Oral herpes is a condition caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus type 1. Herpes can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly around the lips, cheeks, nose, and sometimes the eyes. Nearly 50 to 90% of people carry the virus, but many never experience or notice symptoms. Oral herpes usually goes away on its own in 2 to 4 weeks, but because it can be painful and embarrassing at times, you may want to speed up the recovery process. Although most home remedies do not have strong scientific evidence backing, there are many ways that are considered effective for treating oral herpes.
Method 1 of 5: Using Natural Treatments
Step 1. Use hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic and antiviral that can reduce inflammation and fight viral infections that cause oral herpes.
- Soak a cotton swab in 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of hydrogen peroxide, then apply it directly to the sores for 5 minutes. After that, wash your face gently with cold water, and discard the cotton that has been used earlier.
- Do not swallow hydrogen peroxide.
Step 2. Use petroleum jelly or honey
Once the discharge has drained, protect against oral herpes by applying petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline. It keeps the herpes moist and prevents the skin from breaking out, and the core acts as a protective layer during the healing process.
- Do not rub the jelly with your fingers as the virus can spread to your fingers. Use a cotton swab to apply as much jelly as needed until the herpes is gone.
- If you don't have petroleum jelly, you can use honey. Honey has antiviral and antibacterial properties that can protect herpes from other threats, in addition to functioning to fight the virus that causes it. Apply a small amount of honey with a cotton swab on the area of oral herpes.
Step 3. Shake off with ice cubes
Place the ice cube directly on the herpes mouth for a few minutes to reduce inflammation and numb the pain. Consider wrapping ice cubes in a towel for added comfort. Press the ice on the herpes until it feels numb and then release it immediately. Do not apply ice for a long time. Repeat this procedure every 1 to 3 hours.
Remember that this method should only be done on new herpes. If the oral herpes has ruptured, the ice may actually hinder the healing process because it slows the blood flow (and its healing function) to the lesion
Step 4. Try echinacea
Echinacea tea is believed to strengthen the immune system so that it will help the body's natural immunity to fight herpes. Steep 1 echinacea tea bag in 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water for 10 minutes. Drink this tea once a day until the herpes is gone.
- You can also take echinacea supplements 300 mg up to 4 times a day to strengthen immunity.
- Do not give echinacea to a child without consulting a doctor or pediatrician.
- People who have autoimmune diseases, diabetes, tuberculosis, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, liver disorders, HIV, or AIDS should be careful when using echinacea.
- People who are allergic to plants in the aster family may also be allergic to echinacea.
Step 5. Use lemon balm
Many studies support the use of lemon balm as a remedy to reduce the redness and inflammation of oral herpes, while reducing the risk of recurrent infections. Lemon balm is also used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion. Lemon balm contains eugenol which relaxes muscle spasms, relaxes tissues, and kills bacteria. The essential oil made from lemon balm leaves contains plant-based chemicals called terpenes which also have a relaxing and antiviral effect. Lemon balm is available in the form of supplements, topical creams, solutions, and herbal teas, which can be found at drug and herbal stores.
- Apply lemon balm ointment to the area of oral herpes up to 3 times a day. Alternatively, make lemon balm tea by steeping teaspoon (0.2 grams) of dried lemon balm in 1 cup (240 ml) of warm 80–85°C water for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and immediately drink the water without added sweetener. In addition, you can moisten a cotton swab with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of lemon balm water, then apply it to the herpes.
- The use of lemon balm topical cream is safe for children. You should consult with your pediatrician to determine what dosage is recommended for your child or baby.
Step 6. Try applying natural extracts or oils
Certain natural extracts and oils contain antiseptics, and when applied directly to oral herpes can fight the virus that causes it. There are also types of oils that contain astringents that can dry out the herpes area and prevent the spread of infection.
- Peppermint oil can target viruses escaping from the area of infection, which is especially useful in fighting oral herpes. Wet a cotton swab with peppermint oil and apply it to the oral herpes. Do it twice a day until the herpes is gone.
- Witch hazel oil is astringent and antiseptic. Wet a cotton swab with 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of witch hazel and apply it directly to the oral herpes. Do not wash. Apply twice a day.
- Real vanilla extract contains alcohol and makes it difficult for viruses to survive. Soak a cotton swab in teaspoon (2.5 ml) of vanilla extract and apply it to your oral herpes for 1-2 minutes. Do it up to 4 times a day.
- Tea tree oil and garlic oil can help with the recovery process by softening the herpes. It's unlikely that a tender oral herpes will burst. So, apply a small amount of the oil on your oral herpes once or twice a day.
