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Cure Canker Sores with Inexpensive Home Remedies

Last Modified on Aug 19, 2015

Successful home remedies for canker sores include alum, aloe and baking soda. Alternative medicine offers effective natural treatments for these painful and annoying shallow lesions that develop in the soft tissues of the mouth. Even if it’s only the size of a pencil eraser, a canker sore can be hard to handle and treat. Thankfully, though, there are a number of natural home remedies you can use to achieve relief and eradicate this painful condition. A few of our favorite home remedies are apple cider vinegar, alum, and baking soda.

What’s the Difference Between a Canker Sore and a Cold Sore?

To be able to treat a canker sore, you need to know how to determine whether it is a canker sore or a cold sore. A cold sore typically begins as several smaller blisters that grow into one large sore while a canker sore forms individually. Also, a canker sore is typically yellow or white-gray in the center with a red border.

Should I Use Antibiotics?

Many doctors prescribe antibiotics for canker sores, but the problem is that they only offer temporary relief. Additionally, antibiotics can initiate a treatment cycle that makes the sore a recurrent issue. Also, you could become resistant to that antibiotic with repeated use, making it a poor choice to use for a more serious ailment in the future.

How Can I Treat a Canker Sore Naturally?

Natural treatments, on the other hand, actually heal the sore and prevent reoccurrence. Three of the best natural home remedies are apple cider vinegar, alum, and baking soda. These treatments eliminate the cause of the condition and prevent it from returning.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV restores the normal pH in the body, which is one contributing factor to canker sores. Also, ACV carries a number of nutrients that restore health as well. Organic, raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar is recommended.

2. Alum

A bitter compound typically found in the spice section, alum helps soothe a canker sore quickly. While you’ll want to rinse the taste out of your mouth, be sure to keep the alum on the sore for at least 2-3 minutes for best results.

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda (called sodium bicarbonate outside the USA) offers the same effect as alum. It naturally cleanses the sore and relieves pain. Create a paste using baking soda and water and apply it directly to the sore, leaving it on for 2-3 minutes and then rinsing.

Whether you frequently get canker sores or this is your first experience, try one of these natural treatment options and let us know how it works for you.  Continue reading below for many additional canker sore cures reported by our readers!

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Apple Cider Vinegar41
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Oral Care5
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Unlit Match3
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Canker Sores
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Acidic Foods = Avoid   1  0   

Posted by Joe (Ft Lauderdale, Florida) on 01/04/2008

[YEA]  Burning tounge-Mouth issues: When you have burning tongue or canker sores on tongue or in mouth. Do not drink any orange juice, ketchup, sauce etc. The best cure I have found is to rinse your mouth will Karo syrup. It seems to neutralize the acid. Also 2% hydrogen peroxide.

Activated Charcoal   1  0   

Posted by Mama To Many Donate
(Tennessee, Usa) on 11/12/2013

[YEA]  A few weeks ago my daugther bit her cheek when chewing. You know how that end up biting the same spot over and over and it is uncomfortable. I know when that used to happen to me, I always ended up with a canker sore. I realized the reason it kept happening is because the mild trauma of having been bitten causes some swelling, so it is easy to keep on biting the same spot. I had my daugther place a charcoal tablet against the spot until the charcoal dissolved. (This actually can take 10 minutes or so.) By the time the charcoal had dissolved, her problem had resolved.

Yesterday, I did the same thing! I bit my cheek and it was irritated. I could feel a little bubble. I put a charcoal tablet on it and let it dissolve. By the time it dissolved, I no longer felt irritation and the bubble was smaller. Within an hour or two, I realized the little bubble was completely gone.

Charcoal is anti-inflammatory, so I think that is why this worked. Charcoal tablets are also good for canker sores, the earlier caught, the better. I suspect this treatment would keep a canker sore from forming where the mouth has had trauma. Too bad I didn't know this long ago, but better late than never!

Have a great day!

~Mama to Many~

Aloe Vera   3  0   

Posted by Jordan (Binghamton) on 08/19/2005

[YEA]  Aloe Vera is very helpful in the healing process, as is sodium lauryl sulfate elimination.

