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Home Remedy May Ease Misery of Canker Sores

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Q. My 37-year-old daughter has battled canker sores her entire life. It's not unusual for her to have more than 10 at a time. She's tried a lot of different treatments over the years with little success.

Recently she had a baby and did not have one sore the entire pregnancy. Six weeks after delivering, the sores came back in full force. Her doctor prescribed oral corticosteroid, which cleared her mouth sores up temporarily. They returned as soon as the steroids wore off. Incidentally, she is a nurse but she has yet to find any help. She's willing to try a home remedy if you can suggest one.

A. The medical term for canker sores is aphthous ulcers. Doctors don't know what causes them or why some people are especially susceptible. They can show up after you've bitten your cheek or for no apparent reason. A bad case can make it hard for a person to eat or talk.

If there is no underlying medical problem, sauerkraut juice is a home remedy worth considering. A tablespoon of juice gets swished around the mouth a few times a day and then swallowed. One doctor who, like your daughter, suffered recurrent severe canker sores was skeptical when we suggested this, but found it worked extremely well. He was so pleased he and his chemist son are doing some research on its ingredients.

If sauerkraut juice is too weird or unpalatable, there are a few other options. Some readers recommend a pinch of alum on the sore; others prefer tannin or instant iced tea. L-lysine and acidophilus supplements from the health food store also have their supporters.

We also heard about this unusual remedy:

Q. I've read with interest suggestions for treating canker sores. About 35 years ago my son's school nurse recommended swishing buttermilk in the mouth. It helps heal them fast!

Another reader wrote: "Someone wrote to you about cold sores. This person derided the use of "silly" remedies like lysine.

I know from experience that lysine works, but plain old buttermilk works just as well and even quicker."

A. Why buttermilk might help is beyond us, but we cannot think of a safer solution for a common problem.

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I had problems with canker sores in my childhood, and early 20's. Every time I was stressed, had my menses, had mouth trauma ie brushing teeth too hard or eating rough foods like chips or pop corn, ate or drank any citrus foods, like oranges, tomatoes, pepper based food, excessive vinegar, and some coffees I would have a break out. I found that a swish and "spit" mixture of baking soda, (1 Tbsp to a large glass of water, used a few times daily helped change the pH in my mouth and alleviated the discomfort. Now I break out in fever blisters, as does my mother, and brother. Hope this is of some help. They are kind of like a cold... if you treat them they last a week, if you don't they last 7 days. :)

You wrote that some people use alum on canker sores. When I was a kid, my parents liked to use a styptic pencil. I think they are made out of alum.

A few years ago I got canker sores on my tongue as a result of coming off of high dosage prednisone too quickly. I had just purchased a bottle of seabuckthorn seed oil capsules, so out of curiosity I punctured a capsule and put a few drops on each sore. The next day the sores were gone.

Another possible cause of canker sores comes from food allergy, most often wheat. This is not a gluten problem, it is an inability to properly digest some grains. As I reduced my intake of grains (primarily wheat) in my diet, my canker sores disappeared. I was also once told DGL (licorice extract) relieved it for some people. Different products work for different people because while the outcome (the sore) is a result, the cause can come from a different area of difficulty in the body, for each one. Try them all.

Alum was always THE cure when I was growing up. Not pleasant, but it works!

Sores in the mouth can be so painful and this 'daughter' has certainly endured a lot of chronic pain with it. One thing her dilemma brought to my mind is that those sores may be a sign of some other problem. I have celiac disease and other food allergies and intolerances, and have read and experienced that gluten may cause canker sores in the mouth. Also, when I have even small amounts of milk I get sores in my mouth. She may want to talk to her doctor about getting help in determining if it could be foods that she isn't tolerating in her diet. Celiac disease does not manifest its symptoms in the same way in all people and this could be her body's only symptomatic indication, but it can be screened for with a simple blood test.

Lysine powder, from the health food store or on line, has worked for me for years. I rub the powder directly on the sore a few times a day. Don't swallow more than the amount recommended on the container.

You don't say whether you do with the l-lysine or acicidophilis: apply directly on the sores or swallow it.

Very good info. Please keep up the good work.

Canker sores are one of the lesser known, non gastric, symptoms of celiac disease. This individual might consider asking her doctor for a screening panel, just to check this out.

