The sores are ugly and painful, often right on your face where you can’t hide them. Because herpes is so easily transmitted, it’s more likely than not that you already had to deal with this nasty virus. If you’ve never had them before, you’re actually in the minority. At least twice as many people have it as those who don’t. According to the World Health Organization, a staggering two-thirds of the world population (the US included) suffers from oral herpes, while the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports at least an additional 15% suffers from genital herpes. That means that in some populations, 9 of 10 people have herpes!

The herpes virus is responsible for causing cold sores, also known as fever blisters, and genital herpes. Generally herpes virus 1 (HSV-1) causes cold sores and herpes virus 2 (HSV-2) causes genital herpes. Of course, you really don’t want either one, but it’s statistically likely you’ll contract it even if you haven’t already. But there is good news:

Lemon balm! Also known as Melissa Officinalis, Lemon balm is a great natural treatment for these viruses. There are properties of the plant that explain its therapeutic effect. The leaves contain plant substances called tannins and terpenes that give the plant its antiviral effects. They also contain eugenol, which helps with pain and discomfort and kills bacteria.

There are studies that have shown topical lemon balm cream and ointments can heal cold sores. In one study of 66 people, lemon balm cream was applied and patients experienced significant decreased redness and swelling after just two days. Unfortunately, the cream did not effect the scabbing and discomfort.

A series of impressive studies were done in Germany. The results showed when lemon balm was used to treat a first time infection of HSV-1, not a single recurrence was found. In addition, it reduced healing time of both genital and oral herpes.

How can lemon balm be used?

Lemon balm can be found in ointments and creams. Soaking a cotton ball in lemon balm extract and dabbing it on the cold sore can also be very effective. Lemon balm tea can be used as a facial or body wash or soak. Lemon balm soft gels can be taken orally. Preparations are relatively inexpensive, and if you want to be even more natural, you can grow the plant in your garden and make your own teas and extracts.

When should it be used?

For those plagued with cold sores, we recommend patients apply lemon balm nightly to their lips to prevent them. It feels good, works well and keeps the lips from getting chapped. For outbreaks, we suggest applying the cream or ointment 4-5 times a day. For genital herpes, put the extract or tea in a bath and soak. It will be soothing at the very least, and many people find that it helps with the intensity and duration of symptoms. It is worth a try, and fortunately there have been no reported side effects.