Step 7. Apply rhubarb and sage ointment
Research has shown that applying a topical cream made of 23mg/g of rhubarb extract and sage extract is as effective as applying a prescription medication in treating oral herpes. Try looking for this ointment in herbal stores or on the internet. Take a pea-sized ointment on a cotton swab, then apply it to the oral herpes.
Ask your doctor if rhubarb and sage are safe for babies and toddlers
Step 8. Make a liquorice ointment
The glycyrrhizic acid contained in liquorice is an important ingredient of this ointment. Its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties can reduce symptoms and stop the production of viruses.
- Mix 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of powder or liquorice extract with teaspoon (2.5 ml) of water or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of petroleum jelly. Apply it on the oral herpes, covering it completely for a few hours or ideally overnight.
- Another option is to mix licorice powder with petroleum jelly, which is self-healing too. Mix 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of petroleum jelly with liquorice. Then, add the petroleum jelly until the consistency is just right.
Step 9. Use cold dairy products
Cold milk and yogurt are believed to cure oral herpes. Milk contains antibodies that fight viruses and lysine, which fights arginine, an amino acid that can cause oral herpes. Soak a cotton swab in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of cold milk, then apply it directly to the oral herpes for a few minutes.
The probiotics in yogurt can fight the herpes virus that causes oral herpes. Apply a small amount of plain yogurt to your herpes, or drink 2 to 3 cups of nonfat yogurt daily for as long as you have herpes
Step 10. Apply aloe vera gel
Aloe vera can reduce the pain of oral herpes (as well as many other skin irritations) and fight bacteria that can infect herpes and make the condition worse. Aloe vera can also speed up the recovery process.
- Apply teaspoon (2.5 ml) of aloe vera directly on the oral herpes with a cotton swab, then let stand. The best gels are direct from the plant, which are easy to find and can be stored for a long time. Break the aloe vera stem and apply the gel.
- If you can't find an aloe vera plant, buy 100% natural and quality packaged aloe vera gel at a pharmacy or drug store.
Method 2 of 5: Changing Your Diet
Step 1. Avoid inflammatory foods
Certain foods can slow down the body's recovery process, weaken the immune system, and increase inflammation. These foods should be avoided by people who have autoimmune diseases, undergoing treatment for heart, lung, or digestive disorders, and those who are recovering from a cold, cough, or fever. If you have oral herpes, avoid the following foods that can cause chronic inflammation:
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, cakes, and donuts.
- Fried and fatty foods
- Drinks that contain sweeteners, such as soda or energy drinks.
- Red meats such as beef, ham, or steak, and processed meats such as hot dogs.
- Margarine, butter and lard.
Step 2. Adopt a Mediterranean diet
Some foods can cause inflammation, but there are certain foods that actually reduce inflammation. The Mediterranean diet focuses on foods that can reduce inflammation, including:
- Fruits, such as strawberries, cherries, and oranges
- Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale, are high in antioxidants
- Omega-3-rich fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
- Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, oatmeal, and flaxseed
- Olive or canola oil
Step 3. Avoid arginine-rich foods
For its metabolism, the herpes simplex virus requires arginine, which is an amino acid found in many foods. Experts state that reducing the intake of arginine-rich foods can control the appearance of oral herpes, as well as reduce the inflammation of existing oral herpes.
Arginine-rich foods include chocolate, cola, peas, refined grains, gelatin, peanuts, cashews, and beer
Step 4. Increase your intake of vitamin C
An immune system that is able to fight viruses and bacteria will speed up the recovery process and avoid recurrence of infection. Research shows that vitamin C plays a vital role as an antioxidant and improves immune function, reduces the risk of various diseases, aids healing, and improves the skin's natural appearance. Vitamin C can be taken as a dietary supplement (1,000 mg/day), or you can add vitamin C-rich foods to your menu. Vitamin C that comes from food is very easy to get, just by eating fruits and vegetables. Natural sources of vitamin C include:
- Red or green peppers
- Fruits of the citrus family, including sweet oranges, grapefruit, grapefruit, lime, or real orange juice
- Spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts
- Berries, including strawberries and raspberries
Step 5. Use garlic
Garlic has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that can speed up the recovery process. Garlic is also rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese, which help boost the immune system against infections such as herpes.
- Garlic should be used raw so that the allicin it contains comes out. Each clove of garlic averages about 1 gram. To make it even more delicious, you can mix chopped garlic in 1 tablespoon of honey or olive oil. This natural treatment will strengthen the immune system and reduce the recurrence of herpes.
- As a spread, you can make a paste by crushing 2 to 4 cloves of garlic, then applying it to the mouth sores using a cotton swab, for 10 to 15 minutes. You may find it stinging and the smell is sharp, but garlic's antiviral properties can sterilize the herpes area and reduce recovery time.
