A simple cold sore lip balm recipe using lemon balm and other natural ingredients. The process begins with making a herbal-infused oil and finishes with melting it together with a plant-based wax. This Vegan recipe makes about five small pots of lip balm and includes a full DIY video.
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One of the most prolific and sweet-smelling herbs I grow is lemon balm, also called melissa balm, sweet melissa, or melissa officinalis. It’s in the broader mint family and spreads and grows in a similar way to other mints, which is why it’s a good idea to grow it in a container. Too much of it isn’t really a bad thing, though, since it’s delicious in herbal teas and can help ease anxiety and upset tummies. It also has some pretty powerful anti-viral properties if used on the skin. That’s why lemon balm is an ideal medicinal herb for a homemade cold sore lip balm recipe. It’s also really safe to work with, so you don’t need to be a trained herbalist to make this recipe.
Homemade Lip Balm for Cold Sores
The steps to make this cold sore lip balm recipe are simple, and it begins with infusing dried lemon balm leaves into a carrier oil. You can use a liquid oil of your choice, but my favorite for lip care products is sweet almond oil. Sunflower or grapeseed oil are fantastic alternatives. After two or more weeks of infusing, you strain the golden lemon balm oil from the leaves and then add it to melted wax. After that, add a few drops of essential oil, if you wish, and pour the warm liquid into containers. Once the balm is fully solid, you can start using it. The herb-infused oil adds silkiness and virus-fighting properties, and the wax helps form a protective layer on your lips.
If you grow lemon balm, I’ll also take you through how to harvest and dry it a little further on. Don’t worry if you don’t have it, though, since you can also order the dried herb from trusted herbal suppliers. You can get the other ingredients from a local health food store or online. Melissa officinalis essential oil is a little expensive, so I’ve listed it as an optional ingredient. If you can get a hold of it, its concentrated volatile oils could make your homemade cold sore lip balm even more effective.
Healing Properties of Lemon Balm
If you or anyone in your family suffers from cold sores, you need lemon balm in your garden. That’s because its oil has a strong antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus and can even speed up the healing time. Cold sores are fever blisters caused by the herpes virus and are painful, liquid-filled blisters that not only cause irritation but are highly contagious. They’re not at all pleasant to have so many people who suffer from them take treatments ranging from antiviral tablets to cold sore lip balm and icing them. You can use more than one remedy, but lemon balm has proved to be formidable when it comes to tackling the virus.
Studies have shown that lemon balm can greatly inhibit the virus directly if applied to the skin, so using it in a lip balm makes a lot of sense. Its healing oils can be extracted as an essential oil through steam distillation or as an infused oil through maceration into a carrier oil. I’m about to show you how to make the latter to use in this recipe. Another thing to know is that lemon balm is safe for most people and tastes great!
Once made, can use this lip balm as an everyday product or save it as a healing salve when you have a cold sore outbreak; it’s up to you. One thing to know, though, is that a study found that lemon balm is most effective when used at the very beginning of an outbreak. So as soon as you feel that tingle, start applying lemon balm lip balm!
Harvesting Homegrown Lemon Balm
I don’t take you through the process of drying lemon balm in the recipe below, but I share my process in the DIY video and will describe it here too. It’s important to fully dry the lemon balm before you soak it in carrier oil because moisture has a tendency to spoil oil (causing early rancidification), and fresh lemon balm can be pretty juicy.
Harvest lemon balm when it’s young, green, and perky – morning is the best time of day to do so. Grab it by the handful and cut the stems if you have a lot to harvest. If not, you can pick individual leaves. For this recipe, you’ll need at least twice as many fresh lemon balm leaves as can fit in the jar you use to make the infused oil. It reduces in volume quite a lot once dried.
After picking fresh lemon balm, it’s best to rinse the leaves of any dust, soil, or lingering insects. I’ll gently swish the leaves in a tub of cool water, then strain the leaves out while standing outside. That way, any little bugs clinging to the leaves have a chance to find their way home.
Drying Lemon Balm
After that, pat the leaves dry with a tea towel or paper towel and dry until they’re crispy to the touch. You can dry them as plucked leaves or leave them attached to the stem. You can also choose air-drying, oven-drying, or using a food dehydrator. When finished drying, they should be brittle and crispy – you can really hear how crispy they can be in the video! Once fully dried, cool the leaves to room temperature before storing them in glass jars or ziplock bags.
As for my process, I find that I get much more consistently dried herbs by drying them in a food dehydrator. A couple of hours on low heat (40°C/~100°F) is all you need, and at the end, the leaves will still be green and full of scent. Though air drying can work well in dry climates or hot summers, definitely look into getting a food dehydrator if you plan on drying a lot of herbs when it’s cooler or wetter. I use mine regularly to dry flowers for calendula oil, herbs for soapmaking or tea, and so much more.
More Herbal Skincare Ideas
The lemon balm lip balm recipe I share below is in my book, A Woman’s Garden: Grow Beautiful Plants and Make Useful Things. You can find it on page 122 as the ‘Lemon Balm Cold Sore Balm’ if you have a copy; if you don’t, I recommend getting one. In it, I share dozens of plants you can use to make soap, skincare, medicine, cleaning products, edible recipes, and natural dyes. Each chapter also features a different female grower and her garden for inspiration, as well as creative recipes and projects to make. It has over four hundred reviews that you can read and is available through all good online booksellers. Here are some other skincare recipes for you to try too:
Healing Lemon Balm Lip Balm Recipe for Cold Sores
- 1 Glass jar with lid
- Two stainless steel pans, one being smaller than the other (or a double boiler)
- Wooden skewer for stirring
- 5 Lip balm containers – the recipe makes five 10 ml (0.34 oz) lip balms
For the lemon balm-infused oil
Make the Lemon Balm-Infused Oil
- Fill a clean and sterilized jar halfway with dried lemon balm leaves. The size of the jar doesn't matter too much, as long as you can fit at least 100 ml (3.4 oz) of oil inside. I recommend a small jam jar or Mason jar. Pour the sweet almond oil over it, filling to within a half-inch of the top. Seal, shake, and leave in a dark but warm place to infuse for two weeks. Shake daily, if possible.
- Strain the lemon balm leaves from the oil through a sieve and discard the leaves. Refill the jar with more dried lemon balm leaves and repeat the process.
- After the second strain, this time, through cheesecloth, bottle the oil up in preparation for the balm recipe. Store in a dark place and/or a dark glass bottle. The oil has a shelf-life of one year or the best-by date of the oil you used to make it.
Make the Lemon Balm Lip Balm
- Measure the candelilla wax into a small saucepan with a pouring spout. Float this pan in another pan of simmering water – this creates a double boiler. Melt the wax until liquid then remove the pan from the water and set on a pot holder or tea towel.
- Pour the lemon balm-infused oil into the melted wax. The wax will solidify slightly when the room temperature oil is added.
- Return to the pan to re-melt, stirring gently with a wooden skewer or silicone spatula. When fully melted, remove from the heat, wiping the bottom of the pan of moisture and setting it on a pot holder or tea towel.
- Add the optional essential oil and stir well. Next, pour it into the lip balm pots or tubes. The silicone spatula comes in handy in scraping all the lip balm from the pan.
- The lip balms can take up to three days to fully set but afterward has a shelf-life of up to one year. Apply it when you have a cold sore or any time your lips need conditioning and TLC.
 Melissa officinalis oil affects the infectivity of enveloped herpesviruses. Phytomedicine.2008 Sep;15(9):734-40. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2008.04.018.