Natural treatments for canker sores

Canker sores, also known as mouth ulcers, "apthous stomatitis" and "ulcerative stomatitis", are small painful ulcers which typically have a red border and yellow-gray centers. Usually 1 to 2mm wide, they occur inside the mouth: the inner side of the lips, the tongue, the wall of the cheeks and the back and floor of the mouth.

canker sores

The cause of canker sores is uncertain, however associations with human herpesvirus 6, stress, food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies have been suggested. Canker sores generally take 1 to 2 weeks to heal and may recur monthly or several times per year.

Canker sores usually begin with a burning or tingling sensation, followed by a bump or red spot which ulcerates. Occasionally, fatigue, fever, and swollen lymph nodes may be present in severe attacks. Recurrence of canker sores is common and may continue for years.

Over 50% of our population gets canker sores. 1/4 of our population has this virus but never gets any symptoms. This virus remains in the body even after an acute outbreak is over. Once the virus enters the body, it never leaves. This virus hides in nerve cells where the immune system's protective cells are unable to get to them. New canker sores outbreaks can be triggered by stress, other viral infections, exposure to excessive sun or wind, or anything else which depresses your immune system.

Canker sores are a symptom of a weakened immune system. Exhaustion and stress (see the transcendental meditation page) seem to play a major role in allowing the virus to manifeste itself.

Natural treatments for canker sores

Eat a mineral-rich diet. Focus on foods which will make your body more alkaline, which usually means green vegetables. Green vegetables are also the best source of minerals.

The following supplements should be taken:

L-Lysine  - The amino acid L-Lysine works very well for preventing the cold sore outbreaks and will heal the canker sores when an outbreak is present. This particular L-Lysine product, here, is especially beneficial because it not only contains L-Lysine but also Echinacea, Licorice Root, Garlic Bulb, Goldenseal root and vitamin C, all of which help treat canker sores. It comes in a liquid form which makes it easy for children to take.

Vitamin C - 1000mg 3 times/day.Vitamin C works directly against viruses and has been found to inhibit the herpes virus in vitro.

Vitamin B-Complexicon - Take a high stress formula at least 100mg 3 times/day. Supplementing daily with B vitamins- 300 mg vitamin B1, 20 mg vitamin B2, and 150 mg vitamin B6 - has been reported to provide some people with relief.(1) Thiamine (B1) deficiency specifically has been linked to an increased risk of canker sores.(2) Several studies (5-8) have found a surprisingly high incidence of iron and B vitamin deficiency among people with recurrent canker sores. So if you suffer from canker sores, you may benefit from iron and vitamin B supplements.

Acidophilus - Studies (3) have shown that some people also respond well to to topical and/or oral use of Lactobacillus acidophilus, taken as a dissolved tablet twice dailyChewable acidophilus tablets for children  work well also.

Garlic 2-3 times/day. Garlic is a natural antiseptic and has many anti-viral properties.

Take Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL).icon DGL is the herb licorice which has had the glycyrrhizic acid removed. Glycyrrhizic acid is the portion of licorice root which can increase blood pressure and cause water retention in some people. The wound-healing and soothing components of the root remain in DGL. In one research study (4), DGL was found to promote the healing of canker sores, with a 50 to 75% improvement in one day. This study used a mouthwash made of powdered DGL mixed in water. However DGL chocolate-flavored chews - convenient for children who are afflicted with canker sores, are available here.


If you get canker sores, you can use some herbs to strengthen your immune system either just before and when an outbreak starts. Echinacea, Chaparral and Goldenseal are good immune system supporters. Cayenne pepper can relieve some of the discomfort and Aloe Vera appears to be effective in combating the herpes virus.

You may also get relief by rinsing your mouth with milk of magnesia to coat the canker sores.

Avoid toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an irritant detergent often found in toothpaste. People with recurring canker sores may benefit by switching to a brand of toothpaste that does not contain SLS, which is believed to erode the protective mucus layer inside the mouth and increase the risk of developing canker sores. (9) In one trial, most recurrent canker sores were eliminated just by avoiding toothpaste containing SLS for 3 months.(10)


Identify and eliminate food sensitivities to eliminate canker sores.

Studies  (11-13) have found that food sensitivities, especially to foods which contain gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats) are associated with recurring canker sores. Other food sensitivities or allergies may also make canker sores worse.(14,15)

One preliminary trial found evidence of food allergy in half of a group of people with recurrent canker sores; avoidance of the offending foods resulted in improvement in almost all cases.(16)

There are also herbs which will help relieve canker sores. Flora Stay, in her book "Complete Book of Dental Remedies" suggests a combination of Red Clover, Goldenseal and Burdock Root. Take equal amounts of each and boil for 5 minutes, steep another 10. Then take cotton swabs, dip them into the mixture and apply directly to the effected area.



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(13). Ferguson MM, Wray D, Carmichael HA, et al. Coeliac disease associated with recurrent aphthae. Gut 1980;21:223?6.

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