- Remember that excessive intake of garlic can cause bad breath and low blood pressure. So, limit it to 2 to 4 cloves per day. Garlic should also not be used before surgery or if you have bleeding. If you experience side effects such as bloating, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, vertigo, allergies such as asthmatic reactions, skin rashes, and skin lesions, stop using garlic and see a doctor immediately.
Step 6. Use zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral contained in many foods that are often eaten to maintain the strength of the immune system. Zinc contains antioxidants that help protect body cells from bacteria and viruses, such as the herpes simplex virus. Zinc deficiency is a common case, you can overcome it by taking a multivitamin or a healthy diet. Foods that are the best sources of zinc are shellfish, red meat, poultry, cheese, shrimp, and crab.
- You can also try zinc ointment to reduce oral herpes and speed up recovery. Take a small amount of the ointment on a cotton swab and apply it for 3 to 5 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day.
- Zinc is available in the form of supplements and multivitamin capsules. Talk to your doctor before taking zinc supplements.
- If you have digestive problems, such as heartburn, consider using easily absorbed forms of zinc, such as zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc glycerate, and zinc monomethionine.
- The amount of zinc is stated on the product label (usually 30 to 50 mg). To determine how much to take in supplement form, remember that you get about 10 to 15 mg of zinc from food. The daily recommendation for adults is 8 to 11 mg. Do not use high doses of zinc for more than a few days unless directed by your doctor.
Step 7. Use a lysine supplement
Lysine is an essential amino acid that is obtained through dietary sources, such as salmon, tuna, chicken, nonfat milk, Parmesan cheese, soy, eggs, lentils, cabbage, kidney beans, and quinoa. You can also take lysine supplements. People who experience 3 oral herpes a year should supplement the daily diet with 2,000–3,000 mg of lysine to reduce the recurrence of oral herpes in the long term. Take a 1,000 mg lysine supplement 3 times a day on an empty stomach. Do not drink with milk.
Do not take lysine supplements without consulting your doctor, especially if you have high cholesterol or heart disease
Method 3 of 5: Changing Your Lifestyle
Step 1. Sleep with your head up
If you have oral herpes, stack several pillows behind your head so gravity will help dry the blisters. Otherwise, the fluid will fill the blister at night.
Pillows should support the natural curve of the neck and be comfortable. Pillows that are too large can cause muscle strain in the back, neck, and shoulders. Choose a pillow that allows your neck to be in line with your chest and lower back
Step 2. Exercise regularly
Exercising a few times a week, or better yet daily, can boost the immune system, and in turn reduce the risk of oral herpes coming back. Even light and moderate exercise, such as walking, yoga, and stretching, is very beneficial for health, besides shortening the recovery period and reducing symptoms of oral herpes.
- Regular exercise also reduces the risk of infection in the long run, in addition to improving mood and reducing stress levels. It is recommended to exercise 30 to 45 minutes daily of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking, jogging, and swimming.
- Consider consulting with your doctor to set up a personal exercise plan.
Step 3. Use sunscreen and lip balm
Moderate sun exposure is beneficial for the immune system because it increases the production of vitamin D. However, one of the most common triggers of oral herpes is sunlight. So, using sunscreen and lip balm with SPF regularly when you go out can reduce the risk of developing oral herpes. To protect your skin from the sun's rays, use a non-comedogenic sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Some chemicals in sunscreen can cause allergies. So, you should consult a dermatologist to find the right sunscreen
Step 4. Manage stress
Oral herpes can increase stress and reduce self-confidence, as well as cause anxiety and depression. Furthermore, stress weakens the immune system and increases susceptibility to viral infections, including herpes simplex. Here are ways to manage stress:
- Fill out a diary. Take time to think about it every day, even if it's only 10 to 20 minutes. Keeping a diary can reduce stress because it helps you manage your thoughts, clarify situations, and facilitate problem solving.
- Listening to music is very effective in reducing stress in healthy individuals and those with health problems. Research shows that listening to relaxing music can lower blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and reduce anxiety.
- Make time for recreation. Set aside time each week to do activities you enjoy and relax, such as yoga, reading, cooking, or sewing.
- Try relaxation and meditation techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and tai chi. Meditation can reduce blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety, and cholesterol levels, which in turn improves physical and emotional health. For a simple meditation practice, you can sit cross-legged in a quiet place and take slow, deep breaths for 5 to 10 minutes. Try to meditate for 5 minutes every day to avoid stress.
Step 5. Avoid kissing and oral sex
Because the herpes simplex virus is highly contagious, you should avoid kissing and oral sex until the oral herpes is completely cured. Oral sex can spread the herpes virus to the genital area and allow transmission of herpes simplex type 2 from an infected person. The appearance of herpes is not always obvious and partners may infect it without realizing it.
