7 Natural Remedies for Canker Sores

Whether you get them from eating spicy or acidic foods, stress, or a minor mouth injury, the inconvenience and discomfort caused by canker sores can be a miserable time for anyone.

Fortunately, there are many potent and cost-effective home remedies for canker sores to ensure that they're gone more quickly.

Many of the treatments are made from ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen pantry!

Before we get into the natural remedies for canker sores, though, let's take a look at what causes and worsens them. 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.

What are Canker Sores?

These oral sores are oval or circular and white or yellow with red around the edges.

The most common locations for canker sores in the mouth are inside the lips, cheeks, the base of the gums, on the soft palate, or under the tongue.

home remedies for canker sores

You might experience tingling or burning in the mouth a couple of days before you see them.

Most canker sores are small, heal in less than two weeks, and don't leave scars, but major sores can be more uncomfortable and take as long as six weeks to recover.

Causes of Canker Sores

Several factors can create canker sores, and fortunately, most of these causes are minor. They include:

  • Minor dental injuries from brushing, dental work, sports injury, or simply biting the inside of your cheek.
  • Stress or hormonal fluctuations.
  • Diets deficient in nutrients like B-12, iron, or folic acid.
  • A reaction to the bacteria that causes peptic ulcers (H. pylori).
  • Toothpaste, mouthwash, or other oral care solutions that have sodium lauryl sulfate.

Allergic reactions or food sensitivities to spicy or acidic foods, chocolate, coffee, eggs, cheese, nuts, strawberries, or citrus fruits

Many autoimmune and bowel conditions can cause or contribute to canker sore formation, including:

  • Celiac disease.
  • HIV/AIDS.
  • Crohn's disease and other forms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Behcet's disease.

While herpetiform canker sores exist, they are not associated with any herpes virus.

Now that we have a solid foundation for what canker sores are and what causes them, here are seven of the most effective natural remedies for canker sores:

1. Gargling with Apple Cider Vinegar or Saltwater

Both apple cider vinegar (ACV) and saltwater are mainstays for at-home first aid and natural remedies for canker sores, gum infections, and other conditions. 

apple cider vinegar home remedy for canker sores

With ACV, the liquid works by killing bacteria with acidity.

However, it is prudent to careful with acidic ingredients like vinegar on canker sores.

Too much can irritate sores, so use it sparingly.

To make an apple cider vinegar rinse:

  • Mix one teaspoon of ACV with one cup of water.
  • Swish the mixture like you would any mouthwash for 30 to 60 seconds before spitting it out.
  • Rinse out your mouth after treatment.
  • Repeat this treatment once daily.

Saltwater is a similarly useful homeopathic staple for many conditions.

However, it is among the more astringent ones when it comes to canker sores or other mouth afflictions.

glass of salt water for natural remedies for canker sores

However, the salinity is believed to dry out canker sores, which can heal them faster.

To make a saltwater mouthwash for rinsing canker sores:

  1. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to a 1/2 cup of warm water.
  2. Gargle the mixture like you would any mouthwash for between 15 and 30 seconds before spitting.
  3. Repeat every 6 to 8 hours as necessary.

2. Rinsing with Baking Soda

Baking soda, as anyone who loves natural remedies can tell you, is a mainstay for treating many household issues as well as health concerns, including canker sores.

Unlike other homeopathic solutions like apple cider vinegar, baking soda has a high pH, which can combat acidity.

baking soda for home remedies

Judicious use of a baking soda mouthwash can restore pH levels in the mouth to normal levels.

To make a baking soda rinse:

  • Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1/2 cup of water and stir until the soda has dissolved.
  • Gargle for 15 to 30 seconds, as you would with a saltwater rinse or mouthwash, before spitting.
  • Much like the saltwater, repeat a couple of times a day as necessary.

If you accidentally swallow some of the rinse, don't worry. It's perfectly safe to do so. But watch out: it's super salty!

