Cold sores are often stigmatized and it doesn’t help that they are most often on your face around your mouth or on your lips where everyone can see them. They are also painful and usually develop because you have been stressed out, sick, or overtired. A run-down immune system is perfect for the herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1) to cause those unsightly and painful sores.
Most people are infected in their childhood already. Sharing cups, cutlery, towels, lip balms and lipsticks, and getting kissed by that well-meaning relative can transfer the virus to you. It might not show up immediately, but the first time that it does, sometimes nausea, headaches, and fever can accompany them.
Subsequent cold sores or as they’re also known, fever blisters, all just start with a tingling a few days before the blisters appear. They will eventually open and start oozing and then crust over before drying out. This unfortunate process lasts as long as anything between 2 and 4 weeks if left untreated or when using remedies that don’t work (1). Thankfully, they usually don’t scar.
Instead of using over the counter remedies that are expensive and can cause side effects, use salt for cold sores.
How Does Salt Get Rid of Cold Sores
The uses of salt go far beyond simply flavoring food. You may be thinking “how does salt help cold sores?”, but just think of some of the other uses, such as why salt is sometimes used to clear snow.
Salt will dry the cold sore out faster because it attracts moisture.
Salt has anti-inflammatory properties which is why it’s so often used as a saline solution to help sinusitis.
In the days before we had refrigerators, salt was used to preserve food because it kills germs. It also appears to make it easier for the body to kill off the herpes virus by lowering the temperature that it takes to kill the virus at. This may be more for surfaces and such, but it still shows that it does have a beneficial effect when it comes to fighting off viruses.
How to Use Salt for Cold Sores
Putting salt on a fever blister can sting, especially when it’s broken, but it won’t last too long and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits. Use one of these remedies or a combination of them at least twice a day. You’ll have better results if you use them a little more often though. Try using them every few hours if possible.
Try to avoid using your fingers to apply these remedies. This can help to prevent the virus from spreading since you can even get cold sores on other parts of your face or even your hands. Using a cotton swab or cotton ball is the best way to apply cold sore remedies.
1. Plain Salt
Putting salt on a cold sore is the simplest way to use salt as a remedy. Here’s how:
Dip the cotton swab or ball in some clean water, just lightly so that it’s moist, not dripping.
Then dip the now moist cotton swab or ball into some ground salt.
Gently hold it against your cold sore for 40-60 seconds.
You can then rinse it off.
2. Salt and Toothpaste
Toothpaste is also effective for cold sores because it helps to dry out the sore and the mint reduces pain. This will also make it possible to put salt on a cold sore overnight.
Simply use some plain white toothpaste and mix it with some salt.
Apply this to your cold sore.
Let it dry and keep it on for a little bit longer before rinsing off.
You can use it overnight but let it dry before getting into bed to prevent it from rubbing off.
3. Salt and Honey
Honey combats herpes effectively due to its antiviral activity (2). Only raw unprocessed honey is guaranteed to have antiviral effects, bear this in mind if you are purchasing honey.
Mix some honey and salt together.
Use as you would the other remedies.
If you are using this as an overnight treatment you may need to use a band-aid or tape the cotton ball in place to prevent it from rubbing off.
You can also add some turmeric, just be careful as it can stain clothing (3).
4. Salt and Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has pain relieving properties and makes it easier for your body to fight off the virus.
Mix a little bit of coconut oil and salt together. You can melt the coconut oil a bit to make it easier to mix and to apply.
Apply as you would the other remedies, taking extra care if you are using it overnight to keep it from rubbing off.
5. Salt and Aloe Vera
Aloe vera reduces inflammation, promotes healing, and fights the herpes virus (6).
Mix a little bit of salt and aloe gel together.
You can obtain aloe gel by cutting a leaf off and squeezing the gel out or you can buy aloe gel with little to no chemicals from a store.
Use as you would the other remedies.
Tips and Precautions
Never pick at your cold sore and keep your hands clean.
If you are stressed out, try to make some time to relax. Delegate if possible and prioritize. Something as simple as going for a daily walk during lunch time or putting a plant on your desk can lower stress. Meditation and deep breathing are very helpful too. Exercise regularly and every once in a while, treat yourself to a massage.
Keep your immune system strong by including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet and making sure that you get enough good quality sleep.
It may help to limit foods like grains, nuts, seeds, spinach, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and spicy food until you heal. These foods can aggravate the cold sore.
Although genital herpes is caused by HSV-2, that particular strain of the herpes virus can give you cold sores too and HSV-1 can give you genital herpes. Avoid kissing and oral sex if you have oral herpes. If you or your partner have genital herpes, it may be best to avoid sex completely until the sores are gone.
Salt should be used externally to help cold sores or you can swish and gargle salt water and then spit it out if you have cold sores in your mouth, but only eat salt in normal food quantities as it can have an effect on your blood pressure and cause bloating if you eat too much.
Don’t confuse canker sores with cold sores. Canker sores are usually flat and either white or yellow and are more common inside the mouth. Here are some effective remedies for canker sores.
Get rid of your toothbrush or any lipsticks or lip balms that you used when you got the cold sore as these are now infected with the herpes virus and can cause you to develop cold sores all over again. Wash any towels that you used thoroughly.
If you want to explore other helpful cold sore remedies you can find more here. Everybody is different so what works for you may not work for someone else so being able to try other remedies is helpful. Please feel free to ask us any questions or share your story with us.
Jane Scott grew up on a farm in California and is a crossover between a country girl and an evangelist for healthier living. She’s a nutritionist who preaches that healthy living need not be complicated.
She believes that by exercising regularly, eating mostly non-processed foods (with plenty of vegetables), and using home remedies for the small things and doctor’s advice for the big things, almost anybody can feel great and live a happier and healthier life. She’s excited to share her knowledge of natural remedies and healthier living on HRFL.
In her spare time, Jane enjoys cooking and watching bad rom-coms. She also loves nuts, and is a bit of a nut herself when it comes to Yoga, which she’s a little too obsessed with in the opinion of her friends and family.