After suffering many canker sores and cold sores for two to three decades I believe I read that a deficiency of vitamin B 12 could leave one susceptible to canker sores and that a lack of lysine set the stage for cold sores. I have added a B complex supplement to my diet and have not had a canker sore for several decades. The B 12 also helped one of my sons prevent canker sores. I also supplement with l-lysine whenever my immune system feels compromised or I get the first signs of an emerging cold sore and it is usually enough to avert a full blown sore. B-12, as you know, should be taken sub-lingually or, in more immediate need, by doctor's injection.


My wife had canker sores for years. We narrowed it down to digestion. She began taking flax and psyllium husk daily for added fiber to speed digestion and improve regularity. The sores vanished.

What about taking complex vitamin b? It works for me and for my sisters- we take the ones that include inositol and choline- do not know if it is necessary to have those too or not.

ever since I started using toothpaste without sodium laurel sulfate in it, I have had no canker sores!! personally, I use rembrandt for canker sores, but there are others out there. just read ingredients.

I suffered canker sores for years until my pharmacist suggested using L-lysine. When I get the sores, I take 2 pills 3 times a day. Once under control, I take 1 pill a day. I have been doing this for 20 years and it works for me.

I had canker sores for years. I began drinking a table spoon of apple cider vinegar mixed in one cup of water every morning before breakfast longer 10 years ago. Since then, I rarely have had the canker sores And they were mild and did not last long when I had one.

The BEST way to combat canker sores is to take one Vit B Complex as soon as you first feel the canker sore coming on or if you just cut your mouth. If you still feel it the next day, take another one. Do not overdose on Vit B as it is not water solvable (just one a day till gone). This works like a charm for myself and my husband who have struggled with painful canker sores for years until now.

Colgate Orabase with Benzocaine works really well too. Just dab a little on the sore a few times a day. It sort of coats the lesion and resolves in a day or 2. A pharmacist told me about this over the counter remedy and I even leave a tube in my travel kit. I will try the buttermilk method next time.

All items, sauerkraut juice, buttermilk, yogurt, etc. are fermented foods that improve
intestinal health, that should be the biggest clue. At the first sign of a sore I use
Lysine, 500mg 2x/day or more and a homeopathic remedy. Use the dosage for acute cases not chronic, which is every hour 4 tablets under the tongue.

A friend of mine had relief by smearing a baking soda paste on the sores and letting it dry. This we found at the People's Pharmacy site.

Sweets and simple carbs seem to trigger sores and the arginine in nuts (especially
almonds) uses up a lot of lysine which herpes simplex (canker/cold sores usually) needs to heal. I stay clear of nuts at that time and stay away from acid forming foods and peppery spicy foods.

I prick the cold sore if it is on my lips. I then put a drop of tea tree oil on a small band aid and apply that to the cold sore for a half hour twice a day. It clears it right up.

Alum powder is good, too. Sometimes I add it to the band aid with tea tree oil.

One of my daughters had suffered terribly from canker sores until an old deploma school nurse told me to give her yogurt. This was easy for a child to take. She would hold it in her mouth for several minutes before swallowing it. It was amazing how fast they healed up. This has worked every time.

I now give my children yogurt every morning for breakfast and none of them have had a canker sore since. I hope that this info will help someone else.

We use moist tea bags on sore nipples in Labor and Delivery. I tried the same on a serious canker sore gotten from a sulfa drug reaction. The tea bag held on the sore for several minutes in the course of the problem, immediately reduced the pain and the sore was healed in a couple of days.

Since acidophiles, buttermilk and sauerkraut all introduce good bacteria, could canker sores be caused by lack of good bacteria and as a result, overgrowth of bad bacteria?

I have tried L-Lycine in very high doses and at the onset of canker sores. It's been very helpful specially when I have eaten nuts. Nuts have high content of L-Argenine and I've read that canker sores can be caused when the L-Argenine to L-Lycine ratio goes down. Therefore taking high doses of L-Lycine can be helpful.

What about taking Lysine for canker sores? We use it for cold sores. Needs to be taken as soon as you feel the sore coming & usually one or two doses of Lysine & the sores are gone. I've personally used it for canker sores & found it helps me.

I used to be plagued by canker sores and then followed some advice I found in The Peoples Pharmacy several years ago, which was to avoid toothpaste with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), the ingredient that makes toothpaste (and shampoo) foam. The SLS contributes nothing to the cleaning power of the toothpaste and, since I did this, I have had no problem with them.

Buttermilk works! I am 52 years old and have had canker sores all my life. I don't remember not having them. Nothing worked, and the sores plagued me for weeks at a time.

