Throughout my teens and well into my 20s, I experienced painful canker sores for at least six months out of the year. They would come and go periodically and made talking and eating extremely painful.
They would often last several weeks before they went away, and sometimes, just as one would heal, another would pop up. Eventually, I sought out canker sore treatments to help ease the soreness from this painful condition.
What is a Canker Sore?
A canker sore is a small ulcer or lesion that forms temporarily inside of your mouth. Canker sores can be extremely painful and can make it hard to talk, eat or drink. When you have a canker sore, you may notice one or more white spots in your mouth that look like craters.
The edges may appear reddish and slightly inflamed. Although many people confuse canker sores with cold sores, canker sores are not caused by the herpes simplex virus and are not contagious.
What Causes a Canker Sore?
According to WebMD, canker sores can be caused by a variety of factors, but the exact triggers are often unknown. The Mayo Clinic reports that injury to the mouth from dental appliances, a bite to the tongue, or a bump to the gums with a toothbrush can result in canker sores.
Some foods, especially if they are extremely acidic, can lead to painful ulcers. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B-12, zinc, iron, or folate can make you more susceptible to getting canker sores. Changes in hormones or stress levels as well as certain autoimmune diseases can also cause canker sores.
What are some of the symptoms you might experience?
When you have a canker sore, you may experience the following symptoms:
- A burning sensation and soreness on the gums, inside the lips or cheeks or on, around or under the tongue
- A swollen feeling in these areas
- Sharp pain when eating, moving your mouth, drinking, or brushing your teeth
- A visible white or yellow spot in the mouth
10 Natural Remedies for Canker Sores
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Homemade Numbing Spray
When you have a canker sore on the tongue, gums, or inside the cheeks, all you can think about is getting rid of the pain. This numbing spray relies on the anti-inflammatory characteristics of peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils to help relieve discomfort.
These oils may also help fight bacteria that could lead to infection. As the essential oils work to tighten up the area around the sore, they reduce swelling that can cause additional friction in the mouth.
Because they make your skin feel cool to the touch, peppermint and eucalyptus oils provide a numbing sensation when applied to the lesions.
- 2 TBSP carrier oil, like fractionated coconut, olive or grapeseed oil
- 10 drops peppermint essential oil
- 8 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- Glass spray bottle (Essential oils can break down plastics and cause toxins to leach out of plastic bottles.)
1. Combine all of the oils in the glass spray bottle and shake well to mix them thoroughly.
2. Before each use, shake the bottle and spray a little bit on the canker sore.
3. If you don’t have a spray bottle, combine the oils in a small glass or vial and apply the mixture with a cotton swab or small makeup brush.
This simple and natural canker sore treatment can be used throughout the day to encourage healing. According to My Canker Sore Treatment, aloe vera has been highly researched and is found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Aloe vera leaves can be purchased individually from many grocery stores and most health food stores. If you can’t find the actual plant, you can purchase aloe vera gel from a natural food or drug store.
This remedy can be used as often as you need in order to soothe the sore and promote healing. Natural aloe vera can also be consumed to aid in the treatment process.
- Aloe vera leaf, gel, or juice
- Cotton swab
1. Break open the aloe vera leaf and scrape out the clear gel from the inside.
2. Remove only what you need at the moment.
3. Apply the gel to the sore using a cotton swab.
4. Alternatively, you can swish about a tablespoon of the gel in your mouth.
Because the aloe vera doesn’t stick to the canker sore, you may need to reapply it several times per hour and after eating.
Honey and Turmeric Paste
Honey is soothing and has antibacterial properties. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory characteristics. When combined, honey and turmeric can create a pain-relieving paste or mouthwash.
Make sure that you use raw honey for this remedy. Overly processed honey does not contain the beneficial nutrients that raw honey provides. You can use grated fresh turmeric root or turmeric powder for this treatment.
- 1 tsp raw honey
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
1. Combine the honey and turmeric.
2. Apply the paste to the canker sore, making sure to cover the area surrounding the sore too.
3. After 10 minutes, rinse with lukewarm water.
This remedy may be painful at first, but the paste should alleviate the soreness after a minute or two. You can apply a simple paste of pure honey to the sore before going to bed at night for a more intensive treatment. Mix the honey and turmeric with warm water to use as a mouth rinse several times a day.
Although it seems like the last thing you would want to put on your canker sore, cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin, which is used in neuropathy treatments because of its pain-blocking properties. Capsaicin initially delivers a burning effect to the skin, which actually overwhelms the nerve endings, resulting in the inability of the nerves to report pain.
