These simple home canker sort treatments will help you get rid of canker sores, and avoid them in the future.
What is a Canker Sore, and what's the difference between canker sores and cold sores?
A canker sore is an open sore, or ulcer, inside the mouth. They're also called “mouth ulcers” or aphthous ulcerations. They aren't contagious, but the sores can be painful.
The sores usually last a week or two, but the right canker sore treatment could cut that down to only a day or two.
What causes them? WebMD admits that doctors often don't know. They're most common in younger people, from tweens to early 20s.
Sometimes there's an underlying health condition, like immune systems problems or nutritional issues. Braces and other dental hardware sometimes trigger them. (Talk to your doctor or dentist if something is poking your mouth where it shouldn't be.)
Sometimes it's stress, or an emotional conflict. Salty and acidic foods can irritate the mouth, but don't usually cause them on their own. Avoiding dental care products with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) may speed up healing and reduce canker sore pain.
If you have frequently occurring canker sores, you should probably take a look at your health/diet to see what the underlying factors might be.
Canker sores are not the same as cold sores, also known as fever blisters. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, and are contagious.
#1 – Coconut Oil as a Canker Sore Treatment
I rarely get canker sores, but the last one I had was inside my lower lip. The little blister was annoying – red, sore and constantly rubbing against my teeth. The bump wasn’t huge, maybe 2 mm across. I did my normal round of oil pulling with coconut oil.
After breakfast, the day got busy as usual and I didn’t really have time to focus on the canker sore. It wasn’t until around 4:30 in the afternoon when I was talking to my sister on the phone that I realized the bump was GONE.
I went and looked in the mirror and all that was left was a red spot and a slight indentation. By the next morning even that was mostly gone. The area was just a wee bit darker then the surrounding tissue.
I NEVER healed a canker sore that fast. I’ve tried over the counter remedies, alum, ice cubes – nothing has worked this fast or this painlessly.
#2 – Baking Soda
Use baking soda as a canker sore treatment by dissolving baking soda in water and holding it in your mouth mouth, or by applying baking soda directly to the canker sore.
Baking soda cured my canker sore within 24 hours. The canker sore on the side of my tongue was so sore I couldn't hardly swallow. I took 1tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp of water and kept it in my mouth as long as possible. I did this 3 times within an hour went to bed and did the same the next morning by dinner time the canker sore was gone!
Out of the blue 4 days ago I got a canker sore that was 1.5 inches large on the side of my tongue. It was excruciating! Last night before bed I tried putting a baking soda paste on it and I woke up this morning and it's almost gone!
Baking soda is also useful for treating bites and stings.
#3 – Salt Water
To use salt water as a remedy, dissolve two tablespoons of salt in a six ounce glass of warm water. Sip and swish gently over the affected area for several minutes, spit. Repeat as needed.
Salt water helps draw fluid through tissues, speeding healing.
#4 – Tea
Another classic home canker sore treatment is tea – including the tea bag.
Brew the tea as normal and drink it. Then tuck the tea bag in your mouth, holding it on the canker sore, something like a snuff pouch.
The tannic acid in the tea provides the relief. (Tannic acid is a component in the over the counter canker sore remedy Zilactin.)
#5 – Honey
A recent study examined the use of honey to treat canker sores. They divided participants into three groups.
The first treated their sores with plain old commercial honey, the second used an oral corticosteroid cream, and the third got an over-the-counter product that forms a protective paste to cover sores while they heal.
All three groups applied their treatment three times per day. Results were as follows:
In just 4 days, all sores in the honey group had disappeared completely—but the number of sores in groups 2 and 3 hadn’t budged. Honey even helped to soothe pain. After day 1, honey users reported a 95.5% decrease in pain, with total pain elimination by day 2. Groups 2 and 3 were not so lucky: It took them 8 days to reach the same pain-free state.
So – hit the pantry and thank the bees for sweet relief.
#6 – Aloe Vera Juice
Swish food grade aloe vera gel around the mouth, apply it directly to the canker sore, and/or drink as a supplement to help speed healing of canker sores.
Aloe vera contains salicylates, like aspirin, which reduce pain and inflammation. Aloe vera is also a natural antibiotic. You can purchase ready to go aloe vera juice, or make your own by juicing or scraping and mashing the pulp from an aloe vera leaf.
#7 – L-lysine
L-lysine is an essential amino acid, which means it is required for health but can't be manufactured by the body. It's found in high protein foods like nuts, red meat, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, and sardines. It's also available as a supplement.
Use 500 mg of l-lysine internally for canker sore treatment, or hold the supplement powder on the canker sore.
#8 – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Use this canker sore remedy with caution, as the acidity of the apple cider vinegar may irritate the canker sore.
Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1/2 cup warm water, and swish it around your mouth for 30-60 seconds. Repeat twice a day.
#9 – Yogurt
Daily consumption of yogurt with live and active cultures may help prevent and heal canker sore outbreaks. Those who suffer from regular outbreaks should eat ¼ cup of yogurt per day for prevention, and consume an eight ounce container per day to heal an outbreak.
#10 – Herbs
Try making up some echinacea, chamomile, or sage tea for canker sore treatment. Hold the tea in your mouth a bit before drinking. Use up to 4-6 cups per day.
More Canker Sore Treatments
Our readers on Facebook also recommended some remedies.
Julie says, “Here is one remedy I have found works best for canker sores and helps soothe them. It will heal them in 2 days, 3 days tops if severe.
Put liquid vitamin E directly on the sore – frequently on the first day, and then less often as it heals. Vitamin E, 30,000 IU, is a miracle for wounds/scars/burns.”
Kathy notes, “Niacin powder directly on the canker sore heals it within a day or two.”
More Home Remedies
We have dozens of home remedies on the site, all listed on the Home Remedies index page.
Note: This article is for general information only. Please see a healthcare provider if pain is intense or lasts longer than two weeks.
Originally posted in 2010, last updated in 2021.