cold sores? I despise them. Unfortunately, I am one of the not-so-lucky people who gets them. Repeatedly. Lately, it seems that I’ve been getting them more frequently, and it’s no doubt due to stress. You see, stress happens to be my biggest trigger for the painful sores, but illness, sleep deprivation, exposure, and more can all contribute to a cold sore outbreak. Now as soon as I feel one coming on, I turn to proven effective essential oils.

Also known as fever blisters, cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and are usually spread by contact or kissing. At the onset of cold sore, the area may turn red and begin itching or tingling. Quickly after that, a blister forms and crusts over until the sore eventually heals. Not only are they unsightly, they can also be very painful. And on top of all that, it can take several weeks before the sore is completely healed up again. Ugh!

The good news is that if treated at the first sign of onset, the duration of the cold sore can be shortened or even possibly eliminated altogether. The bad news is it can be tricky to do since the onset usually happens quickly.

The Best Essential Oils for Cold Sores

Over-the-counter treatment options are available for cold sores, but did you know that there are also several essential oils that are considered beneficial when treating them as well? Not only are essential oils a completely natural alternative to over-the-counter remedies (which, let’s be honest, is always a plus!), but they’re an effective alternative to boot.

Below, I’ve listed six of the best essential oils for cold sores and as a bonus I’ve included a simple recipe for a DIY lip balm. 

Cold Sore Lip Balm

1. Melissa

Melissa essential oil—also known as lemon balm–is generally regarded as one of the best essential oils for cold sores. In fact, a study published in 2012 found that even in low concentrations, Melissa showed elevated antiviral activity and inhibited the herpes virus from binding to cells.

Melissa is frequently listed among aromatherapy texts as one of the best—if not THE best—essential oil for cold sores. It’s important to note that Melissa is an extremely pricey essential oil—but the good news is, only a very little bit is needed!

2. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is another essential oil considered useful for cold sores. Eucalyptus contains potent antibacterial and antiviral properties and can not only benefit the cold sore, but it is considered beneficial for the immune system as well. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help with pain and inflammation.

When I am dealing with a cold sore, eucalyptus is the essential oil that I reach for first. The cooling sensation of the oil brings my inflamed lip much needed relief. I consider eucalyptus a must-have essential oil for illness in general, so I always have a bottle on hand!

3. Tea Tree

Tea tree essential oil contains potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal therapeutic properties. It’s extremely beneficial in a number of situations, including cold sores. However, not only does tea tree possess antiviral activities that are considered effective against cold sores, it also contains potent anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, it is commonly used when dealing with inflamed and irritated skin–making it a great choice to consider if you’re dealing with a painful and irritated cold sore.     

4. Lavender

Lavender makes the cut on this list due to its soothing properties. Lavender is one of the most commonly used essential oils and for good reason—it’s beneficial for just about anything!

If your cold sore is especially inflamed and painful, lavender is an excellent choice to help relieve pain. It is most commonly known for its skin-soothing properties and is also considered beneficial when dealing with inflammation.

Lavender may not have the antiviral properties that some of the other essential oils on this list contain, but it’s definitely one of the best for inflamed and painful skin. 

5. Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil is frequently used for cold sores. When the skin is sore and inflamed, the cooling and pain-relieving properties of peppermint can provide immediate relief to the burning sensation of the blister, not to mention that it also contains potent antiviral properties. In fact, this study found that peppermint essential oil had a direct effect on the herpes virus and suggests it may be beneficial for those dealing with recurrent outbreaks. 

6. Chamomile

Chamomile is another essential oil that has gentle, skin-soothing properties. Like lavender and tea tree, it can be used on a number of skin problems, and is can be especially helpful when dealing with inflammation. However, that’s not all that chamomile is good for.

I tend to think of chamomile as a sort of gentle giant. It is one of the gentler essential oils, but it packs a big punch when it comes to therapeutic properties. In fact, this study found that chamomile essential oil was active against the herpes virus, without any irritating effects.

No More Cold Sores Lip Balm

This lip balm recipe is not only moisturizing for chapped lips, but it also includes essential oils that are great for helping to keep cold sores at bay. 

Makes 1 tube of lip balm.

Supplies Needed

  • ¼ teaspoon beeswax pellets
  • ¼ teaspoon grated cocoa butter
  • ¼ teaspoon coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 5ml lip balm tube
  • 1 pipette
  • 1 drop each of peppermint*, eucalyptus, and lavender essential oil (or any combination of the above essential oils)


Combine beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and avocado oil in a double boiler. Warm on low heat until beeswax is completely melted.

Remove from heat and stir until thoroughly mixed. Add essential oils and stir again. Using the pipette, transfer melted mixture to lip balm tube. Let mixture completely harden before use.

Do not apply lip balm to a cold sore straight from the tube as it will contaminate the mixture. Instead, use clean fingertips to apply balm to a cold sore and then immediately wash your hands after. 

*Do not use more than two drops of peppermint EO per lip balm tube. The cooling properties of peppermint can cause a strong tingling sensation that some individuals may find uncomfortable. 


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