3. Using Vitamin B Complex Supplements

Low levels of B vitamins in the body, particularly B-12, can impact canker sores' ability to heal.

According to a study from 2017 by Ilia Volkov et al. titled, "Effectiveness of Vitamin B12 in Treating Aphthous Stomatitis: 

A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial," participants who took 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B-12 each day not only had fewer...

 ...outbreaks of canker sores–they also had fewer sores overall and exhibited less pain from them than the control group taking a placebo.

Vitamin B12  for natural remedies

A typical vitamin B complex supplement has all eight essential B-vitamins, including the ever-crucial B-12, which also regulates moods and various neurological functions. 

Consult with your doctor before taking any new supplements, however, before making significant changes to your nutritional intake.

4. Watermelon Frost Powder

Proponents of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) consider watermelon frost to be a highly effective herbal solution for canker sores.

No published studies support the claim, but it can be found as a powder, spray, or tablet for consumption.

watermelon powder2

Watermelon frost powder is applied In its various forms directly to the sores to encourage healing and pain relief. 

Should you choose to purchase herbs from a traditional Chinese medicinal herb seller, make sure that the herbs are of high quality and contain no pesticides or mercury.

5. Making Echinacea or Sage Mouthwash

Both echinacea and sage are herbal treatments that are highly effective for healing inflammation and killing bacteria that can exacerbate health issues.

Like many natural remedies for canker sores, echinacea and sage can be used as mouthwashes to address pain and inflammation caused by canker sores.

Echinacea rinse can be made with liquid echinacea extract or echinacea tea.

sage tea

Many pharmacies carry sage mouthwash, but you can steep sage tea bags or fresh sage leaves for the same purpose.

To make echinacea or sage tea:

  • Add boiling water to 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh leaves of either herb and let it steep for at least five minutes.
  • Once steeped, strain and cool the liquid before gargling.
  • Rinse your mouth with the tea for one to two minutes before spitting out or swallowing the tea.

6. Addressing Sores with Honey

On top of being healthy and aiding with many other health afflictions throughout human history, honey is an antibacterial with anti-inflammatory properties.

This makes it highly effective for reducing canker sores and easing the pain caused by them.

A 2014 study by Sally A El-Haddad et al., titled, "Efficacy of honey in comparison to topical corticosteroid for treatment of recurrent minor aphthous ulceration: 

A randomized, blind, controlled, parallel, double-center clinical trial" demonstrated that honey exhibited a statistically significant difference in various healing metrics.

raw honey

This was compared to topical corticosteroid cream and Orabase treatments for canker sores.

Using honey for your canker sores is a simple task: 

  • Apply it directly to your sores four times a day. 
  • Make sure to use unpasteurized and unfiltered honey to get the most out of its healing effects. 

If you can procure local honey, you can also reduce seasonal allergy symptoms!

7. Taking Advantage of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, much like honey, is an effective antimicrobial that is safe to use on canker sores and may even prevent them from spreading.

Coconut oil's soothing, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties can also ease pain and discomfort caused by sores, all while tasting and smelling very pleasant.

coconut oil home remedies for canker sores

Application with either solid or liquid coconut oil is a natural and straightforward process.

All you have to do is add the oil directly to your sores a few times a day based on your condition.

Conclusion

Canker sores are often both painful and inconvenient. Fortunately, however, many natural remedies for canker sores address the symptoms.

They can even minimize the appearance of sores over time.

Do consult a doctor if your sores exhibit the following symptoms:

  • You have multiple simultaneous sores or one that is larger than a typical canker sore
  • New canker sores develop before others have fully healed, or the sores take more than two weeks to heal.
  • Canker sores appear on the lips or cause fever.
  • The sore or sores are especially painful or cause difficulties when eating and drinking.

However, if your condition does not require medical treatment, many home remedies for canker sores will work and are backed by scientific consensus and thousands of years of use as a treatment for them.

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