Replied by jen
corning, NY and Italy

[YEA]   aloe is what did it for me. i have some ingestible pure aloe gel, and put it on there probably 10 times yesterday when I had a nasty canker sore on the underside of my tongue that had been developing already for a few days. I was desperate cuz it was SO painful I could hardly talk. maybe Im a wimp. Anyway, that's all I did and had a good night sleep. Today I hardly feel it at all.
Replied by Jessica
Monroe, Wa

I tried everything on this website, and another 10 from other sites. Everything from watching my diet and eating healthier, to relaxation methods, switching toothpastes, different rinses, creams, even tried one reccomendation to apply earwax to the lil buggers, I was DESPERATE!!! I continued to get up to 20 canker sores at a time, and as soon as they began to fade, more would appear. I had always gotten canker sores my whole life, but never like this. In one month I lost almost 20 lbs from not being able to eat. MY DOCTOR PRESCRIBED DENTAL PASTE(TRIAMCINOLONE 0.1%) tHEY WERE GONE IN 24 HOURS, I was able to eat hours after applying it. They stop new ones from starting if I apply it when I feel them coming on. If you are miserable with these nasty buggers as I was.... Please go to your doctor and get this cream. Which should be made available over the counter as a canker sore treatment, it is truly amazing.
Replied by Mymouthhurts
Edmonds, Wa, Usa

[YEA]   Triamcinolone works for our family. It works in one night, sometimes two. It's a steroidal cream that I have been using for 30 years. My dentist orders the prescription for me. I had to tell him about it though. He hadn't heard of a cure for canker sores. (And he's a professor of dentistry. )
Replied by Holly
Chicago, Il

Bit the inside of my cheek last week and it got so bad I thought I was going to have to see the doctor. I happened to have some of the TRIAMCINOLONE at home and tried it. It worked IMMEDIATELY. Thanks SO MUCH for the suggestion.

Alum   30  1   

Posted by Josh (Weatherford) on 07/05/2015

[BETTER BUT WITH SIDE EFFECTS]  I literally made an account just so I could share my experience with Alum powder. From what everyone else has been saying, they were on the verge of tears when using it. It is not that bad. I have a cluster of 8 canker sores, and I have NEVER had more than one at the same time. So this was a very odd experience for me to get EIGHT AT FREAKING ONCE. LITERALLY WOKE UP ONE MORNING AND THEY WERE ALL THERE. And yes, I chew at the inside of my lip whenever I'm nervous, anxious, etc. But I never learn. Anyways, I have 4 big ones, surrounded by 4 smaller ones. I used this alum powder on one of the littler ones, just to anticipate the pain so I wouldn't dive right into killing myself over a big one. I got a little bit of water on my fingertip, and then dipped it into the powder, got a fair amount, and then put it right on top of the sore. Yeah, it stung, pretty bad. But I use oral gel soft brush sticks to numb it, and it only hurt just a little bit more than that.

I set a timer on my phone for 2 minutes at first (I did this process twice for each sore), I never got to the point where I was on the verge of tears. My face got a little tingly, that was really it. But it's 10 minutes that I'm typing this after I went through this, and it still quite burns. But I'm only assuming that will go away within the next half hour(or maybe I missed a little tiny sore). After the first sore was taken care of, I got a large glob of it, and stuck it right in the center of alllllll of the sores. Yup. It hurt. But remember this when I say, you will never be able to get rid of a canker sore without pain, unless anesthesia is involved. I then set a timer for 2 and a half minutes, and waited it out. The sores definitely feel a little bit different when I touch around them with my tongue. They didn't burn AT ALL right when I rinsed with water, but only started burning again about a minute after. So that must be the side effects of the powder settling in deep in the sore. Which I also assume is a good thing? Kill that sore, alum. Kill it.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask away. I plan on doing this again tomorrow morning if the pain is still there (which I assume it will be, knowing my luck). So far, alum works!

