If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that a lot of my inspiration for learning to use herbs came from the health issues my son had when he was small.
In the middle of his healing journey, he suddenly developed the problem of breaking out in frequent cold sores, triggered by sunshine. This caused quite the dilemma since he also had low vitamin D levels and was supposed to be getting direct, midday exposure to the sun each day to help.
After a lot of searching and testing, we found a fantastic liquid cold sore product at the health store that sped up the healing and helped ease the pain. It’s been so long, that I can’t even remember the name to link to it – but I do remember reading the label and thinking: Hey, I bet I can make something like this!
So, I did.
It worked so great that I passed samples around to family members who also loved it. (It’s excellent for treating plain old chapped lips as well.) His cold sores cleared up after a few months and I never needed to make it again. Recently though, several people have asked me for ideas on how they can use up the lemon balm taking over their gardens, so I dug the recipe back out.
A few notes, before we start:
Cold sores are caused by a virus (Herpes Simplex Type I.)
Once you’ve been exposed to it (and estimates say that 60 to 85% of the population has been), you will never eliminate the virus or completely kill it off. You can however, improve your overall health so that your body is able to keep the virus in check. Taking anti-viral herbs such as olive leaf, elderberry, lemon balm, oregano, forsythia & honeysuckle as teas or tinctures may help quite a bit as well.
Lemon balm (also called melissa) is a potent anti-viral.
Several studies have been carried out demonstrating that lemon balm can improve cold sore symptoms and shorten the duration of healing time. (My fellow science nerds can click HERE to browse through some of those on PubMed.)
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Step 1 – Make an Infused Oil
First, we’re going to need to gather some lemon balm and make an infused oil from it. If you’ve ever planted lemon balm, you probably have way more than you’ll ever need. (It spreads like crazy!) If you don’t have any in your garden, you can buy dried lemon balm from Mountain Rose Herbs.
I always wilt fresh herbs (and flowers) by letting them air dry in a single layer on a paper towel for at least 12 to 24 hours before infusing them in oil. Otherwise, the water content from the plant can make your oil mold or spoil faster. I play it safe and use completely dry lemon balm in this recipe.
To infuse your oil: Fill a heat proof jar about 1/4 of the way full with dried lemon balm leaves. Crumble them up a little, as you add them in. Slowly pour a light oil (olive or sunflower oil both work well) over the dried herb until the jar is pretty full. Stir well and then cap and let sit in a dark place for around 4 to 6 weeks.
If you’re in a hurry, you can infuse the oil more quickly using the heat method: Set your jar of oil/herb down into a saucepan filled with a few inches of water, creating a makeshift double boiler. Heat over a burner turned to low or medium-low for a few hours. Be sure to watch it carefully so you don’t overheat or scorch your herbs.
If you’d like, you can make a compound oil and add calendula flowers and/or plantain leaves to infuse along with the lemon balm. Both of these herbs are excellent at smoothing skin irritations and make nice additions to the formula.
Once your oil has infused, strain it and store in a labeled glass jar, preferably in a cool, dark place for around a year. (For longest storage, some keep their infused oils in the refrigerator. That is perfectly fine to do, just let them warm up to room temperature before using in a recipe.)
Step 2 – Make the Lip Balm
I use a general lip balm recipe of: 3 parts oil, 1 part beeswax, 1/2 to 1 part solid butter and roughly 1 to 2 drops of each essential oil per tablespoon of ingredients (See my post on “How to Create Custom Homemade Lip Balms”)
If you’d like a softer lip balm, use less beeswax. Conversely, if you’d like a firmer lip balm, use more beeswax. Keep in mind that we want our balm soft enough to apply with a clean finger or cotton swab, so we avoid contaminating our product.
Super Healing Cold Sore Lip Balm Recipe
- 4 tablespoons lemon balm infused oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (if allergic, just substitute more lemon balm oil)
- 1/2 tablespoon tamanu oil (an amazing oil that heals a multitude of skin conditions)
- 1/2 tablespoon castor oil (helps the lip balm go on smoothly, adds a bit of gloss)
- 2 scant tablespoons beeswax (or half as much candelilla wax for vegans)
- 1 tablespoon shea butter (or mango butter)
- 15 drops tea tree oil (also effective against herpes simplex, see this study)
- 25 drops of peppermint essential oil (cooling, analgesic, I put extra so the lip balm can smell great!)
- 2 drops of clove bud oil (optional, for pain relief)
If there’s a vitamin E that you can tolerate, the liquid contents of a capsule or two added to the melted oils makes a wonderful addition. My original recipe also included a few drops of camphor essential oil, but because it has the potential to be toxic if ingested, I now recommend leaving it out in case younger children or chronic lip-lickers use the product.
Combine all of your oils, shea butter and beeswax in a heat proof container. Set it down into a saucepan containing a few inches of water. Watch carefully and heat over medium-low heat until everything is melted.
Remove from heat and stir in the essential oils and vitamin E, if using.
Pour into tiny tins, if you have them, or you can recycle glass jelly or mason jars. Once your lip balms have set up, cap and store away from direct heat or sunlight.
This sized batch will fill about 7 little half-ounce tins.
Be sure to apply with clean fingers or cotton swabs, avoiding ‘double dipping’ so you won’t contaminate your lip balm. You can also use this balm as healing salve, suitable for minor scrapes and patches of dry skin.
I hope this recipe will help some cold sore sufferers out there, as much as it helped my son. Don’t forget that external treatments will only alleviate the symptoms; to decrease or prevent flare-ups: eat right, try to get more rest, and reduce overall stress (easier said, than done – I know!)
The information provided on this site is not regulated by the FDA and is not intended to replace qualified medical care. If you have any questions or concerns, please do further research & consult your doctor before using home remedies.
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