Home remedy cures for canker sores.

Canker sore

Link to aphthous ulcer diagram.

There's no shortage of home remedies for canker sores (aphthous ulcers). We've picked out a few of the better-known ones explain how they're used. They include:

Milk of magnesia and Benadryl®      Tannin (tea bags)      Alum (styptic pencils)      Silver nitrate      Peroxide rinses      Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures (yogurt)      Herbal remedies

This page also discusses the everyday, common-sense things you should be doing (if you're not already) that can help to control the frequency of your outbreaks.

[If you don't find these home cures especially effective, don't overlook the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications.]

Home remedies for canker sores (aphthous ulcers).

A) Swish Milk of Magnesia. (Option - With combined Benadryl®.)

A remedy involving milk of magnesia can take two forms.

Method 1.

As a first step, just try swishing plain "milk of magnesia" (Kaopectate®, Maalox® or a generic equivalent) over your sore(s).

The idea is that it creates a coating over the lesion's ulcerated surface that can help to protect it from irritation, like that caused by hot, cold or spicy foods and beverages.

Method 2.

If you need more relief than the first step offers, try mixing it with an equal amount of Benadryl® Allergy liquid (diphenhydramine 12.5mg/5ml) (one teaspoonful or so of each).

Swish with this mixture (and then spit it out) as often as four to six times a day. (After meals and before bed makes a good routine.) Avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after spitting out.

The benefit of this version of the remedy is two-fold: 1) It helps to protect your ulcers from irritation (the milk of magnesia does this). 2) The Benadryl portion of the mixture acts as a numbing agent that helps to reduce the amount of pain the sore registers when irritated.

If either version of this remedy works for you but not quite as well as you'd like, investigate using an OTC barrier-film product.

Section references - McBride

B) Black tea.

Treating a canker sore with a tea bag can help to reduce the amount of pain it causes.

With this method, you place a moist-to-wet tea bag over your sore for several minutes. You can use the same bag over again for several applications.


Just use a plain, regular "black" tea bag (the kind usually used to make iced tea). The effective agent it contains is tannin (an astringent).

C) Styptic pencils.

Dabbing a styptic pencil on the area where you first feel a canker sore forming can help to inhibit its development.

Styptic pencils contain the astringent alum (anhydrous aluminum sulfate). Application of the pencil typically stings somewhat.


The earlier you begin treatment the better.

Diagram of canker sore lesion.

Diagram showing the appearance characteristics of an aphthous ulcer.

The silver nitrate is applied directly to the sore.

D) Silver nitrate.

Silver nitrate can be used to help to deaden the pain from ulcers. It's applied via the use of a silver nitrate "stick" (available in pharmacies). (McBride)
The application process itself stings. The idea is that this treatment transforms the canker sore into a different, less painful, type of wound that then ultimately heals (chemical cauterization).
In some cases, this approach may create a wound that takes longer to heal than the original sore itself.

Section references - Altenburg, McBride

E) Hydrogen peroxide.

Mix one tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide in a glass of water and then gently swish it over your sores and throughout the rest of your mouth. Do this 2 or 3 times a day. (O'Neill)

It will help to cleanse and disinfect your sores, mouth and, in general, create a more positive environment for both healing and the prevention of secondary infection.

Altenburg states that a 0.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide (a one to five dilution of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution) applied to sores (cotton swab) has the effect of chemically cauterizing them, similar in nature to the silver nitrate application discussed above.

You'll find 3% hydrogen peroxide on the shelves of the medical/dental section of your local store. It usually comes in brown plastic bottles.

Section references - Altenburg, O'Neill

F) Herbal remedies.

Herbal teas / rinses.

Tea made from goldenseal root has also been suggested as a remedy. Swish-and-spit the tea or else dampen a small swatch of cloth with it and then place the cloth over your canker sore. Goldenseal is both an astringent and antiseptic.

In a similar fashion, the herb sage can be used to create a tea, or mix tea tree oil and water (1 to 10 ratios) and rinse once or twice a day with it.

Herbal sedatives.

The use of herbal sedatives (chickweed and violet) or anti-anxiety agents (rockrose) have been suggested as treatments, by way of helping the sufferer to minimize their levels of stress.


Herbal remedies can have unexpected effects and interfere with some medications. You should consult with your health care provider before initiating treatment on your own.

G) Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures.


Regular consumption of the bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus is thought to be beneficial in helping to prevent canker sore outbreaks (frequency and number of sores).

A good source is the food yogurt. You must, however, make sure that the brand you choose specifically states that it contains an active culture. Not all do.

Coconut oil.

Hegde reports that coconut oil provides a soothing and protective effect for canker sores. The oil is a source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which stimulate the growth of Lactobacilli.

Methods include applying coconut oil directly to sores, chewing raw coconut, or rinsing with coconut milk.

Another option is the use of Lactobacillus lozenges or tablets. (Held in the mouth until dissolved.)

Section references - Hegde

Other simple cures -

If you only experience canker sores a few times a year, with each episode lasting just a few days and causing only minimal pain, the tips and pointers outlined below may be all the more remedy you need in dealing with or preventing your lesions.

A) Minimize your potential for oral trauma.

Since soft tissue trauma often triggers canker sore formation, you should try to minimize your mouth's potential for injury.


People with broken teeth, rough or broken fillings, or teeth with excessively sharp edges should be treated by your dentist.

Dentures that have sharp or rough borders should be smoothed or repaired by a dentist.

Orthodontic patients can cover pointed wires and brackets with wax (you can find it at any drugstore).

When you brush your teeth, it's important to be thorough but gentle too. Make sure you're not using a toothbrush that's too harsh. Most dentists recommend using a "soft" one (check the toothbrush's packaging).

B) Monitor the types of foods you eat.

For some people, certain types of foods tend to trigger their outbreaks. If that's true for you, you should keep a diary as a way of monitoring which kinds seem to be at fault.

Once you have a few candidates in mind, try a series of "elimination diets." Each one should specifically omit one or more of the items you most suspect.

C) Keep a healthy diet.

Outbreaks are sometimes triggered by a person's nutritional deficiency. For this reason, taking a multivitamin may help to limit their occurrence. Make sure the one you take contains vitamin B12.

Severe sores can impair a person's ability to eat. During these times, it's important to maintain adequate fluid and nutritional intake. The use of a liquid dietary supplement, such as Ensure or Sustacal, might be indicated.

D) Avoid foods that may cause irritation.

Some types of foods and beverages are likely to irritate your canker sores. For example, hard or crunchy foods, like potato chips, can poke or rub their surface. Spicy or salty foods often trigger a stinging response.

Acidic drinks (like tomato or orange juice) and alcoholic beverages can cause ulcer irritation. If so, try using a straw or just sipping them slowly. Drinking cold, non-acidic beverages can create a soothing effect.

E) Minimize your stress levels.

Stress is clearly a trigger for canker sores. But reducing it is easier said than done, if not impossible.

Even if you can't get rid of it, just keep in mind that when you are stressed is when an outbreak is likely to occur. Knowing that can give you the opportunity to be on the lookout and begin a suitable treatment sooner rather than later.


 Page references sources: 

Altenburg A, et al. Practical aspects of management of recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

Hegde S, et al. Traditional methods used by patients for the management of recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

McBride D. Management of Aphthous Ulcers.

O'Neill H, et al. The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies.

All reference sources for topic Dental Crowns.