Posted by Joecool025 (Sacramento, California) on 03/24/2015

[YEA]  Alum worked very well for me for canker sores. Here's what I did:

Bought a 2 ounce jar from the local grocer for about $5, which is more than enough. I bet 1/4 ounce would be plenty.

Over the bathroom sink, wet a q-tip, and dip it in the alum powder, roll it around to get a good amount on it. Then locate your canker sore and press and hold it on there real well. Time out 2 1/2 minutes on your watch or phone, then wet the other side of the q-tip, reapply, and repeat for another 2 1/2 minutes. Afterwards, rinse out that side of the mouth really well.

This stuff stings, and tastes bad. Try not to taste it with your tongue, and try not to swallow, just let the drool come out of your mouth down into the sink. It's not the most pleasant 5 minutes I've ever spent, but it really helped attack the sore, and minimized it, and dropped the pain down to about a 1 or 0 in 2 days.

I did this process twice a day for 2 days, and I am canker sore free!

Posted by Katherine (Calgary, Alberta) on 06/24/2012

[YEA]  Alum works wonders! I bit my lip a couple days ago and usually the canker sores don't hurt all that much as I get them a lot. This time however it got so big so fast I couldn't eat or talk. I looked at this site and went over to the grocery store and bought some alum. I held it on the canker sore for 5 minutes and it hurt A LOT. However in a couple of hours it looked like half of it was gone. I put some on before bed and the next morning all the swelling is gone, and I can't even feel that it's there. I recommend this for everyone!

Replied by Eastcoast

What about alum's connection to Alzheimer's Disease? I would think it especially harmful putting it in the absorbable membranes in the mouth.
Replied by Google-is-your-friend
Los Angeles, Ca

"What about alum's connection to Alzheimer's Disease?" Please do research before possibly scaring some readers. You're thinking of aluminum, the metal (which is also a myth, btw. See below link). Alum is a mineral that has been used for centuries = SAFE!
Replied by Andrea
Des Moines, Ia

Hey I just started using Alum tonight, and it hurt really bad, I mean horribly. And it's still burning. Will it be better in the morning? Cause I'm freaking out cause my canker sores hurt so much worse when I put the alum on it.

Posted by Kb (Monterey, Ca) on 05/01/2012

[YEA]  Thanks you guys! Alum worked great for me. One night pain was worth it. I feel great. Now I know what to do when I get canker.

Replied by Cb
San Diego, CA

[YEA]   I have been suffering from canker sores for 15 years of my life. After biting my tongue in the same place twice for the thousandth time, I decided that was the last straw. I went online and found and tried the Alum solution. It's only been a couple of days but I have already started to see positive results. My sore got bigger and deeper but not as painful. Now it's almost completely gone. It definately helped to numb the pain especially when I dissolved the Tylenol right after. I would recommend this treatment.

Posted by Mariana (Roseville, Minnesota) on 12/22/2011

[YEA]  I was surprised to find alum missing from your list of remedies. It would be interesting to see what other folks use this for. It's great for treating canker sores. They go away almost instantly. My mother used this for us when we were kids, and her mother used it too. I think it's a pretty ancient substance that was used widely in the Middle East and Africa. We use the powdered kind that is sold in grocery stores. (It's used in pickling, for crispness. )

Anyhow, what we do to treat a cankersore is merely moisten a Q-tip, and dip it in a very small amount of alum mixed with a teaspoon of warm water. After the alum is on for a few minutes, just rinse your mouth because the alum is very bitter. People also use alum as a mouthwash and to treat gum disease or aching teeth. It's used to treat eczema itching, and styes as well. I'm sure the solution would need to be much milder for use on the eyes, or as a mouthwash, or in treating eczema. Anyway, I hope others might want to mention their experiences with using this common household ingredient. Mariana

Replied by Robert Henry
Ten Mile, Tn Usa

ALUM us Aluminum Sulfate, ole folks like me made the mistake of using it to make pickles and other canned goods, crisp. All we did is put Aluminum in our brains, which brings on dememtia. I don't have a clue about the use of alum on your skin. Do not use Alum for internal consumption. We all are savvy about transdermal therapy. What you put on your skin goes into your body. Why do you think the chelation clinics are full of auto mechanics who washed parts in leaded gasoline. Now they are trying to get the lead our of their body.

