Herpes is a viral infection caused by one of two types of the herpes simplex virus. Infected individuals experience recurrent bouts of painful blisters and itchy open sores that typically take 10 to 14 days to heal, according to Northeastern Ohio University dermatologist Christina Cernik in the June 9, 2008, issue of “Archives of Internal Medicine.” The University of Michigan Health System says that Australian Aborigines traditionally used tea tree oil to treat cuts and skin infections such as herpes. Indeed, a study published by a team of Australian researchers in the September 2001 edition of the “Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy” concluded that tea tree oil inactivated the herpes simplex virus in test tubes. But substances that work well in test tubes do not always work well in people and tea tree oil can cause irritation when applied to skin around the mouth and genitals. Patients who consider using it should discuss this decision with their physicians.
Apply Tea Tree Oil to Herpes Sores
Dispense a small amount of tea tree oil onto a cotton swab.
Gently apply the tea tree oil to sores. If this is your first time using tea tree oil, apply it to just one sore and wait a few minutes to determine whether you experience skin irritation before applying it to the rest of the sores.
Discard the swab.
Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry with a clean towel.
Repeat two to four times per day, as desired.
Always wash your hands before and after handling herpes sores. Washing before you handle the sores prevents them from becoming contaminated by dirt and oils on your hands. Washing after you handle the sores reduces your risk of spreading the infection to other people or other places on your own body. Consider using disposable paper towels instead of standard towels while you have herpes sores. Towels can sometimes transfer the infection to other people or other places on your own body. For sores that occur in skin folds, use the fingers of one hand to separate the fold so that you can see the sore. If tea tree oil does not work for you, ask your doctor about other herbal treatments for herpes, including aloe vera, lemon balm and licorice root extract.
Tea tree oil does not replace conventional treatments for herpes or any other condition. People who use it should share this information with all health care providers. Although herpes usually resolves with no treatment, severe, frequent or prolonged--longer than two weeks--symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor. Tea tree oil can sometimes cause irritation. Individuals with a history of allergies to tea tree oil should not use it. If you experience stinging, burning, itching, redness or swelling when you apply tea tree oil, you should wash it off immediately using mild soap and warm water. If irritation becomes severe or does not subside within three days, you should see a doctor.
- “Archives of Internal Medicine”; The Treatment of Herpes Simplex Infections; Christina Cernik, M.D. et al.; June 9, 2008
- “Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy”; Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil Gel (6%) for the Treatment of Recurrent Herpes Labialis; Christy F. Carson, Ph.D. et al.; September 2001
Heather Gloria began writing professionally in 1990. Her work has appeared in several professional and peer-reviewed publications including "Nutrition in Clinical Practice." Gloria earned both a Bachelor of Science in food science and human nutrition from the University of Illinois. She also maintains the "registered dietitian" credential and her professional interests include therapeutic nutrition, preventive medicine and women's health.