Q. My favorite home remedy is sauerkraut for canker sores. If I feel one coming on, I put a wad of chopped sauerkraut on the area, hold it there for a minute, then chew it and swallow. I do this three or four times a day for two to three days.
At least 95 percent of the time, the sore disappears. For me, that is a miracle, since I have been plagued for many years.

A. Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are mysterious. Trauma to the mouth from sharp food can trigger a sore. So can immune suppression (chemotherapy) or a deficiency of folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron.
More than 20 years ago we heard about a canker sore remedy from the 1930s. A dentist recommended swishing sauerkraut juice in the mouth several times a day, swallowing about a tablespoon.
Perhaps the bacteria that ferment cabbage into sauerkraut provide helpful nutrients. One study demonstrated significant improvement in canker sores among people who took 1000 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily (Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan/Feb. 2009). People who don’t like sauerkraut might try vitamin B12 supplementation.

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  1. CS

    No one knows what causes canker sores. The vast majority of people who develop canker sores do not have another problem as the cause. Both hereditary and environmental causes of the disease have been suggested, but the exact cause is not clear.

  2. roelkers

    Canker sore treatments range from oral medications to topical creams or dental pastes. Tetracycline, Viscous Licodaine and Silver Nitrate are some of the chemical preparations prescribed as canker sore remedies. Nutritional supplements like vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc have also been considered effective in speeding up the healing phase.
    Aside from these prescriptions, home remedies are also presented to conventional aphthous ulcer patients. Salt solution as well as the well-known diphenhydramine and Maalox mixture has both showed commendable results in reducing the symptoms of canker sores.
    Naturopathic treatments using herbal concoctions from Rhodiola Rosea or the Spilanthes acmella flower are also prescribed by some providers. However, no intensive medical studies have been done to scrutinize contra indication properties and possible adverse side effects of these natural compounds.

  3. G.H.

    I researched canker sores and found that an ingredient used in most toothpastes thins the skin/membrane/lining of the mouth. The ingredient is ‘sodium laurel sulfate’ (also ‘lauroyl’ and ‘laureth’) and all I did was find a toothpaste that does not have that as an ingredient. I haven’t had a canker sore since.
    Some toothpastes will actually say “SLS Free.” There are quite a few out there, and many different flavor choices. Unfortunately, I also have a problem with mint, so that made finding an acceptable toothpaste even more difficult. I finally ended up with Animal Parade children’s toothpaste.

  4. leann

    I have had many sores in my mouth over the years and tried a lot of things. But for fast relief try a stick of “Clove Gum”, it makes it numb.

  5. FMK

    I cannot seem to find anything that will consistently work for me. I feel like every time I try a remedy, it works once and then won’t work the next time.
    I will try the sauerkraut but the Lysine lessens any cold sore or canker sore but still does not keep them from developing. I have been taking 1000mg/day for a few months now and I take a very good multivitamin. Do I just have to keep trying stuff or does anyone have a better way to figure this out?
    It doesn’t help that I get so frustrated with the pain from them.

  6. wgm

    Amen to the Lysine — have been doing this for 20+ years with great success. As soon as you feel the heat under the skin, start the lysine. I also take an enzyme supplement daily which has lysine in it and seems to be working well as a preventative.

  7. Tami

    I am 38 and I have had canker sores all of my life too. I found that when I eat anything abrasive it gives me a canker sore. Especially cold cereal, crackers and toast. When I stopped eating them they went away. I have read that a gluten sensitivity can cause it too and in the process of quitting the abrasive stuff I quit gluten. The apple cider vinegar probably keeps her sores clean but the acid probably shouldn’t stay on her teeth.

  8. HelenH

    I found by accident that if I feel a slight itching on my lip that if I dab a little alcohol on it at that time it stops the canker sore from developing. I usually got them after I had been overtired the day before. Lately I don’t seem to get them now that I am retired.

  9. reo

    Something my mother and grandmother swore by for canker sores–and it seems to work for me–was to apply table salt in much the same way bonnie b. (above) says her family used baking soda. sauerkraut tends to be very salty–could there be a connection?

  10. ebm

    Foods (nuts) with too much of the aminoacide arginine and lack of water trigger canker
    and cold sores for me and my family. I take 1000mg lysine/day and apply a cream called Labiosan which my sister in Germany gave me. Don’t know if it is avail. in US by prescription maybe, it works immediately.

  11. guil k.

    I have a friend that has suffered from mouth ulcers all her life. She is 70 years old. She has tried every remedy possible including the saurkraut.
    She is in the habit of carrying around with her a large container of water and white apple vinegar that she sips on all day. I can’t help but believe that this may be a partial cause to her problem. If not, I think that the acid could possibly be eroding the enamel of her teeth. I have heard several people who believe that this vinegar, water combination is healthy. I would like your comments.

  12. SDW

    I was always bothered with canker sores and in places where it wouldn’t have been a injury like under my tongue and in my throat. Then I discovered I have an issue with wheat. Once I stopped eating wheat — NO MORE CANKER SORES!

  13. Robert

    The only downside? YOU HAVE TO EAT SAUERKRAUT.

  14. Bonnie B.

    Our family has always had immediate, excellent results for canker sores using common, everyday baking soda. Apply a small amount of baking soda (maybe the size of a fingertip) directly on the canker sore. Try to keep from adding any other liquids for a short time (I never timed it, perhaps a minute).
    No more soreness!

  15. A Knowles

    Thanks for the tip! I have found nothing to date that effectively shortens the length/eliminates the eruptions of canker sores in my 30+ years of suffering with them.

  16. JLS

    No need to eat sauerkraut for canker sores. At the first sign take one capsule L-Lysine, 500 mg, daily for three days. Poof! Gone. Also effective for cold sores and for shingles in larger quantities. This is an amino acid. Check with the web for verification. For the past two years I have been taking a 15 billion capsule probiotic daily which has even eliminated the need for Lysine for canker sores along with imparting other benefits.

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