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Apple Cider Vinegar for Cold Sores: Fact or Fiction?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 4/26/2020

Apple cider vinegar (or ACV) is a popular folk remedy that has a variety of purported benefits, from its ability to prevent indigestion to suppressing the appetite and acting as a simple, cheap and effective homemade diet aide. Like most other folk remedies, the evidence to support apple cider vinegar’s health benefits is mixed. Despite this, it has a lot of supporters, many of whom note that apple cider vinegar can be used as a natural cure for a huge variety of health ailments and conditions. Apple cider vinegar for cold sores is just one of these conditions.

Search online for information about apple cider vinegar and herpes and you’ll find thread after thread on discussion boards talking about apple cider vinegar as a herpes treatment. Some of these threads even feature anecdotal reports of apple cider vinegar helping to control herpes sores.

So, is apple cider vinegar the miracle herpes treatment the “mainstream” pharmaceutical world hasn’t caught onto? Not quite. In this guide, we’ll look at the evidence for apple cider vinegar for herpes, as well as alternatives to apple cider vinegar that are likely to be more effective.

Is There Any Proof Apple Cider Vinegar Treats Herpes?

Apple cider vinegar has taken on an almost mythical status in the natural health world, acting as a “go-to” cure for almost any digestion, skin or immune system condition. While there are studies that suggest apple cider vinegar contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, there's literally zero evidence that it can help cure or treat herpes

There’s no cure for herpes, meaning that apple cider vinegar definitely can’t rid your body of the virus. Despite this, apple cider vinegar enthusiasts claim that its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities make it a helpful tool for controlling the symptoms of a herpes outbreak.

ACV proponents recommend a variety of protocols for fighting back against herpes. Some users recommend ingesting apple cider vinegar orally, usually with a squeezed lemon and warm water to mute the strong taste. Others recommend putting apple cider vinegar on cold sores to areas with herpes sores. There are others who even go as far as to suggest ketchup on a cold sore, because if its vinegar content (even though the vinegar in ketchup is nothing similar to apple cider vinegar—but we digress).

None of these anti-herpes protocols are supported by any scientific evidence. In fact, there’s no scientific evidence at all to support the theory that apple cider vinegar is an antiviral substance, which would allow it to target and suppress the herpes virus in the body.

As such, it’s best think of apple cider vinegar as a health supplement, but not as a proven treatment option for HSV-1 or HSV-2.

Guides using apple cider vinegar for cold sores are sometimes accompanied by other claims about the health benefits of ACV, ranging from reasonable but unproven claims about digestive health, to claims that apple cider vinegar can cure cancer and diabetes.

When reading this content, it’s important to remember that there is no scientific evidence to support apple cider vinegar as a treatment for herpes, let alone other serious diseases and conditions. Any and all “miracle cure” grains are best treated with skepticism.

If you’re concerned that you might have oral or genital herpes and would like to take action, the best approach is to talk to your doctor about real, tested and proven treatments.

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Instead of Apple Cider Vinegar, Focus Proven Treatments

While apple cider vinegar might be a favorite of the natural health community, it isn’t proven to have any positive effects for treating and managing herpes.

However, there are numerous safe, FDA-approved medications on the market that actively fight back against the herpes virus, helping you control the symptoms of outbreaks and reduce your risk of spreading the virus to other people.

Currently, the most popular herpes medications are antiviral drugs such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and acyclovir (Zovirax). Our valacyclovir 101 guide explains how this class of drug works, why it’s effective for treating the herpes virus, and how you can use it to control oral or genital herpes.

If you have herpes or feel worried you might have been exposed to the virus, your doctor will be able to provide advice and assistance. They may recommend that you take a herpes test to see if the virus is present in your tissue. If it is, you might be prescribed an antiviral medication.

Herpes is a common virus, and controlling an infection is easy through the use of modern, safe medication. As for apple cider vinegar, while it may have some health benefits, there’s currently no scientific evidence to suggest it has any benefits for treating either oral or genital herpes.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.