Good people there are lots of good intentioned folks posting on this site. Some just don't have a clue. Pay attention.

========ROBERT HENRY=============

Replied by John
Lake Oswego, Oregon

[YEA]   I've been using alum on canker sores as a cure for 30 years and wouldn't use anything else. My whole family uses it.
Replied by Susan
San Francisco, Ca

My grandmother taught me this when I was a kid (I'm 57). I've tried other remedies and the Alum has always been the cure that worked fastest for me.
Replied by Dreamer
Salinas, Ca

[YEA]   I have been using Alum for canker sores for years! I am 31 and started getting canker sores when I was around 7 or 8. My Dad taught me to use alum on them back then (he was a medic in the army & national guard) and I would never use anything else! It hurts to put on but it is so worth it! It numbs the pain for a small amount of time and it heals them super fast! A++
Replied by Jessica
Waconia, Minnesota

[YEA]   I use Alum for cold sores and canker sores too! It is utterly amazing how fast they disappear with just a couple applications. I refuse to spend money on anything else. Cheapest most effective treatment out there! I tell everyone about it when I can!
Replied by Maria
Gippsland, Australia

Could someone please tell me what is the Alum that is often refered to here? I have done a search and found that it can be either potassium alum, soda alum (used in baking powder), ferric alum or ammonium alum. Thanks.
Replied by Didi
Dover, Usa

Alum is a salty substance used in Pickeling or a brine. You can get it in the spice section of the grocery store.
Replied by Maria
Gippsland, Australia

Thanks Didi for that. I have never seen it here (Australia) but maybe it is sold under another name and not the name Alum.
Replied by Derek
Austin, Mn

The Alum referred to here is Ammonium-type Alum. I've got an ancient container of Schilling Alum. On the container it reads, "Powdered Alum (Ammonium)".
Replied by Selia
Ocala, Fl

[YEA]   I've used alum for decades to treat canker sores which I get chronically. To the person who claims we'll get dementia from using it, not true; my mother used it, she lived to 87, not a scintilla of dementia; I'm fine, sharp as a tack at 70. So USE it. Don't be scared off.

Posted by Mikayla (Toronto, On, Canada) on 08/26/2011

[YEA]  Wow, alum works!

I never get canker sores, but a few days ago, I got itchy red hives on my torso as well as 6 canker sores under my tongue and my cheeks. I've had several surgeries but have never been in such pain in my life! So bizarre that such a little thing can cause so much discomfort.

Anyway, after reading the comments, I tried Alum and so far it's amazing. It has really numbed the canker sores. I can eat!!

My only caution is because it does numb so well, be aware not to bite your cheek accidently. I did that and another canker sore developed; but the overall relief is so worth it.

Replied by Raechel
Mexico, New York

You said you had several sores at once. Now when you applied alum did you do it one by one or applied to all sores at once ??

Posted by Kimkat (Hingham, Ma) on 04/27/2011

[BETTER BUT WITH SIDE EFFECTS]  omg alum - I just applied to 4 cankers in my mouth and the smaller cankers on inside of lips felt a sting and then a little better instantly, achy but a little better---- BUT the almost centimeter size one on tongue- GOD HELP ME THE PAIN IS INTENSE. I couldn't keep the alum on for long for that one, 30 seconds and almost passed out. BUT I will try again~ I drooled like a fool but been doing that all day. I have eaten NOTHING today the pain got so bad and that is with double dose ibuprofen on board for 3 days. Anyone had luck with this stuff and large cankers of the tongue??

