Did you know 90 percent of the population gets at least one cold sore in a lifetime, and 40 percent of American adults get cold sores repeatedly? They can be painful, uncomfortable and downright unattractive, beginning as a blister and eventually forming a crust. Cold sores are commonly mistaken for canker sores, especially in children. Canker sores, however, involve only the mucous membrane, and they’re never on the outside of the mouth. The most common conventional treatments for cold sores are antiviral creams and oral medications, which can reduce the duration of cold sores by a few days but aren’t completely reliable. There are natural cold sore remedies, however, that are safe, inexpensive and effective in boosting the immune system. These natural interventions can relieve pain and swelling, and reduce the duration and frequency of cold sores. We dive into some of those remedies.

What Are Cold Sores?
Cold sores, or fever blisters, are painful infections caused by the herpes simplex virus. They can show up anywhere on the body but are most commonly seen on the outside of the mouth, lips, cheeks, nose and fingers. A cold sore looks like a blister, and it usually lasts for 7-10 days. It is contagious during that duration of time. Until a cold sore is scabbed or crusted, it remains contagious and can even be spread to other parts of the body, including the eyes and genitals. Over time, it breaks and oozes, then develops a yellow scab, with new skin growing underneath. Although a cold sore infection is generally not serious, it can be a major issue for people with suppressed immune systems due to disorders or medications. Even after a cold sore crusts over and heals, the herpes virus remains, and it can cause future outbreaks in the same area of the mouth or face.

Remedies:

Milk
Putting a whole milk compress on your sore can help speed up the healing, and ease pain. The reason? Milk contains protein known as immunoglobulin, which are essentially anti-bodies that fight off and prevent viruses-like herpes. It also contains l-lysine. L-lysine helps inhibit the wicked work of an amino acid called arginine, which has been shown to cause outbreaks, and may help speed up the healing process as well. In short to prevent outbreaks, drink whole milk and get your dose of l-lysine. To help cold sores that have already erupted, make a whole milk compress to soothe the pain and fight off the virus.

Wipe it out with hydrogen peroxide
Anyone who had a parent that put hydrogen peroxide on a scrape knows that it’s not exactly pleasant. The good news is that it’s much less traumatic to use at your own will, nor does it seem to hurt as bad now that you’ve grown up a bit. Love it or hate it, the solution can be an effective cold sore remedy. It disinfects, healing up speeding, and makes it hard for the surfaced sore to spread or worsen. The blister is already bothered and infected, at the very least virally, and keeping it clean can ultimately make it go away faster.

Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is thought to have properties that directly kill virus particles outside of your cells, like the ones floating around an erupted cold sore. It won’t help to ingest peppermint oil because it only attacks the virus escaped from your cells. What we mean by it being “outside” of your cells is that herpes simplex virus usually resides beneath the skin, lurking and waiting for a trigger to make it rear its ugly head. When its’ erupted, its accessible to treat with the oil. When applied directly to a cold sore, people have found that the sore healed faster than usual-especially when applied at the very first sign of one.

Lemon balm
Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, may help reduce the redness and swelling associated with a blister. However, symptoms such as pain and scabbing did not improve with lemon balm. Most research suggests using a lip balm with at least one percent lemon balm. As an alternative, a compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea) may provide similar benefits. Lemon balm may also help protect against future outbreaks.

Load up on vitamins
Vitamins are good for us, and for our cold sores. Vitamin C has been shown to boost white blood cell count, and white blood cells are the body’s defenders. When something like an infection sets in the brave little cells head into battle, and having more of them means you’ll be more effective at fighting off the infection, which in this case is herpes. Vitamin E, when applied topically, has been found to relieve the irritating and painful discomfort of cold sores, as well as minimize scarring. You can get the vitamins through an oral supplement, oil (in the case of vitamin E) and the best way — through the foods you eat. Echinacea, in any form bolsters your immune system and its defenses, making it harder to catch bugs, and shortening the duration of the cold sore.

Cornstarch paste
If you’ve worked with cornstarch before you’ll be familiar with its fine, almost silky, texture. It seems like it could be soothing to a cold sore, doesn’t it? It can indeed help relieve the itchy burning pain of a sore when directly applied. The less obvious reason as to why cornstarch makes a pleasant home remedy for cold sores is the fact that it neutralizes the pH of the sore- the virus thrives in an overly-acidic environment-and creates an alkaline state (alkaline is the opposite of acidic.) To seek relief, and shorten the duration of your cold sore, simply whip up a silky-smooth cornstarch paste.

Dab on some witch hazel
The leaves and bark of North American witch hazel have been used medicinally for years, namely by Native Americans, and have now become quite commercialized. Nowadays you don’t have to worry about tracking down a plant and stripping off its leaves and bark since you can find a bottle of witch hazel, or witch hazel hydrosol, at just about any pharmacy or general store. Since it does not produce enough oil to sell as an essential oil, the hydrosol is a distilled liquid version. It has been shown to help with a number of maladies, particularly in skin care, with emphasis on acne, bruises, insect bites, blisters and (if you hadn’t guessed by now!) cold sores.

If you have any questions about cold sores, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.