I read in The People's Pharmacy Home Remedies about the "buttermilk swish" (swish a mouthful of buttermilk for a minute) with a great deal of skepticism. But buttermilk is inexpensive and harmless, so it was worth a try. Within a day of swishing buttermilk, the canker sore disappeared.

Now whenever I feel the start of a sore, or if I have accidentally bitten my cheek, I immediately swish a mouthful buttermilk. Problem solved. Even when 3 or 4 sores start simultaneously, swishing buttermilk in the morning and the evening makes them disappear in one day. I can't say enough about this cheap and amazing cure!

About 6 months ago I started getting very bad canker sores. I like cola drinks and I would drink one 12oz amount or more, (or if I eat out maybe 16oz. or maybe less) every day until lately. I started getting canker sores. At first I didn't make the connection. If I didn't drink the pop every day the sores would go away. Now it takes longer for them to go away after I discontinue the pop. I don't know if it's the carbonation or what. I think I'd better try some of the remedies I've seen here.

Sodium laurel sulfate......I AGREE.....switch to toothpaste that doesn't have it and the sores will not likely come back. Worked for me....I use sensodyne have to really read the ENTIRE list of ingredients....some sensodyne flavors do have SLS....

I suffered with canker sores for years. When I was at work I chewed sugarless gum all day so I wouldn't have bad breathe. After I quit working (and saw no one most days) I stopped chewing gum and the canker sores never came back!

In my teens, 40 years ago, a woman explained to me that canker sores were a manifestation of an imbalance in the digestive tract. She suggested I bulk up on "good bacteria" for the lower digestive tract, such as buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, etc. She suggested most effectively to try taking above recommended amounts of acidophilus in the tablet form at the first sign of an irritation. I found that these eruptions were closely related to my menses and followed her advice.

I find it curious that food manufacturers are pushing probiotics to aid helpless women with their distress in the lower tract by adding this bacteria to yogurt at an outrageous premium. Although I have never found a study to prove this theory, I know I have helped countless women with painful canker sores by relating this smart woman's advice. Extra acidophilus does health painful canker sores and when your system is so out of whack that you're exhibiting lesions a couple of mouthfuls of yogurt with probiotics are usually not enough.

I've noticed that canker sores appear when I eat certain kinds of prepared foods, including some candy and some kinds of Asian restaurant dishes. Thanks for all the helpful hints for easing the pain!

Many years ago, my 9 year old son woke with a mouth full of canker sores. He could not eat or drink. I took him to the children's clinic in town where an East Indian doctor examined him.

He told me to buy a bottle of Green Label Karo syrup and to have my son swish this around in his mouth for a minute or so, spit it out, then try not to drink anything for 15 minutes. We did as the doctor prescribed and later that afternoon, my son ate three hot dogs and a can of tomato soup.

It is hard finding the green label Karo now. I wonder if a good pancake syrup would do the same thing?

Further to your readers' remedies for canker sores, I'd like to offer what helped me. As soon as I notice the beginnings of a canker sore(s), I take one or two lactaid tablets and let them melt in my mouth. Bingo, the sores disappear. Lactaid tablets are OTC and are used for lactose intolerance. Very inexpensive, easy to carry in your purse and very effective.

Years ago, my dentist suggested an unusual treatment for canker sores or cheek bites: denture powder! Just dab a little on the sore (and then do your best to not suck it off). Applied at bedtime, I found most sores gone (or nearly so) by morning! It's VERY effective.

I am 58 and suffered from canker sores in my mouth all my life (but I have NEVER had a cold sore on my lips, interestingly enough). I rarely remember a time in my life, even from my childhood, when I didn't have one so I feel I am an expert. LOL. I have tried all of the remedies listed here at one time or another. L-Lysine does not do anything for me. Acidolpolis is my miracle drug (Acidolpholus does nothing for my daughter but L-Lysine works for her. IT DEPENDS ON THE INDIVIDUAL so I encourage readers to experiment until you find an answer).

I used to buy the live Acidolpholus in the refrigerated portion of the health food store but later learned that the dollar store version works just as well. I buy the capsules and swallow several at night before bed. Additionally, right before bed I brush my teeth and open some of the capsules and pour the powder onto the sores (obviously you need to buy the capsules and not the pill form). Next morning it is typically well. Do this at the first indication before it gets large for best results.

I haven't used Acidolpholus in years now because I don't get them any more. I started eating Activia or Fiber One EVERY morning for other obvious reasons and that is the only changed variable I can think of. I used to eat yogurt or apply to the ulcers AFTER an outbreak but that didn't work. Perhaps a small yogurt every day will work for sufferers (of course stress, excitement, and soft drinks with citric acid exacerbate them and help to bring them on).