- 1 tsp water
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Cotton swab
1. Place the water in a small glass.
2. Sprinkle enough cayenne pepper on the water to form a paste.
3. Apply the paste to the sore with a cotton swab.
This will initially result in a burning sensation. Allow the sensation to continue until the pain is numbed. You may gently remove the paste after several minutes using a cotton swab dipped in aloe vera gel.
Because canker sores may be caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut, eating yogurt with live cultures can balance out the intestinal flora and reduce the incidence of canker sores. You can also use yogurt as a mouthwash to coat the mucus membranes in the mouth with beneficial bacteria, crowding out any damaging bacteria that could be contributing to the canker sores.
- 2 TBSP plain yogurt that contains live, active cultures
- 1 TBSP raw honey
1. Combine the yogurt with the honey.
2. Swish the combination in the mouth, coating all of the surfaces.
Do not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes following this treatment. You may consume yogurt with honey throughout the day as well in order to promote healthy bacteria growth in the digestive system.
Baking Soda Paste or Rinse
If you think acid from reflux or from the foods you eat is contributing to your canker sores, you can neutralize the acid with baking soda.
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp water
- cotton swab
1. Combine the baking soda and water to make a paste. You may have to play around with the amounts of baking soda and water.
2. Apply the paste to your canker sores using a cotton swab.
3. To use baking soda as a mouth rinse, add two tablespoons to a glass of warm water and stir to dissolve. Rinse your mouth four to five times a day with the solution.
The baking soda paste will stick to the ulcers if you make sure not to eat or drink after applying it. This is an ideal remedy to use before going to bed at night, especially if you experience acid reflux or heartburn while lying down.
Clove oil contains mostly eugenol, an antiseptic compound that also has anti-inflammatory properties. A 2014 About Health article explains that dentists commonly apply clove oil to the gums to numb the pain caused by toothaches and dental procedures.
A solution containing clove essential oil can be applied to a cotton ball and held next to the canker sore to numb the area and relieve tenderness.
- 1/2 tsp carrier oil, like fractionated coconut oil or olive oil
- 4 drops clove essential oil
- Cotton ball
1. Rinse your mouth with warm water to remove any residue and clean the canker sore.
2. Combine the oils in a small jar or glass.
3. Soak the cotton ball in the oils and apply it to the canker sore, holding it in the mouth for up to 10 minutes.
This herb has been used medicinally for centuries. Part of the mint family, sage has drying properties that can release fluids from the sore and aid in healing.
- Dried sage leaves
- 2 cups boiling water
1. Pour the water over the sage leaves and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
2. Once the mixture has cooled, strain out the sage.
3. Use the tea as a mouth rinse several times per day.
To boost the effect, buy powdered sage in the spice aisle of the grocery store and apply the powder directly to the sore using a cotton swab after rinsing your mouth with the sage tea. Don’t eat or drink anything for at least 20 minutes following the treatment.
Wounds don’t heal as quickly in moist environments. That’s why canker sores can stick around for so long. Alum powder draws the moisture away from the canker sore, allowing the damaged tissue to heal. Alum can be found with the spices in the grocery store.
- 1/4 tsp alum powder
1. Dab the alum powder directly onto the sore.
2. Leave it on for one minute, taking care not to swallow the alum.
3. Spit out the accumulated saliva and alum in your mouth.
Don’t rinse the alum away, or you will introduce moisture into your mouth. Applying aloe vera or honey after the alum powder treatment can encourage healing. Use this treatment only once or twice for the duration of your canker sore.
The sulfur in the onion can heal canker sores and reduce pain and swelling.
- Raw onion
1. Cut the onion into small pieces.
2. Apply one piece to the sore for a few minutes.
3. Perform this treatment three times a day.
Now You Know How to Get Rid of Those Painful Canker Sores!
Canker sores can be more than just painful; they can interfere with your life. It can be embarrassing to feel as though you’re drooling when you’re trying to have a professional conversation. Canker sores can make you irritable because you’re not able to eat normally.
I rarely get canker sores anymore. Perhaps this is because I concentrate on eating a diet rich with vitamins and minerals, balancing out my intestinal flora with probiotics, and managing stress.
When I do get a canker sore, I use as many natural remedies as I can throughout the day to shorten its duration. These canker sore home remedies often make my canker sores go away in just a few days.
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