I might have to call my doctor for painkillers - this is almost unbearable (yes I have a low threshhold for pain)

Replied by Daisy
San Francisco, Ca

[YEA]   I've suffered from canker sores since I was six years old and have literally tried EVERYTHING... Over-the-counter, prescriptions. I've even dipped a Q-tip in fingernail polish remover and applied that directly to the sore. (Probably hazardous, I know, but after the insane stinging went away, it actually numbed the sore for quite a while.)

I had a canker sore on my tongue for three days that was hurting so much, I couldn't eat or talk. I stumbled upon this thread in my google search for remedies and this was the first time I'd ever heard of alum.

I went to the grocery store, picked some up (in the spice aisle) and went straight home. I dipped a wet Q-tip in the alum and applied it directly to the sore on my tongue. Yes, it stung, but not horrendously (and certainly not as bad as fingernail polish remover --- cannot believe I admitted I did that). There was some drool and whatnot, and fifteen minute later my tongue was throbbing.

I dissolved an asprin directly onto my tongue and SERIOUSLY? THE PAIN ALMOST COMPLETELY WENT AWAY.

I woke up this morning and while the sore is still there, and even bigger, IT DOESN'T HURT.

After dealing with intensely painful canker sores for almost 30 years, I cannot even begin to tell you how happy this makes me. I feel like alum is going to change my life for the better. I know this sounds ridiculous, but one bad canker sore can seriously ruin your week.


Replied by Jennifer
Midland, Michigan

[YEA]   Alum DOES work! My mother has an old jar of crystallized Alum that she has used on all our canker sores forever. I take a piece and set it on the canker sore for several minutes. It not only relieves the pain, but shrinks it and makes it disappear within a day or two. I still use it and use it on my kids now. It does not taste great, but it is worth the results it gives you. Hip, Hip Horray for Alum!!
Replied by Sfcb1
San Francisco, Ca Usa

[NAY]   It may be that I discovered this information too late, but I tried the alum solution repeatedly on my latest canker sore (haven't been able to talk or eat pain-free for 5 days now) and it seemed to make it a little worse. It certainly didn't help, although it wasn't as painful as some of the posts here warned it might be. I would have to vote Nay for this one.
Replied by Gilroy
City, Us

Alum isn't meant to be a pain reliever for canker sores. It is meant as a cautry agent so that they burn up and heal faster. It's not going to make the pain go away.

Posted by Bg (Lakewood, Oh) on 02/19/2011

[YEA]  I'm really prone to canker sores if I bite the inside of my lip, or if my diet becomes too acidic (too much coffee, caffeine, beer, fruits, chocolate, sweets, etc. )

I used to use a prescription paste which I haven't been able to get out here (Kenalog in Orabase? I think) which worked wonders and would quite literally get rid of my sores overnight. Since I've been unable to get that prescription filled, I needed a different remedy, so I went with alum. My only quip with alum is that it tastes NAAAAASTY. Seriously, if you swallow it, you will probably vomit. Bitter, awful, disgusting taste--BUT it works like a dream on canker sores and dries them out after a few applications. I usually daub a bit on the sore with a wet Q-tip, then let it sit there and dry for about five minutes before rinsing out my mouth and/or brushing my teeth (because the taste just sticks to your tongue). The more stubborn sores still take a few days to go away, but the alum seems to alleviate the pain and bring down the swelling and the size of the sore almost immediately. I highly recommend this remedy -- just remember not to swallow or spit it out before your five minutes are up.

Posted by Pcheeks (Washington, Dc, Usa) on 06/01/2010

[YEA]  I have always had problems with canker sores. I usually just wait it out or apply some numbing gel. This time I got one on my tongue. It was sooo painful and wouldn't go away. I found this website and tried alum. It really really burned the first time I used it. To the point of tears but after 3-4 applications (48 hours) it was gone! I definitely recommend this.

Replied by Lala
Eastern Shore, Va

[YEA]   I used to get canker sores, but then I started taking vitamins, particularly a multi-B, plus C and I've never had them since. My doctor recommended the multi-B, plus C supplement. The B also has a nice side effect of improving my complexion overall. For a quick cure, however, I used to put salt on them - it would burn like heck, but then the sore would go away the next day. I also think a crushed vitamin C tablet would be good.

