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11 Canker Sore Remedies to Reduce Inflammation and Heal Quickly

These ulcers on your tongue, gums or inside your lips or cheeks have a host of possible causes—allergies, injury, infection, even stress—but when you're suffering, you just want to know the treatments that will cure them. These home remedies bring fast pain relief while allowing your canker sores to heal.

Baking soda

As Ralph Rothstein, MD, a pediatrician and faculty member at the University of British Columbia explains, “We don’t know exactly why canker sores develop, so many of the effective treatments we suggest are anecdotal or based on old home remedies.” Even so, some have proved more effective than others. One of the most popular solutions for how to get rid of canker sores is baking soda. The powder is an alkaline and will neutralize acids that irritate the canker sore; it also helps kill bacteria to help provide canker sore relief. Try this home remedy from the Mayo Clinic: Rinse your mouth with a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda in 1/2 cup of warm water. If you’re battling a bug bite, check out these home remedies.

Aloe plant cut up, wooden spoon of aloeMK photograp55/Shutterstock

Aloe

Known as the “first-aid plant,” aloe vera gel can speed healing and offer soothing canker sore relief, according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. Dry the canker sore area with a cotton swab, then slice an aloe leaf. With a clean spoon, dab a bit of the gel directly on the sore. Repeat as often as necessary. And here’s how you can use aloe as a cold sore remedy.

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Milk of magnesia

Sip a small amount and use it as a mouth rinse, making sure to rinse the canker sore itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, this canker sore remedy takes advantage of milk of magnesia’s antacid properties, neutralizing the acids in the mouth that cause your canker sore to sting. You can also dab milk of magnesia directly on the canker sore with a cotton swab 3 to 4 times a day; one variation of this cure mixes a teaspoon of milk of magnesia with a teaspoon of Benadryl liquid allergy medicine. But watch out for these warning signs your canker sore is something more serious.

tea bag and tea in mugHappy cake Happy cafe/Shutterstock

Tea bags

Try tea, something that you likely have at home already. Dr. Rothstein explains, “Some people find tea bags soothing, and it is certainly safe to try using them. The cause of the relief isn’t necessarily specific, but it does seem to help.” If you’re ready to try for yourself, here’s what to do: Apply a damp tea bag to the canker sore for five minutes. You should feel some relief. Now check out these other health benefits of tea.

sage sprigs Viktory Panchenko/Shutterstock

Sage

Sage has a history of use for killing bacteria and viruses; it contains compounds that reduce inflammation. The dentists at Alpenglow Dental practice in Utah suggest the following cure: Steep 2 teaspoons of dried sage in a cup of boiling water, covered. Let cool and use as a mouth rinse 2 or 3 times a day; for effective canker sore relief, make sure to swish the tea in the area of your mouth with the canker sore. Here are some home remedies found in your spice rack.

brown glass bottleShablon/Shutterstock

Hydrogen peroxide

If your canker sore is painful, Dr. Rothstein suggests dabbing a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and saltwater to the canker sore. In combination, he says, “Hydrogen peroxide and saltwater might reduce the pain of a canker sore.” Now, don’t miss these 18 home remedies that are proven to work.

bottle of colorful antacidsR. MACKAY PHOTOGRAPHY,-LLC/Shutterstock

Antacids

Wondering how to get rid of canker sores with antacids? The dentists at West Michigan Dentistry in Grand Haven, Michigan advise munching a chewable Pepto-Bismol, Tums, or Rolaids tablet—all can be effective canker sore remedies—or put it on the sore and allow it to dissolve. The pain you feel from a canker sore is caused by acids and digestive enzymes eating into the tissue in the sore, and the tablets will neutralize the acids to help cure the sore. Check the label for dosage directions.

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Licorice tea

Sold in most health-food stores, older studies suggest that licorice tea may help eliminate canker sores. Simply use one tea bag per cup of boiling water and steep, covered, for ten minutes, then drink. Just use caution, warns Dr. Rothstein, as licorice can have alarming side effects such as raising your blood pressure or lowering your potassium levels.  With that warning in mind, check out some surprising health benefits of licorice.

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Salt water

This remedy for anyone trying to figure out how to get rid of canker sores couldn’t be easier. Rinsing your mouth with salt water for 30 seconds to help your canker sore heal is one of the effective canker sore remedies, according to the Mayo Clinic. Another option is to apply the salt water directly onto the canker sore. “Salt water mimics saline, one of the body’s natural liquids, and can provide a comforting coating to the sore,” says Dr. Rothstein. For quicker results, up the salt concentration in your mixture. Higher concentrations of sodium chloride draw water from surrounding tissues by osmosis, which helps heal abscesses and open wounds such as canker sores.

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Vitamin E

Dentist Craig Zunka, DDS, suggests the following: Cut open a vitamin E capsule and squeeze a bit of the liquid onto the sore. The oil will coat the sore to help protect it from infection and help it cure it more quickly.

variety of colorful vitaminsMaya Kruchankova/Shutterstock

Vitamin C

Studies suggest that Vitamin C also might help canker sores, as it works to heal your mouth’s mucous membranes. While citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, they may actually cause canker sores in some people; for more effective canker sore remedies, try 1,000 milligrams vitamin C supplements three times a day. Next, check out these 53 natural remedies that work.

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Medically reviewed by Susanne Jackson, DDS, on November 11, 2019