Want to learn about topical herpes treatments and home remedies that are all-natural and affordable? Read on! This post is part of a series on natural herpes remedies and the studies behind them. These treatments apply to most herpes viruses, including HSV-1 and HSV-2 whether on the lip or the genitals.
You’ll also learn how popular the treatment is, if it’s reported to work, and how people usually use it. When you look at the medical literature, there are lots of studies on natural herpes treatments both topical and oral.
Please note: This article is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a physician. Please consult with your doctor before embarking upon or altering any course of treatment. The statements herein have not been evaluated by the FDA. We make no claims nor warranties for the example products we’ve linked to.
1. Aloe Vera
Almost everyone has used aloe vera for sunburns. It’s easy, affordable, and very soothing.
Well, that soothing feeling is also useful for herpes simplex blisters.
Because not only does it soothe pain and inflammation, but it may also actually end an outbreak.
- A 1999 study had 70% of its subjects end their first herpes outbreaks by applying aloe to the area.
- Aloe vera cream was most effective, with a 70% rate of success and healing the fastest. (Here’s an aloe vera cream that looks popular.)
- Aloe Vera Gel was second, at 45%, and taking slightly longer to heal.
- As compared to a placebo at 7% and up to 13 days to heal
That’s likely because aloe synchronizes the immune response. Aloe’s polysaccharides boost white blood cell activity and increase T-helper cells. What’s more, an agent in aloe called anthroquinine hinders some viruses, including herpes simplex 1 and 2.
- Freeze pieces of aloe (the actual plant) and apply the gel side to the wound.
- Or: Freeze aloe gel in an ice cube tray, and pop out a cube for use as needed to soothe wounds.
- Aloe vera cream is probably the most effective. You can keep it in the refrigerator if you find this helps.
Buy Aloe Vera Products: Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Cream (8 oz Tube)
2. Baking Soda
If you read forums, you may have heard of using baking soda on herpes. However, this might be painful and not worth the trouble.
The idea is that applying baking soda or cornstarch as a paste to the lesions can dry them up.
But people anecdotally report that it’s painful and a hassle, and that other topical remedies are better.
It’s still worth noting in a list of topical remedies, some of which might be needed in a pinch.
Buy Baking Soda: Bulk Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
3. Bentonite Clay
Bentonite clay is popular for beauty, usually used as a face mask for tightening pores.
Fans of bentonite clay mix it with apple cider vinegar or water, blend into a paste, and apply it. Then, relax and let it dry before washing off.
It dries very tightly.
Anecdotes suggest that this could help dry up and heal blisters sooner, but there may be more effective methods.
Still, lots of people keep it on hand for beauty reasons, so if you have it, it might not hurt to try.
Get Bentonite Clay: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Mask
4. Capsaicin Cream
Capsaicin is an active compound in cayenne pepper. Doesn’t sound so soothing, does it?
What this ingredient does do is desensitize nerves. It doesn’t have antiviral effects, but it is a topical analgesic. It is usually used in topical creams to reduce pain from itching, burning, and inflammation.
No, that doesn’t mean you should apply a capsaicin cream directly to blisters. Capsaicin burns. It’s just not suited for use on soft tissue or open sores.
Instead, capsaicin is probably most useful for reducing symptoms of herpetic neuralgia — nerve pain from herpes or shingles. This can occur on the leg or back, so you aren’t using the cream on soft tissue.
Researchers believe that the nerves HSV infects may be sensitive to capsaicin. Studies hypothesize that it interferes with the spread of herpes lesions. However, more research is needed.
- Studies in 1990 and 1992 showed the drug may interfere with outbreak recurrences. While it didn’t prevent infection, it reduced outbreaks (random or brought about by sun exposure) in guinea pigs. 1
- Capsaicin also reduced the spread of lesions and severity of outbreaks in guinea pigs. In males, it reduced the duration of outbreaks. 2
Again, capsaicin can burn. It is not suitable for exposed soft tissue or intravaginal use in humans. Don’t use it on genitals or active or open sores.
Warnings: Again, capsaicin can burn. It is not suitable for exposed soft tissue or intravaginal use in humans. Don’t use it on genitals or active or open sores. Do not use capsaicin if allergic to ingredients found in capsaicin creams. Seek medical advice before use. It could interact with medicines. It may not be suitable if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant. It may not be indicated if you have broken or damaged skin or an open wound. Keep away from pets.
5. Chamomile Oil
A lot of essential oils have properties that can work against viruses and microbes. Chamomile oil is no exception. But how effective is it?
- A 2007 study screened several essential oils for their effects against HSV-2. All of the essential oils acted on the virus, but the study especially noted that chamomile looked to be the most promising. 14
The other oils studied were anise, hyssop, ginger, and sandalwood. Since they all acted on the virus, this shows that anything can have medicinal properties, but some work better than others.
