Turmeric Powder & Honey for Cold Sores

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A herpes simplex virus type 1 infection manifests as blisters known as cold sores. They appear on the lips, in the gums and mouth. Researchers have studied both turmeric and honey as antiviral substances. While results look promising, human trials are needed before doctors can recommend them separately or in combination for the condition.

Turmeric for Cold Sores

An edible ginger-like root that is dried and ground for spice, turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin. In 2008, researchers at Van Andel Institute announced the discovery that cells treated with curcumin became inhospitable to the herpes simplex virus type 1. Yet, the finding does not mean that turmeric powder can successfully inhibit the pathogen and keep cold sores from erupting. The experiment used cells in a laboratory, not inside the far more complex environment of the human body. Besides, scientists conditioned the cells with curcumin, not with turmeric powder. It is not clear whether other components of the spice would have interfered with the experiment results or if the curcumin concentration in the powder is potent against the virus.

Honey for Cold Sores

In February 2007, an article on MailOnline reported on honey’s antimicrobial properties. While the piece focused on honey as a bactericide, it also reported that University of Wales researchers had evidence that the bee food could treat cold sores. But honey is a tricky substance; its composition varies depending on the pollen source. Rose Cooper, a microbiologist at the university, says that tea tree honey, for example, is the one found to inhibit bacteria by acidifying the surface of wounds. Other types of honey kill microbes after the honey chemically changes to hydrogen peroxide following dilution. Cooper also warns that some kinds of honey carry spores that cause botulism and gangrene. Thus, smearing cold sores with the sticky substance could indeed lead to a sticky situation. As the Wales microbiologist points out, different kinds of honey need to be tested in human clinical trials before the medical community can start making recommendations.

Herpes Simplex Virus 1

According to PubMed Health, the herpes simplex virus type 1 is so ubiquitous it infects the majority of the U.S. population. The pathogen lodges itself in the facial nerves and it is more active in some individuals than others. Some people who are infected might never develop cold sores while others have them frequently. The blisters disappear naturally without treatment within two weeks of erupting.


When considering turmeric powder for cold sores, remember that curcumin is not the same as the dried spice. Science has yet to provide human trial results accompanied by information on successful concentrations of the active ingredient before doctors can prescribe it as a viable treatment. The same goes for honey, where the issue becomes more complex because of all the variables that different plant pollen creates. In addition, most of the readily available research on honey shows its potential as an antibiotic, with not much being said about its antiviral properties. Until more research is completed, your best option might be to let your cold sores run their course. If they are persistent and bothersome, consult your doctor about the possibility of using an antiviral drug.