Hot or sour foods can feel like red hot pokers in your mouth if you’re suffering from canker sores. If mealtime makes your mouth feel like you’ve been stung by a million bees, some natural home remedies can come to your aid to get rid of canker sores.

canker sores


Quite different from cold sores, canker sores or aphthous ulcers are small and shallow lesions that manifest on the gums and soft tissues of the mouth and throat. Minor canker sores often clear up in one to two weeks, while major sores that occur in clusters may take up to six weeks to heal and can cause scarring. (1)

Causes and Symptoms of Canker Sores

  • Canker sores appear as an oval, flat grey surface with red edges and are often marked by a tingling or burning sensation in the area one or two days before manifestation.
  • The ulcer can manifest as a single sore or in clusters and can make talking or eating quite painful.
  • The precise cause of canker sores is unclear, but a number of factors may trigger them. A minor injury to the tissue due to an accidental cheek bite, rigorous brushing or dental work is a common cause.
  • Canker sores can also occur as part of an allergic response or as a result of emotional stress.
  • Hormonal imbalance during puberty, menstruation and menopause can also trigger these ulcers. This often makes women more susceptible than men.

how to treat canker sores

Preventing Canker Sores

  • Avoid hot, spicy and acidic foods including citruses, as these can often cause as well as aggravate canker sores. Coffee, chocolate, nuts, and seeds can also aggravate the problem and should be avoided.
  • Parsley, salmon, spinach, kale, carrots, and yogurt can lessen the frequency of recurrent breakouts. These foods contain vitamin B12, folate, zinc and iron, which can help in prevention. (2)
  • If you are prone to canker sores, avoid toothpaste with sodium lauryl sulfate, as it can also act as a trigger.

Home Treatment for Canker Sores

Over-the-counter and prescription medication for canker sores often come with a host of side effects and the results are not always satisfactory.

Home remedies provide relief without the dreaded side effects or costing you a great deal of money. Here are nine easy home remedies that you can try to get rid of your canker sores.


Method 1: Use Salt Water

An effective toothache remedy, a saltwater rinse is a great way to complement your regular oral hygiene. A salt rinse is often recommended after dental procedures to speed up healing. It can also be used to treat canker sores.

A salt rinse helps draw fluids out of the sore, thus drying it up and allowing it to heal. This draining of fluids is especially helpful for puffed up sores that often get bitten or irritated. Salt also prevents the sores from getting infected, while the warm water soothes the pain. (3)

Things you’ll need:

things you will need to use salt water to treat canker sore

  • Warm water (soothes pain) – 1 cup
  • Salt (disinfects and promotes healing) – 1 teaspoon

Step 1. Dissolve the salt in water

add salt to warm water to treat canker sore

  • Add 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water.
  • Stir well to dissolve the salt into the water.

Step 2. Use the warm salt water as a mouth rinse

salt water rinse for canker sores

  • Use this salt water as a mouth rinse, swishing the liquid around the sore.

Repeat this process 3 times a day. You should experience relief after 1 or 2 days but continue with the remedy until the sore fully heals.

Method 2: Use Alum

Alum is one of the most effective home remedies when it comes to canker sores. It’s very inexpensive, and you can easily find it in the spice aisle of your local grocery store.

While it is usually used to preserve the crispiness of pickles, this spice can help cauterize a cold sore. Its astringent properties dry out the lesion and speed up the healing process. After an initial burning sensation, it numbs the area and provides immense relief from the pain. (4)

Single-Step Treatment: Place alum directly on the canker sore

plcase alum on the canker sore

  • Simply hold a pea-sized piece of alum directly over the canker sore in your mouth. Keep the alum over the sore for 1 minute before removing it and rinsing your mouth.
  • If using powdered or granular alum, apply it on the ulcer with a wet cotton swab.
  • The bitter taste will make you salivate, but try to avoid getting saliva on the area treated with alum for best results.
  • Usually, a single application can heal a canker sore, but severe sores may require subsequent applications.

Repeat application twice every day for 2 to 3 days to heal sores completely.


Method 3: Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Ladies often use apple cider vinegar to tighten their pores, but the astringent properties of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar are also quite beneficial in getting rid of canker sores as well.

Apple cider vinegar dries out the sore by draining excess fluid from the puffed up ulcer. This also inhibits the growth of bacteria, which could cause an infection in the sore.

Single-Step Treatment: Apply apple cider vinegar on the sore

apply apple cider vinegar on the canker sore

  • Dip a sterile cotton swab into raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Use it to apply the apple cider vinegar on the canker sore.
  • When applying undiluted apple cider vinegar, limit it to the area with the sore. This protects the teeth from enamel erosion due to the vinegar.