However, the study was done in test tubes and needs more research.
Where to Buy Chamomile: Therapeutic Grade Chamomile Oil
6. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is more than just a trend. It has been studied for its antiviral properties extensively. If you know why coconut oil is good for you, then you’ll easily understand why it’s good for herpes viruses.
Coconut oil contains unique fatty acids, including lauric acid. Lauric acid is found in mother’s milk, and supports babies’ immune systems. Otherwise, it is not common in nature.
Coconut oil’s fatty acids have impressive virus-killing powers.
- In vitro, it can destroy the lipid coating of viruses. For this reason, Monolaurin (brand Lauricidin) and coconut oil is a good choice for a topical herpes remedy.
How to Use It:
Using a stronger oil as a herpes remedy? Mix it with coconut oil for you carrier oil. This way you can get a double-whammy.
The lauric acid in coconut oil may also boost immunity in general. In fact, it may be a good supplement for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. As always, consult your doctor first.
Buy Coconut Oil: Viva Naturals Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
7. Epsom Salt
Salt dries. That includes drying blisters, and helping things heal. Epsom salt baths are a popular and effective way to do this.
Epsom salt can relieve pain and itching and shorten the duration of herpes outbreaks.
Plus, the magnesium sulfate you absorb through your skin will help you relax, sleep better, and enjoy an improved mood. De-stressing is vital for having fewer episodes from HSV.
How to: Fill a bathtub with a comfortable temperature of water, and pour in a couple of cups full of Epsom salt as it fills. Stir up the water to make sure the salt dissolves and doesn’t just sit at the bottom of the tub. Soak for 10-30 minutes for maximum skin absorption and pain relief. When done, you can dry the genital area with a blow-dryer on a lukewarm setting. This especially helps if a towel is too irritating to the area, but you don’t need to do so if this doesn’t apply to you.
Buy Good Epsom Salt: Epsoak Epsom Salt Magnesium Sulfate Bulk Bag
8. Grapefruit Seed Extract
Have you ever heard that red wine is good for you? Resveratrol is the good stuff you’re hearing about. It’s found in the skin of red grape seeds, berries, and even cocoa.It’s usually taken in grapefruit seed extract.
It affects immune function, blood sugar levels, and improves cardiovascular health. You commonly hear that it can extend lifespan and improve aging. But while it has improved lifespan in test subjects like insects, its effects for human lifespan appear to be unfounded, so far.
Some fascinating animal and in-vitro benefits of resveratrol have been documented.
What about using resveratrol for herpes?
- Research in 2005 studied resveratrol in a cream applied to mice infected with HSV-1 and HSV-2. The authors found that a 19% resveratrol cream limited the reproduction of the virus vaginally in mice and reduced lesions. 9
- A 2006 study detailed how resveratrol could suppress HSV’s viral replication in vitro. The authors also noted effects of the compound on acyclovir-resistant strains of HSV-1. 10
Warnings: A page on Oregon State’s website says pregnant women and women with a history of estrogenic cancers like breast cancer should avoid resveratrol supplements.
Where to Buy: Grapefruit Seed Liquid Extract
9. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family. It is also known as Melissa officinalis.
It’s a popular remedy that has antiviral properties, and may show promise as a topical herpes treatment.
- A 2004 study tested the antiviral properties of lemon balm against herpes viruses. The authors suggested that lemon balm oil might be useful for topical treatment of herpes. 5
Like the study says, some people use a cotton swab with lemon balm oil or lemon balm extract dabbed onto the affected area. Others report boiling the lemon balm tea leaves and making a compress of it to apply to outbreaks.
Lemon balm creams like this one are also available.
Buy Lemon Balm: Lemon Balm Cold Sores and Shingles Salve
Honey has been used for healing for centuries, but no ordinary honey will do. The best kind is Manuka honey, a raw honey that comes from New Zealand.
Its healing powers make it suitable for natural wound healing. It is powerful at killing bacteria, included MRSA.
- A 2002 review of Manuka honey concluded that it could be effective for treating wounds of many kinds.
It even has a rating scale for potency. For it to be considered therapeautic, it will be labeled “UMF,” “Active”, or “MGO.” After MGO you might see a number, like “MGO 400+”. This is also a rating of its potency.
How People Use Manuka for HSV
People report dabbing Manuka directly onto outbreaks, and repeating four times a day. Since it’s supposed to be good for wounds and as an antimicrobial, the idea is that it will speed up the healing process.
People also eat Manuka honey or add it to tea to help fight off infections of other kinds. A good Manuka honey will not come cheap, but is useful and convenient to have on hand.
Buy Manuka Honey Now: MGO 400+ Pure Manuka Honey, 8.8 0z.
Neem’s virus-fighting powers have earned it the nickname, “Nature’s Drugstore.” This herb has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.
Neem has many products: neem oil (also neem seed oil), neem tea, or neem cream.
