While it’s still not known exactly what causes canker sores (often also referred to as mouth ulcers), we do know that they’re an extreme annoyance as they can be rather painful, making eating and talking a real challenge. Most heal on their own within a week or two, but when you’re suffering from one, you probably don’t want to endure it any longer than you have to.
According to the Mayo Clinic, possible causes of canker sores may include:
- Experiencing a minor injury to the mouth
- A reaction to toothpaste or a mouthwash that contains sodium lauryl sulfate
- Food sensitivities (spicy foods, chocolate, strawberries, coffee, nuts, eggs and cheese in particular)
- Poor nutrition (particularly a diet that lacks folate, iron, zinc or vitamin B12
- Certain health conditions and diseases like celiac, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis; HIV/Aids, and a weakened immune system.
For severe cases, like an unusually large canker sore, constantly recurring sores, sores that occur with a high fever or make eating nearly impossible, it’s best to see your healthcare provider. Otherwise, these home remedies can help make that sore heal quicker so you can get on with enjoying your life.
1. Aloe vera
Often referred to as the “first-aid plant,” aloe vera is known to accelerate healing and offer pain relief for canker sores. In addition to containing anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, it provides benefits to the skin through its amino acids, as well as vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6. Aloe also contains salicylates like aspirin, known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain.
Aloe vera gel can be applied directly to the canker sore, or, aloe vera juice can be consumed as a supplement to help speed healing. To use the gel, directly on the sore, slice an aloe leaf just before drying the affected area with a cotton swab. Then, squeeze out some of the gel onto a clean spoon. Dab the gel directly onto the sore, repeating frequently until it’s healed.
You can buy ready-made aloe vera juice at health food stores or from here on Amazon, but freshly made aloe vera juice is best as many phytochemicals trend to lose their potency when juice is processed. If you have your own plants, it’s easy to make and use whenever you need it.
To make aloe vera juice, you’ll need the fleshy meat, or gel, part of the leaves. Scrape out about two tablespoons and then put the gel into your blender to thin it out. You can drink it as is, or mix it with some coconut water for an especially health concoction that offers numerous benefits. The nutrients in aloe vera juice will not only speed healing, but help to alkalize the body and restore balance, aid digestion, detoxify, support weight loss, and more.
2. German chamomile tea
Chamomile is an herb that originates from the daisy family and is commonly used to promote relaxation and induce sleep. It’s not only alkaline, which helps to neutralize acids that irritate canker sores, but German chamomile, in particular contains a compound known as bisabolol, which offers antimicrobial and calming properties, and is known to reduce inflammation. That combination works together to relieve the pain of canker sores, and possibly speed the healing process too.
All you need is a bag of German chamomile tea, or a tablespoon of dried German chamomile flowers wrapped in a cheesecloth, and water. If using a tea bag, soak it in the water for a minute or so, or if using dried flowers, allow them to soak in the cheesecloth for three to four minutes. Afterward, place either the tea bag or cheesecloth onto the affected area for about 10 minutes, twice a day, until the canker sore has healed.
Sage is known for both its sweet, savory flavor and its health-promoting properties. In fact, it’s so beneficial that it once was named “Herb of the Year” by the International Herb Association. Sage has been held in high regard throughout history, for both medicinal and culinary purposes, thanks to its variety of volatile oils, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Native Americans used sage long before modern medicine in order to cleanse the mouth and heal those painful ulcers now known as canker sores. Sage is known to kill viruses and bacteria, due to its properties that lower inflammation.
Dried sage can be used to help heal and relieve the pain of a canker sore. All you need is two teaspoons of dried sage along with about a half-cup of water. Boil the water and allow it to steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. After it cools sufficiently, use it as a mouth rinse by swishing the mixture in your mouth for a minute or so, making sure that it gets to the affected area. Then, spit it out and rinse with cold water. Use the rinse two to three times a day until the sore has healed.
4. Baking soda
Baking soda is considered to be an alkaline, which means that it can also help to neutralize acids that irritate canker sores, and relieve pain. It works to balance the pH levels of the mouth as well as lessen the ability of bacteria to get into the salivary glands. Its anti-inflammatory properties work to reduce swelling and inflammation, while the antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial agents in baking soda protect the sores from infection.
To use it, simply mix a solution of one teaspoon baking soda and a half-cup of warm water. Swish it around in your mouth and then spit the mixture out, repeating several times. For more severe cases, it’s best to treat canker sores by using a paste. Mix a tablespoon of water with a teaspoon of baking soda in order to make the paste. Apply it to the affected area using a cotton ball, or your fingers. Allow it to dry by leaving it on for several minutes, and then rinse with warm water, gargling to help clear out any bacteria. For either method, repeat two to three times a day.
5. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is considered to be a strong disinfectant, which means it can protect your canker store from becoming infected. You can use it as you would a mouth rinse, by mixing a 50/50 solution using hydrogen peroxide and water, being careful not to swallow it.
6. Licorice root extract
Licorice root extract contains a compound known as glycyrrhizin, which offers anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe canker sores. According to a study published in the March/April 2008 issue of General Dentistry, after seven days of treating participants with an adhesive patch that contained licorice root extract, canker sores were significantly smaller, whereas, the size of the sores in those who hadn’t been treated actually increased 13 percent. The study authors also note that licorice root extract was used as a prescribed treatment for gastric ulcers all the way up through the 1970s.
You can experience similar benefits by applying licorice root extract directly to the affected area twice a day. In addition, utilizing licorice root tea can help speed up the effects. Crush up a teaspoon of licorice root and then steep it in two cups of water for several hours. Afterward, use the solution as a mouth rinse every day until any sores have healed.
7. Turmeric and honey
Turmeric acts as a natural antiseptic to help fight germs that cause canker sores and is also a cooling agent that can help relieve pain. Honey contains well-documented healing powers, so it’s no surprise that it can work inside the mouth too. When it comes to canker sores, it’s primary action comes from its anti-inflammatory properties, though some types of honey, like manuka, also offer potent antibacterial qualities as well, and have even been found to promote the growth of tissues to speed wound healing.
A study conducted by researchers at Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin AbdulAziz University, as reported by Prevention.com, found that participants suffering from canker sores who were treated with honey experienced a 95.5% decrease in pain in just one day, complete elimination of pain two days, and in four days, the sores had completely disappeared. Those who were treated with other methods took eight days before they were free of pain.
The combination of turmeric and honey can work wonders for that canker sore. Mix it into a paste by combining a teaspoon of raw honey (manuka honey if you can find it – such as here) with a quarter teaspoon of turmeric powder. Apply the paste to the affected area and allow it to sit for five minutes. Rinse with water. Repeat twice a day until the sore has disappeared.
Yogurt, provided you purchase organic plain yogurt with active live cultures, can help to balance the bacteria in your mouth. If it was out of balance for whatever reason, that can contribute to the development of a canker sore. Yogurt is made by bacterial fermentation, which simply means, bacteria or yeast is used to convert carbohydrates into organic acids. You’ve probably heard about it for restoring a healthy balance to the gut, but when eaten regularly, it may also serve as a great home remedy for tackling canker sores.
Keep in mind that most commercial yogurts are loaded with potentially harmful ingredients, including artificial flavors and colors, additives and sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which actually nourishes bacteria that causes disease, as well as fungi and yeast in the gut, which can make you sick. Your best bet for regularly consuming yogurt is to make your own using a starter culture and raw grass fed milk, which contains beneficial bacteria that strengthens the immune system as well as being rich in vitamins, like vitamin A, along with healthy fats, zinc, and enzymes. Of course, if you’ve got a canker sore now, you may not have time to make your own, so if you buy it, be sure to look for organic plain yogurt that has only two ingredients: milk and live cultures. The higher the protein content and the lower the sugar content, the more actual yogurt, and nutrition, you’re getting in the container.
9. Cayenne pepper
While it may sound like it would worsen the problem, cayenne pepper can actually be used to treat a canker source due to its compound known as capsaicin. Capsaicin can temporarily numb the painful nerves that cause pain, bringing relief. This same compound is what makes peppers taste spicy hot. It’s known to inhibit something referred to as Substance P, which is responsible for mediating the body’s pain responses.
To use it, you’ll need a cotton swab, some warm water, and cayenne pepper. Mix just enough of the water with ground cayenne pepper in order to form a thick paste. Dip the cotton swab into it and then apply it directly to the canker sore. Do not rinse. Re-apply the paste two to three times a day for pain relief.
10. Tea tree oil
Tree tree oil is renowned for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and its incredible ability to heal wounds. It’s derived mainly from the Australian native plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, and has been widely used throughout the country for at least a century, and possibly thousands of years by some indigenous people. Over the past seven decades, it’s been documented in numerous studies to kill many types of fungi, viruses and bacteria.
The oil is known to alleviate many types of health conditions, including toenail fungus, psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Due to its ability to kill off bad bacteria, while soothing inflamed skin at the same time, it’s often found in mouthwash and toothpaste and has even been found to lessen the bleedings of gum and toothpaste. Not surprisingly, it’s also quite effective for canker sores as its antiseptic and antibacterial properties help it to eradicate the germs that cause them while also reducing pain.
Use it by mixing five to ten drops of organic tea tree oil into a glass of water, and then swish it around in your mouth, gargling for a bit before rinsing, three times a day until the sore has healed.