Reapply 3 or 4 times daily for 1 to 2 days to completely heal the sore.

Method 4: Use Aspirin

Aspirin is one of the relatively painless remedies for treating canker sores. It’s a pain reliever that also prevents the ulcer from festering. Always use uncoated adult or baby aspirin for treating canker sores.

The maximum amount of aspirin recommended for daily oral use is 4 grams. You should not exceed this amount when using aspirin to get rid of canker sores. (5)

Note: This remedy is not for people under the age of 19 years, especially if they have chicken pox or the flu, due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome.

Things you’ll need:


things you will need to use asprin for canker sores

  • Uncoated aspirin (pain reliever) – 2 or 3 tablets
  • Water

Step 1. Make a paste of aspirin

add water to asprin to make a paste to treat canker sore

  • Put 2 or 3 uncoated aspirin tablets into a small bowl. Reduce the quantity if it’s more than you need.
  • Add a small amount of water to dissolve the aspirin and make a thick paste.

Step 2. Apply the paste on the canker sore

apply asprin paste on canker sore

  • Apply a small amount of the aspirin paste on the canker sore using a sterile cotton swab.
  • After 5 minutes, rinse off the paste with plain water.

Repeat the application twice a day. This remedy will provide relief within 2 to 3 days.

Method 5: Use Baking Soda

The acidic environment in your mouth can irritate canker sores, preventing them from healing. Baking soda can help by neutralizing the acids and making your mouth alkaline.

This inexpensive solution also helps seal the ulcer, allowing it to heal. It also brings relief from the inflammation in the sore.

Things you’ll need:

things you will need to use baking soda to treat canker sores

  • Baking soda (healing properties)
  • Water

Step 1. Make a paste of baking soda

add water to baking soda to make a paste for treating canker sores

  • Put some baking soda in a small bowl.
  • Add a little water and mix it into a thin paste.

Step 2. Apply the paste on the canker sore

apply baking soda paste to treat canker sores

  • Apply the baking soda paste on the affected areas in your mouth.
  • Let the paste sit for a few minutes, then rinse your mouth with lukewarm water.

Repeat 3 or 4 times daily and the sores will heal completely within 2 to 3 days.

Method 6: Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Usually used to disinfect cuts and wounds, hydrogen peroxide can act as a medicated rinse to provide relief from canker sores. It will eliminate the chance of infection and allow the ulcer to heal.

Step 1. Dilute the hydrogen peroxide with water

add water to hydrogen peroxide to treat canker sores

  • Pour ¼ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide into a glass.
  • Add ¼ cup of water to dilute the hydrogen peroxide.

Step 2. Use the hydrogen peroxide solution as a mouth rinse

hydrogen peroxide rinse for canker sores

  • Simply swish the liquid around the sore in your mouth for up to 1 minute before spitting it out.
  • Use up the entire ½ cup of the solution in this way. Avoid swallowing the solution, as it may cause temporary nausea and upset stomach.

Repeat 3 times a day for 1 to 2 days to heal sore completely.

Method 7: Use L-Lysine

Even though cold sores are quite different from canker sores, L-lysine can take care of both. Nutritionally oriented health care professionals believe that a deficiency in lysine may trigger canker sores.

take l-lysine to treat canker sores

L-lysine is an essential amino acid that is not synthesized in the body. This means that you need to use dietary sources and supplements to provide your body with the required amount. This method works best when used at the onset of the canker sore.

  • Eat poultry, red meat, parmesan cheese, sardines, cod, eggs, and dairy products to get lysine from dietary sources. Vegans can eat soy, nuts, and legumes like lentils and beans to get their share of lysine.

As a dietary supplement, take 1,000 mg of L-lysine 3 times a day for a week.

Notes: Do not combine L-lysine supplements with calcium supplements, as lysine can increase calcium absorption in the body. Excess intake of L-Lysine supplements can pose a risk of gallstones and kidney dysfunction. Consult your health provider before taking L-lysine supplements if you have cholesterol or triglyceride issues. (2)

Method 8: Use Pickle Juice

Pickle juice can come in quite handy to deal with canker sores without much effort. Pickle juice is mostly vinegar and salt, spiced with alum, dill and garlic. Many of these ingredients are listed as canker sore remedies in this article itself, making it a perfect solution to treat the sores.

Pickle juice will numb the area, providing instant relief from pain. It will also seal the sore, allowing it to heal. (6)

Single-Step Treatment: Swish pickle juice around the sore daily

apply pickle juice on canker sores

  • Just take a swig of pickle juice, swish it around the canker sore for a few minutes and then spit it out.