Right on the money. I started using Biotene brand toothpaste on the advice of a pharmacist and now I rarely get canker sores. To clear up a bad case, rinse for a day or two with hydrogen peroxide. I will also get ulcers from magnesium deficiency.

Perhaps the buttermilk works for the same reason I have found that kefir milk or yogurt work to clear up my sores. Not all yogurt brands or types seem to be equal in efficacy. Often I find that if I eat yogurt when I first feel the burning associated with the onset the sore never appears. Even some brands of frozen yogurt have been very effective. I believe the results are dependent in the quantities and types of active cultures present.

hi I'm eleven and I need help curing my canker sore. I tried salt not so lucky peroxide kinda lucky I have canker right now help me please and I tried apple cider vinegar all of that today.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: A bit of juice from a can or jar of sauerkraut swished around in the mouth three or four times a day can often be helpful. You may have to go shopping to get the sauerkraut though.

I have had spells of canker sores all my life but the last 6 months I have had a constant mouthful of 5+ large canker sores so bad it was difficult to eat, talk etc. After reading many suggestions here they are finally almost all healed and no new ones. I have been taking l-lysing daily and brushing with Arm and Hammer baking soda and peroxide toothpaste 3 times a day. The tooth paste sure seems to make them feel better right away.

I also have been just rinsing with baking soda water in between. I have tried so many other things with no results including silver nitrate sticks from the dentist. Thanks for all the ideas from this board. I did use sauerkraut juice a few times and felt this helped too. Am going to buy more toothpaste today so I have extra tube on hand. Hope it continues to work.

Suffered tot years discovered wheat sensitivity was cause. Zinc supplements relieve and cure sore. Take as soon as you feel coming on and take until gone. I take zinc supplement daily as a preventative. Works!


I have suffered with mouth ulcers (canker sores) as long as I can remember. I'm 79. Many years ago my dentist and his assistant recommended L-Lysine tablets. (The dental assistant had taken smallpox vaccinations over the years to stop chronic mouth ulcers. But could no longer get them.) Anyway, I tried the L-Lysine and it worked. I take one 500 mg tablet each morning and never have ulcers unless I stop. A week without L-Lysine and they're back. Australian Tea Tree Oil applied directly to the sore provides excellent temporary relief and aids healing.

I suffered from multiple canker sores for years and have tried virtually all of the above suggestions with limited results. Acidophilus, l-lyssine, yogurt, tea tree, expensive mouth washes. Sme gave limited relief but no major results.

Chocolate is another culprit for me :(. One Christmas we received a large container of homemade fudge and my sister and I indulged in one square a day for about a week until it was gone. I had about 10 raging sores in my mouth that whole week that did not seem to get better. After researching that this might be an allergic reaction of sorts I took a regular dose of over the counter Benadryl and it was like flipping a switch and they all cleared up.

Like one other commenter, when I dropped wheat as part of a paleo diet, the canker sores disappeared. If I cheat a little, bang! they come back. This weekend I had one sub roll and one frozen waffle and now have 4 canker sores. I took an OTC allergy tablet last night and they are healing this morning.

So...Benadryl or the generic equivalent of diphenhydramine antihistamine is worth a try! Let me know if this works for any of you.

I am going to try Benadryl tonight. I have one on my lip and it's terrible. I've always gotten canker sores but can prevent them 100% by not drinking too much pop, OJ, eating too many M&M's etc. Overdo it like I did last week, and whamo. I've found that almond milk soothes the sore and makes the pain go away for a little bit. Not long term, but if you're in pain, swish some. Works.

As a lifelong canker sore sufferer I was amazed to see my sores disappear completely when I dropped wheat from my diet completely. No bread, pasta or cereal for me! If I cheat for a day or two they come back with a vengeance!

I get canker sores when drinking too much coffee, any amount of orange juice, eating tomato-y dishes, mouth trauma (usually biting my cheek or lip), and this latest time, my period.

Fastest way to get rid of them is:
1. Get that white gunk out! Brush it out with your toothbrush or q-tip or scrub it out with some salt (ouch!)
2. Swish with mouthwash daily and keep your teeth clean- especially the teeth touching it.
3. Take an Acidophilus every day. (this is the most important step)

To maintain, I eat yogurt (with active cultures) several times a week, which allows me to drink coffee without too many occurrences. Best of luck!

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