There are a number of home remedies available for helping ease the discomfort of canker sores. From salt water or baking soda gargles to milk of magnesia to diet changes, relief is not far away.

Canker sore remedies – what is a canker sore?

First, let’s answer the question, what is a canker sore? Canker sores are small ulcers also called aphthous ulcerations that occur either on your gums or in your mouth. Whether they are caused by bacteria or not is still being investigated, but it is likely. They can be painful but generally you don’t need to worry about them causing any permanent damage because they heal up in a couple of weeks. They can also make it hard to eat or talk like usual, and they may rub against your braces.  You can treat your mouth sore with an over the counter canker sore remedy or a natural one.

Canker sores should not be confused with cold sores or fever blisters which usually appear on the lips and are caused by the herpes simplex virus.

How can I treat canker sores?

Several commercial oral medications are on the market to help relieve canker sore pain and inflammation and reduce the welts. There are also a number of at home remedies you can use to help relieve pain and heal faster. You can also contact your dentist or orthodontist to see what he or she recommends. Many different mouth rinses can be made that will help relieve the symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the home remedies.

  • This might sound weird but the live cultures in yogurt may help counteract the bacteria that cause canker sores. Just eat a cup of yogurt a day, but make sure you see the words live or probiotic cultures on the package.
  • This has been used since antiquity to help preserve things and it has both anti inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Simply apply to a canker sore up to four times a day to help the healing process. Remember, though, that babies and toddlers should never be fed honey. If you can find unpasteurized local honey, that is the best to choose.
  • Alum powder. This powder made of potassium aluminum sulfate is frequently used in food preservation due to its astringency. It can be a canker sore remedy by helping dry out the sores. Mix some alum powder with a couple of drops of water to make a paste and apply it to the canker sore. Leave on for one minute and then rinse. You can use it once a day until the sore is gone.
  • Coconut oil. This particular oil has some antimicrobial properties, so if you swish it around your canker sore, it can both help with the bacteria that caused the canker sore and also act as an anti inflammatory that reduces the lump and therefore some of the pain it causes. You can do this several times a day.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide helps by cleaning out the bacteria that cause the canker sore. To use as a canker sore remedy you will want to use the 3% peroxide version that you can get at the store with an equal amount of water, then use a cotton swab to apply the solution to your canker sore. You can use this several times a day. Alternatively, you can use the peroxide dilution like a mouthwash. Swish for a minute then spit out. It’s important to not swallow peroxide.
  • Salt water rinse. This is a classic treatment for all kinds of soreness in the mouth. It may be a bit aggravating at the time but ultimately it will be soothing and will help dry out the sore. Use at a ratio of 1 teaspoon salt to ½ cup warm water. Swish for up to 30 seconds, then spit out. You can use this as often as you need.
  • Baking soda. While also being salty, it is alkaline, and so it can help balance the pH of your mouth and therefore reduce the sore. Make a baking soda rinse and use as a canker sore remedy the same way you would the salt water rinse.
  • This herb is widely used to soothe irritated things. It can also help heal due to its anti inflammatory properties and it also can help reduce the bacteria that are causing the sore. It’s easy to apply – simply use a chamomile tea bag on your canker sore, and let it sit for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can brew the tea and use it as a mouth rinse. This is safe to use up to four times a day.
  • This is another herbal remedy that can help heal the sore and also help the mouth tissues be supported to prevent future sores from forming. Use liquid Echinacea in a ration of one teaspoon of liquid to one teaspoon of water. Swish for two minutes then spit out. You can also brew some Echinacea tea and use it as a mouth rinse as well. These are safe to use up to three times a day.
  • This wonderful herb that makes holiday stuffing taste like stuffing is also great at reducing inflammation in the mouth. You can make an easy canker sore remedy mouthwash that has anti inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Use one to two tablespoons of fresh sage leaves, available at your grocery store, and brew with boiling water. Let steep for five minutes before straining and then let it cool. Swish for two minutes then spit out.
  • Milk of magnesia. You might think this one is strange, but some studies have shown that those who suffer with irritable bowel syndrome may also be more susceptible to canker sores. Milk of magnesia works by lowering the acid in your mouth and therefore reducing the canker sore, much like baking soda does, thus speeding the healing process. It also has agents that can coat the mouth so you are less likely to notice the pain. Apply the MoM to your canker sore and let it sit for a few seconds before rinsing. You can use this safely three times a day.
  • Zinc lozenges. Zinc helps boost your immune system so it can kill the bacteria causing your canker sore. Just use the lozenge per the package instructions.
  • Deglycyrrhizinated licorice. This is an herbal extract of licorice that has anti inflammatory properties and is great at helping stomach ulcers, which is why it is thought to work well for canker sores. DGL is found in capsule forms at vitamin shops or online. To make into a canker sore remedy, use one capsule and mix with one cup of warm water, then swish for three minutes and spit out. You can also find DGL patches that are meant to apply to canker sores. Use for 30 minutes and then remove.
  • Apple cider vinegar. It might seem strange that an acidic option is a good one, but there are a lot of properties to ACV that make it effective for a lot of natural medicine purposes. It has antibacterial properties that will kill the bacteria that cause the sore. Use one teaspoon of ACV in one cup of water, swish for up to a minute, then spit out and rinse to keep the acid from harming your tooth enamel. You can use it once a day. If you find that your canker sore gets worse by using it, discontinue use.
  • Vitamin B supplements. You may be more susceptible to canker sores if you don’t have enough B vitamins in your diet, particularly B-12. You can readily find B complex vitamins in your local supermarket or drug store, but they can come with some side effects or make you feel a bit nauseous. You should talk to your doctor before beginning a B vitamin regimen.
  • Clove oil. This comes in an oral gel that you apply to the sore to help reduce the pain of canker sores. Or you can find clove oil at a pharmacy and apply it as a canker sore remedy.
  • Aloe vera is widely known for its healing and anti inflammatory properties when treating sunburns, but it also can help canker sores. Apply straight aloe vera gel to the sore or drink some aloe vera juice slowly.

Other ways of helping canker sores

You can also help reduce canker sores by making a few modifications to your diet. By avoiding spicy foods or acidic foods, you can reduce the amount of pain that canker sores cause. You can also help numb the discomfort by applying ice chips to your sore and just let them dissolve. Finally, you can use a specialty toothpaste like Sensodyne Pronamel and a soft toothbrush to avoid irritating the area.

Talk to your dentist

If you have any worries about your oral health you should be sure to talk to your dentist right away, particularly if you keep getting canker sores or you have a sore that just won’t go away with home canker sore remedy treatments meant to speed healing.

As another note, if you are taking any prescription medications, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist before starting any herbal treatments as they can have negative interactions with some drugs.


As you can see, there are a lot of ways to treat canker sores naturally. As they are natural products, there may be some people who have sensitivities to the plants involved, or you may find that the treatment doesn’t work for you. You can always try another one until you find a treatment that works. But, know that canker sores are not permanent, and they can be treated.


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