Repeat 3 times daily for 2 to 3 days.

Method 9: Use Listerine

Listerine is another remedy that can bring instant pain relief by numbing the canker sore. Alcohol is the active ingredient responsible for its benefits against canker sores, so alcohol-free mouthwashes won’t work.

The alcohol in Listerine disinfects and dries out the canker sore, allowing it to heal rapidly. (2)

Single-Step Treatment: Rinse your mouth with Listerine 3 times daily

rinse mouth with listerine to heal canker sore

  • Take a capful of Listerine and swish it around in your mouth for up to 1 minute before spitting it out.
  • Rinse your mouth with water.

Repeat the rinse after every hour and it will relieve canker sores within a day.

Note: Be prepared for a stinging sensation for the first 30 seconds, followed by the numbing sensation.

Method 10: Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be very effective in providing relief in painful canker sores. The anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil will help to bring the swelling down, diminishing the size of the sores. This makes them less prone to being irritated by the teeth.

Coconut oil will also ease the burning pain and speed up the healing process of these irritating lesions. (7)

Single-Step Treatment: Swish coconut oil around the sore

swish coconut oil around the sore

  • Put a spoonful of coconut oil into your mouth.
  • Let the oil melt over the canker sores.
  • Swish the melted oil around the sores for a few seconds before swallowing. Alternatively, spit it out in a trashcan if you can’t bear to swallow it.

Follow this remedy twice or thrice throughout the day to heal your canker sore.

Method 11: Use Tea Bags

Used tea bags are not just a good remedy for puffy eyes; they can also help to heal canker sores. Tannins present in the tea help to reduce the pain and swelling in the canker sores. Tannins also give the tea its astringent properties which help to bring down the swelling.

Any teabag works – black or green. Herbal tea may provide even better results. (8)

Single-Step Treatment: Apply used tea bag on the sore

apply used tea bag on the sore

  • Steep the teabag as usual.
  • Remove from hot water and let it cool down completely.
  • Apply the used teabag on canker sores for about 5 minutes.

Follow the remedy 2 or 3 times daily for a cou[ple of days.

Method 12: Use Yogurt

Plain yogurt with live culture is also recommended as a canker sore treatment. The probiotics in yogurt balance the flora in your mouth and keep the sores in check. If you’ve had a string of never-ending bouts of canker sores, using yogurt as a canker sore treatment may work wonders.

Go for plain yogurt instead of flavored variety. Frozen or cooked yogurt will not work as it doesn’t contain the live culture responsible for healing and soothing your painful canker sores. (9) This treatment option may not be suitable for those that are lactose intolerant (have a milk allergy).

Single-Step Treatment: Consume plain yogurt thrice a day

eat or apply yogurt on the sore

  • In case you are lactose intolerant, apply plain yogurt on your inflamed canker sores with a clean finger, three times a day until the sores heal up.
  • You can also consume at least 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt thrice a day for a couple of days or until the sores heal completely.

Tips for canker sore relief

  • Like a salt water rinse, you can also make a baking soda rinse to get relief from canker sores.
  • You can apply an alum solution on the canker sore using a sterile cotton swab.
  • You can mix apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of Benadryl and apply it on the canker sore.
  • You can use diluted white vinegar as a mouth rinse to get relief from canker sores.


  1. Edgar NR, Saleh D, Miller RA. Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis: A Review. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. Published March 2017.
  2. McBride DR. Management of Benign Aphthous Ulcers. AAFP Home. Published July 1, 2000.
  3. Huynh NC-N, Everts V, Leethanakul C, Pavasant P, Ampornaramveth RS. Rinsing with Saline Promotes Human Gingival Fibroblast Wound Healing In Vitro. PLOS ONE. Published July 21, 2016.
  4. Rafieian N, Abdolsamadi H, Moghadamnia A, et al. Efficacy of alum for treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis. Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine. Published 2016.
  5. Bruch JM, Treister NS. Clinical Oral Medicine and Pathology. Accessed February 14, 2019.
  6. Miller KC, Mack GW, Knight KL, et al. Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise. Published May 2010.
  7. Shanbhag VKL. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Published June 6, 2016.
  8. Moghbel A, Farjzadeh A, Aghel N, Agheli H, Raisi N. Evaluation of the effect of green tea extract on mouth bacterial activity in the presence of propylene glycol. Current neurology and neuroscience reports. Published 2012.
  9. Haukioja A. Probiotics and Oral Health - PubMed Central (PMC). Probiotics and Oral Health. Published July 2010.

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