Typically, neem oil is used topically to relieve oral herpes (HSV-1) symptoms.
With clean hands, a sufferer can apply it to the infected area with a q-tip or cotton swab at least once a day. Some people also using this method to treat genital herpes.
Neem can also be applied topically as a paste or an oil.
Does it work?
Anecdotes suggest that neem has worked for some people to reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks, but not get rid of them completely. It is also reported to relieve burning sensations when applied topically.
Of course, what works for one person won’t work for everyone, and you should consult with your doctor before doing anything new.
Warnings: Neem is not suitable for women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive. Some people may have allergic reactions to neem, although rare, and it may cause itching in some people. Neem oil does not cure herpes but rather treats outbreaks and symptoms. There is no cure for herpes.
12. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil for herpes simplex viruses is so popular, people mention it as though it’s a foregone conclusion: People use oil of oregano for everything from a flu season aid to a warts cure.
Oregano oil is taken as a supplement and also used topically for a number of ills. It’s been noted as a topical cold sore remedy.
To use it topically, it could likely be mixed with a carrier like coconut oil, which also has virus-busting abilities.
Where to Buy Oregano Oil: Therapeutic Grade Oregano Oil
13. Olive Leaf Extract
You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet. It’s known to improve health outcomes associated with aging. A large part of that diet is olives and olive oil.
Olive leaf extract offers those Mediterranean health benefits as well. It powers up the immune system, fights viruses, and may even have anticancer properties.
- As for olive leaf extract for herpes, a 2007 study showed that the extract fights HSV-1 in test tubes. 7
- One private study showed that olive leaf extract tablets treated an outbreak more effectively than prescription acyclovir. (source needed)
Olive leaf is often cited for all herpes viruses. Taking an olive leaf supplement can relieve outbreak sores, increase healing time, and restore energy levels from post-viral fatigue.
Where to Buy Olive Leaf: Best-Selling Olive Leaf Extract with 20% Oleuropein
14. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is a popular household remedy for things like pests, but studies have also researched its use for herpes simplex viruses.
- A 2003 study showed that peppermint oil killed HSV. In fact, it worked on an HSV-1 strain that was resistant to acyclovir. The study noted that peppermint oil is easily absorbed into skin, and thus a safe concentration might be useful for topical use on outbreaks. Of course, this needs more research. 13
How to Use
To use peppermint oil, it may be useful to mix it into a carrier-oil like coconut oil, which is also anti-viral. Ask your doctor before embarking on any treatment.
Warnings: Peppermint oil and many other essential oils can be toxic to pets like cats.
Where to Buy Peppermint Oil: Therapeutic Grade Peppermint Oil
Propolis is an antioxidant-rich resin made by bees. The bees use it to seal their hives. People, on the other hand, have been using it for thousands of years in traditional medicine.
Studies in test tubes show that propolis interferes with herpes virus replication. There have also been small studies that showed its effectiveness for topical treatment of genital herpes and cold sores. However, more testing is needed.
- Test subjects with genital herpes compared propolis to topical Zovirax for healing lesions related to an outbreak. They reported quicker results from the propolis.
- Another study showed that propolis improved symptoms of cold sores in some test subjects.
- The National Institute of Health rates a 3% ointment (like this one) as “possibly effective” for faster healing of herpes sores. 8 The organization says it can be applied five times per day.
Warnings: Propolis is not meant for people with asthma or those allergic to bee products.
16. Prunella Vulgaris (Self Heal)
Researchers have shown that prunella vulgaris reduces the amount of herpes blisters that infected lab guinea pigs have.
They achieved this by making a cream from the herb to apply to herpes-infected mice and guinea pigs.
Prunella Vulgaris is also commonly known as “Self-Heal“. One of the researchers, Song Lee of the Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, stated, “P. vulgaris has been described as a hot water infusion to treat sores in the mouth and throat, as an astringent for internal and external purposes, as a crude anti-cancer drug, and as an herbal remedy to lower high blood pressure.”
Lee went on to say that some strains of the herpes virus are actually resistant to common prescription herpes drugs like acyclovir. And since the Prunella Vulgaris acts on herpes in a different manner than such drugs, a treatment derived from the “herpes herb” may be a viable option for future treatment of the virus in humans.
Prunella Vulgaris (aka Self Heal) is a medicinal herb reputedly safe to ingest or use topically, and is sometimes used in salves for herpes outbreak prevention.
Where to Buy Prunella Vulgaris: Self Heal (Prunella Vulgaris) with Dropper
17. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a medicinal oil that comes from the leaves of a plant native to Australia. Aboriginals have long used it to treat skin wounds such as cuts and burns. It’s very popular in many natural remedies.
That’s because it’s a natural antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal that can boost immunity and fight off infections. Plus, it’s affordable and useful for many ailments.
