Here’s What Science Says About CBD and Cold Sores

scientific facts about CBD for cold sores

There isn’t a cure for herpes, but there are ways to treat cold sores that shorten their lifespan and decrease their severity. Image Credit: By paulynn on shutterstock.

Cold sores are rough, aren’t they? The aesthetics alone are bad enough, but to add injury to insult, they can also be pretty painful at times. Slathering them with Carmex or Chapstick might relieve the discomfort, but to quote the late great Mitch Hedberg, it also acts like a “cold sore highlighter.” Most of us would prefer to avoid this, so where can we turn?

Well, if you’re the kind of person who likes 1) natural remedies and 2) trying new things, you might be interested in the cold sore-fighting powers of CBD and tea tree oil.

Here’s what you should know.

What Are Cold Sores?

According to the Mayo Clinic, cold sores are blisters filled with liquid that tend to be found around the lips. The culprits behind cold sores are the herpes viruses:

  • HSV-1: this is the most common cause of cold sores
  • HSV-2: typically this form of the virus is found on the genitals, but it can also cause cold sores in some cases

There isn’t a cure for herpes, but there are ways to treat cold sores that shorten their lifespan and decrease their severity. In many cases, cold sores can even disappear on their own without treatment in a couple of weeks. But if you’re not willing to wait that long, you might want to try combining tea tree oil and CBD oil for an anti-cold sore remedy.

Why Tea Tree Oil Could Be Useful in Treating Cold Sores

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is extracted from the plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Native to Australia, the plant has long been used for medicinal purposes by the indigenous Aboriginal peoples.

In recent years, Western medicine has also embraced the many uses of tea tree oil. When it comes to treating cold sores, the extract has a number of characteristics that could be useful. These include tea tree oil’s antibacterial and antiseptic properties, which can help keep infections at bay.

That’s not all, though. In 2013, the International Journal of Dermatology published a review of the studied uses of tea tree oil and noted that it has potential as a treatment for herpes because of its antiviral properties. It can also reduce inflammation, which might help reduce the visibility of cold sores. That’s not just a cosmetic issue, either — reducing inflammation also reduces the swelling associated with cold sores, which can be quite painful in some cases. 

Why CBD Could Be Useful in Treating Cold Sores

CBD is also making a name for itself as an antibacterial, popping up in products like soap and mouthwash that are used to combat a wide array of harmful bacteria. While it’s a matter of debate whether these uses are actually effective — since the CBD is either spat out or rinsed off in a matter of seconds — topical applications that remain on the skin for longer might help prevent infections (like those often associated with cold sores).

Aside from that, studies show topical CBD products can be effective at relieving inflammation and pain, just like tea tree oil. Again, there’s no scientific consensus on just how effective they are (most of the studies conducted so far have been small, short, and/or conducted on animals), but the early results have been encouraging. Topical applications also allow for localized treatment, which seems tailor-made for cold sores. 

How to Combine CBD and Tea Tree Oil to Treat Cold Sores

Combining these two natural products could give you a better shot at reducing the worst of cold sore symptoms and clearing them up more quickly. If they both have promise as a cold sore treatment on their own, theoretically they could be even more effective when used together (though again, there have been no studies to either prove or disprove this idea). 

There’s always the DIY option — which could be as simple as adding a few drops of CBD to a vial of tea tree oil. Conversely, you can also mix up your own salve using the carrier oil of your choice, like two tablespoons of coconut oil. Add ten drops of tea tree oil essential oil and the desired amount of CBD oil (depending on your budget and preferences) then apply it topically to your cold sores as needed.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to go that route, there are also a number of ready-made products that combine CBD and tea tree oil.

For example, CBD American Shaman sells a massage oil that combines CBD and tea tree oil in one easy-to-apply product (which can be used “off label” for cold sores). You can buy it online or in one of their stores for $40. If you’re more of a salve person, CBD for the People carries one with a higher concentration of CBD. It’s a bit pricier, starting at $55 on the brand’s website, but if you’re set on getting rid of your cold sores ASAP, it might be worth a look.

Mary Sauer
Mary Sauer
Mary Sauer is a Kansas City-based writer with work appearing in Parade, Vice’s Tonic, and Remedy Review. She writes about mental health, cannabis, and parenting.

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