Posted by Liz (Hudson Valley, New York) on 11/12/2009

[BETTER BUT WITH SIDE EFFECTS]  I had a canker sore that was at the peak of inflammation and pain and I decided to try putting Alum on it last night as recommended here to stop the pain. I bought the crystallized kind from the spice section of the grocery store and licked my finger, dabbed it it the alum and then dabbed it on the sore and let it sit/dry/sink in for 5 minutes.

OH MY GOD - it hurt like nobody's business which I could tolerate, but then for the next hour it made my entire jaw, neck and ear area throb with terrible pain which I could not tolerate. I ended up taking pain relievers and going to bed several hours early just to stop the pain with sleep. I have not been in such agonizing pain for many years. It felt like a migraine and an earache and a toothache all at once.

However, today my canker sore has been very tender but noticeably less painful (i've also been on pain meds all day because I'm a bit scarred by what happened last night). The sore also seems to be healing. I honestly am not sure if I can recommend the alum or not, given the positive effects today and the horrible effects last night.

Replied by Splendor
Chandler, Az

I have the alum on my canker sores now, so we'll see. But last night I placed an asprin pill on each of the 2 cankers that I have in my mouth; seriously just hold it on top of the sore, between your cheek and gum until it just begins to dissolve, then spit it out and rinse. This totally numbs it for like 12 hours, then apply the alum because it barely stings at all. Hope the alum does the trick! :o)

Posted by Kathleen (Newport Beach, Ca) on 10/09/2009

[SIDE EFFECTS]  Ok! When I'm stressed I bite the inside of my mouth. Yuck!! I know! This can lead to the MOTHER of all canker sores. My dear friend just told me to dab alum into the canker sore, hold the affected area out so it can settle into canker sore and not be washed away by saliva. Let me explain. What I have going is a flipping cluster of sores( 12 in total. SERIOUSLY!!) A few are about 1/4 x 3/8. No I'm not joking. So I apply the alum out of desperation. I'm in constant pain, my lips aren't working. Drool is running down my chin(SEXY right?) AND i CAN'T eat. Ok the alum feels like flipping battery ACID. I want to rip half my face off. Who cares that it tastes viley bitter-it REALLY hurts. It does not sting. Serious PAIN. After about 20 minutes half my lower jaw is numb. Thank God!!! It feels a little swollen. I look in the mirror and honest to God it looks like I've just had half of my mouth pumped up with whatever that crap is that make you look like a freak of nature! I live in newport beach-the land of the plastic fantastic. Please tell me that this will subside and I won't look like a middle aged woman having a midlife crisis and a budget to only cover half the job! Frickin' Y-I-K-E-S !!!!!!!!

Replied by Man0fsteel
Redondo Beach, Ca, USA

[SIDE EFFECTS]   Okay, so I get canker sores every so often, esp. when I don't get enough sleep. This particular monster sore on my lower lip started when I severely bit into my lower lip TWICE on the same spot a week ago. No signs of healing. And they usually do after a week. Not this one. So someone suggested Alum. A quick search online brings me here where there is a lot of positive feedback. So I put the Alum on and like the above post, the pain is pretty intense. Tears are leaking involuntarily out of my eyes. 5 minutes go by and I rinse it off. It's now about 30 min after and the sore feels like it's twice the previous size. Totally swollen. And it's throbbing like no tomorrow. If it gets better, I'll be shocked, but I will report if it does in the morning.
Replied by Alice
Shingle Springs, Ca, U.S.A.

Smashing up a lysine (a particular amino acid) tab and making a paste with water and applying it to the sore is reported to relieve it. Totally non-toxic.

Posted by Ben (Rochester, NY) on 01/30/2009

[YEA]  Yes to Using Alum found at the grocery store in the spices section. I read the comments about canker sores on here. Thank God for nice people! Apply it with a wet Q-tip on Sore. It will sting but the after effects are worth it! Thanksabunch

Replied by Sharon
Moose Jaw, SK

alum is also used in playdough

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