In addition to treating herpes, tea tree oil is also used in remedies for insect bites, yeast infections and acne.
Some people report that if it’s applied at the first signs of an outbreak, it can be possible to prevent the outbreak.
How It’s Used:
- Step 1: Wash both hands with water and soap. After washing, dry them with a clean towel.
- Step 2: Use the eye-dropper that is included with the bottle of tea tree oil, and use just one drop of the oil on the infected area.
- Step 3: Wash your hands again.
- Step 4: Repeat 2 to 4 times daily.
Please note: If you’ve never used tea tree oil before, it is recommended that you dilute it in a “carrier” oil such as olive oil or almond oil and apply that to a small area of skin first, to test for skin sensitivity. You should also ask your doctor if natural remedies like this are right for your situation.
Buy Affordable Tea Tree Oil: Tea Tree Oil on Amazon
18. Visarpa Clay
Visarpa clay is an Ayurvedic treatment for herpes said to aid the healing process and relieve pain. It can be applied to the infected area as a paste. It’s hard to find, so others recommend Bentonite Clay like the Aztec Healing Mask.
The Visarpa Clay Herpes Remedy is a standard Ayurvedic herpes-fighter that uses pearls and herbs to heal the skin. It’s supposed to draw the herpes virus outward and stimulate the healing process of blisters. It may also help with pain relief.
Visarpa clay can be used as a simple paste, or a soothing bath. If used in paste form, it’s applied to infected areas, giving it at least an hour for results.
Another method is to boil (on low heat) 1 teaspoon of Visarpa clay powder with 16 oz. of water (until 4 oz. is attained). This is boiled till 4 ounces is obtained. Mix the powder with milk, water or rose water and apply it to the affected areas.
Where to Buy Visarpa Clay: See entry on Bentonite clay, this is easier to find
19. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is common in lotions because of its benefits for skin. It may even help with herpes outbreaks.
Topical vitamin E is said to soothe discomfort from outbreaks. It works as quickly as 15 minutes but can take up to 8 hours.
It may also lead to faster healing if applied four times a day.
Food Sources of Vitamin E: Green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, and vegetable oils derived from sunflower, safflower or wheat germ. Other food sources include flax seed oil, wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds and hot peppers.
Where to Buy Topical Vitamin E: Vitamin-E Cream
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that fortifies the immune system. It’s also often cited as a topical herpes treatment, probably due to its usefulness for wound-healing.
As a supplement, adults need 8 to 11 mg of zinc per day. Low zinc levels can make a person more vulnerable to infection. However, zinc deficiencies are uncommon.
What about topically? Small studies of zinc ointments and creams on human subjects have shown promise both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
- In the first study, cold sores treated with zinc oxide cream healed faster than those treated with a placebo. 12
- In a different study, subjects who used a formula of zinc oxide, l-lysine, and several other ingredients experienced fewer symptoms and shorter outbreaks.
Zinc is highly available in seafoods like oysters, crab, and lobster. Beef and lamb are next. Seeds like sunflower, chia, and flax are also good sources.
Warnings: Most zinc warnings refer to taking it orally, not topically. Zinc should only be taken in safe, nontoxic doses. Zinc may interact with some antibiotics. Zinc may react with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug. Zinc can cause stomach upset and is not recommended on an empty stomach. It is recommended you make sure you are getting enough copper when you take zinc.
Where to Buy Zinc Cream: Zinc Cream for Problem Skin
-  Capsaicin Interferes with the Centrifugal Spread of Virus in Primary and Recurrent Genital Herpes Simplex Virus Infections. [link]
-  Capsaicin-sensitive peptidergic neurons are involved in the zosteriform spread of herpes simplex virus infection. [link]
-  Antiviral Activity of Resveratrol against Human and Animal Viruses [link]
-  Resveratrol suppresses nuclear factor-kappaB in herpes simplex virus infected cells. [link]
-  Melissa Officianlis Oil Affects Infectivity of Enveloped Herpes Viruses [link]
-  Effects of the Olive-Derived Polyphenol Oleuropein on Human Health [link]
-  The Effect of Hydroalcoholic Extract of Olive Leaves against Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1. [link]
-  “Propolis: MedlinePlus Supplements”. U.S. National Library of Medicine.[link]
-  Antiviral Activity of Resveratrol against Human and Animal Viruses. [link]
-  Resveratrol suppresses nuclear factor-kappaB in herpes simplex virus infected cells. [link]
-  Zinc Salts Inactivate Clinical Isolates of Herpes Simplex Virus In Vitro. [link]
-  A randomized clinical trial on the treatment of oral herpes with topical zinc oxide/glycine. [link]
-  Virucidal Effect of Peppermint Oil on the Enveloped Viruses Herpes Simplex 1 and 2 In Vitro [link]
-  Inhibitory Effect of Essential Oils Against Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 [link]