People who have sex with a partner who is infected with herpes simplex need to get counseling from a medical professional to keep them safe
Method 4 of 5: Maintaining Personal Hygiene
Step 1. Don't touch the herpes
Pain from inflammation may prompt you to squeeze or peel the herpes. Touching oral herpes or skin contact with other people can spread a viral infection to the fingers, called herpes whitlow. Exfoliating can also slow down the recovery process, prolong healing, and increase the chances of spreading the infection to other parts of the body.
Step 2. Wash your hands frequently
When you have oral herpes, you should wash your hands before washing your face and contact with other people, especially babies, because herpes simplex spreads quickly.
One option is to take antiseptic gel or wet wipes with you when you leave the house or at work so you can clean your hands wherever you go
Step 3. Don't share food and personal items
Avoid sharing personal items, including food as well as cutlery, towels, lip balm, and other items that can spread the virus. Bacteria and viruses quickly stick to surfaces and are transferred to and from other people in this way. As a result, oral herpes will take longer to heal or the symptoms will get worse. Also, do not store cutlery and personal items in a place that is very humid because a humid environment is ideal for bacterial growth.
Step 4. Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing
When you cough or sneeze, cover it with a tissue to avoid spreading germs through the air and prevent bacteria or viruses from entering your lungs when you inhale.
If you don't have a tissue, put your mouth in the crook of your elbow when you sneeze or cough, don't cover your face with your hands because that will spread germs to your hands
Step 5. Keep your toothbrush clean
Wash your toothbrush before and after use to prevent the accumulation of bacteria on the bristles. When you have oral herpes, keep your toothbrush in a separate container in case someone else uses the same bathroom.
- Never share a toothbrush with other people because it can spread germs and disease-causing bacteria into each other's mouths.
- Do not cover the toothbrush or store it in a closed container. Dark and humid environment is very conducive to the growth of bacteria.
- Change your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, and as soon as you recover from oral herpes, a cold, cough, or sore throat. As an extra step, soak your toothbrush in 30 ml of hydrogen peroxide or an alcohol-based mouthwash for 3 to 5 minutes to kill any bacteria remaining on the bristles.
Method 5 of 5: Asking for Medical Help
Step 1. Visit a doctor if oral herpes does not improve within 10 days
Most oral herpes will go away on its own in 1-2 weeks without treatment. Call your doctor if more than 10 days have passed and you don't see any change. Doctors can check for secondary infections or other conditions that may be slowing recovery.
- There are various factors that can slow down the recovery of smooth herpes, such as a bacterial infection, irritation (for example, from eating acidic foods), or other health problems.
- Although oral herpes goes away quickly, you should talk to your doctor if you get it frequently.
Step 2. See a doctor for very large or painful oral herpes
Most oral herpes is small and in a confined area. In some cases, herpes can spread to a larger area, especially if you have skin problems such as eczema. Call your doctor if you have oral herpes that is very large, grows or spreads in other areas, or is very painful.
A developing oral herpes can cause serious problems, especially if it spreads to sensitive areas such as the eyes. Spread of oral herpes may be a sign of a bacterial infection. Go to the ER or emergency clinic if the skin around the oral herpes is hot to the touch or swollen and red
Step 3. Seek medical attention if oral herpes is accompanied by irritation in the eyes or mouth
Sometimes, oral herpes can spread to the eyes, gums, or inside the mouth. If you have new herpes or irritation in the area, call your doctor immediately.
Oral herpes infection in the eye can spread to the cornea and cause serious damage
Step 4. Talk to your gynecologist if you had oral herpes while pregnant
If you have oral herpes or another type of herpes in the third trimester of pregnancy, there's a good chance you'll pass the infection on to your baby during delivery. Tell your obstetrician or midwife if any type of herpes appears during pregnancy.
- Doctors can prescribe antiviral drugs to prevent herpes outbreaks during delivery.
- It's best to ask your doctor for over-the-counter medications that are safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Step 5. Get medical care if your immune system is weakened
If you are taking medications that suppress your immune system, such as steroids or chemotherapy drugs, call your doctor if you have herpes. You should also seek medical help for oral herpes that develops when you have a medical condition that blocks your immune system, such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer. Doctors can prescribe antiviral medications to fight infection and prevent complications.
When the immune system is suppressed, it is more likely that untreated oral herpes will spread to other areas or result in a secondary bacterial infection
Step 6. Call your doctor if you have never had symptoms of oral herpes
If your symptoms are new or you're not sure what's causing them, make an appointment with your doctor. Doctors can provide a proper diagnosis and determine the potential cause of symptoms.