Cure Canker Sores with Inexpensive Home Remedies

Last Modified on Sep 23, 2014

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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Most Popular Remedies:

Apple Cider Vinegar41 YEAS
Alum30 YEAS
Aspirin22 YEAS
Baking Soda10 YEAS
L-Lysine9 YEAS
Hydrogen Peroxide8 YEAS
Salt7 YEAS
Toothpaste Without Sls7 YEAS
Yogurt5 YEAS
Oral Care5 YEAS

User Reviews



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 (Tennessee, Usa) on 11/12/2013

[YEA]  A few weeks ago my daugther bit her cheek when chewing. You know how that is...you 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.

Posted by jen
corning, NY and Italy
02/27/2009
[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.
Posted by Jessica
Monroe, Wa
06/05/2011
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.
Posted by Mymouthhurts
Edmonds, Wa, Usa
06/10/2011
[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. )
Posted by Holly
Chicago, Il
10/17/2011
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   29  1   

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!

Posted by Eastcoast
Nyc
07/21/2012
What about alum's connection to Alzheimer's Disease? I would think it especially harmful putting it in the absorbable membranes in the mouth.
Posted by Google-is-your-friend
Los Angeles, Ca
08/16/2012
"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! http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_myths_about_alzheimers.asp

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.

Posted by Cb
San Diego, CA
05/26/2012
[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

Posted by Robert Henry
Ten Mile, Tn Usa
12/23/2011
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=============

Posted by John
Lake Oswego, Oregon
01/19/2012
[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.
Posted by Susan
San Francisco, Ca
01/20/2012
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.
Posted by Dreamer
Salinas, Ca
01/26/2012
[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++
Posted by Jessica
Waconia, Minnesota
01/26/2012
[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!
Posted by Maria
Gippsland, Australia
01/26/2012
159 Posts
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.
Posted by Didi
Dover, Usa
02/12/2012
Alum is a salty substance used in Pickeling or a brine. You can get it in the spice section of the grocery store.
Posted by Maria
Gippsland, Australia
02/13/2012
159 Posts
Thanks Didi for that. I have never seen it here (Australia) but maybe it is sold under another name and not the name Alum.
Posted by Derek
Austin, Mn
04/26/2012
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)".
Posted by Selia
Ocala, Fl
05/21/2012
[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.

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)

Posted by Daisy
San Francisco, Ca
08/05/2011
[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.

THANK YOU EVERYONE!

Posted by Jennifer
Midland, Michigan
09/15/2011
[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!!
Posted by Sfcb1
San Francisco, Ca Usa
12/02/2011
[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.
Posted by Gilroy
City, Us
12/07/2011
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.

Posted by Lala
Eastern Shore, Va
11/18/2010
[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.

Posted by Splendor
Chandler, Az
09/02/2010
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 !!!!!!!!

Posted by Man0fsteel
Redondo Beach, Ca, USA
11/07/2009
[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.
Posted by Alice
Shingle Springs, Ca, U.S.A.
11/07/2009
8 Posts
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

Posted by Sharon
Moose Jaw, SK
07/13/2009
alum is also used in playdough

Posted by Sid (Salmon Arm, BC, Canada) on 01/18/2009

[WARNING!]  Alum is a form of aluminum. Oral injestion of aluminum can cause canker sores. Do you really want to do that? The reason it works may be the same reason that the mercuric ointment my mom used to put on my rashes ( I later found out that I was mercury toxic) got rid of my rash. Apparently, it makes it go deeper into your body, thereby getting rid of the eruption on the surface.

EC: More about this here: http://www.ochef.com/1080.htm

Posted by Chris
St louis, MO
02/14/2009
Alum has nothing to do with alumnium; how on earth do you labor under that delusion?

EC: Best answer we could find on the alum used in cooking:

http://www.ochef.com/1080.htm

"Alum is a salt that in chemistry is a combination of an alkali metal, such as sodium, potassium, or ammonium and a trivalent metal, such as aluminum, iron, or chromium. The most common form, potassium aluminum sulfate, or potash alum, is one form that has been used in food processing. Another, sodium aluminum sulfate, is an ingredient in commercially produced baking powder. (Have you never noticed the faint metallic taste in baking powder? It comes from the alum.)

The potassium-based alum has been used to produce crisp cucumber and watermelon-rind pickles as well as maraschino cherries, where the aluminum ions strengthen the fruits' cell-wall pectins.

Alum is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a food additive, but in large quantities — well, an ounce or more — it is toxic to humans. As a result, efforts have been made and are being made to wean us of our alum dependency. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that if good quality produce and modern canning methods are employed, there is no need to use alum to bolster the crispness of our pickles and cherries. In any event, t"he department says, even if alum is used to soak the pickles, it should not be used in the final pickling liquid.

Posted by Dan
Grand Rapids, MI
06/01/2009
The reason alum works is that it is an astringent, not because it forces anything into your body.

Posted by Saskia (Takoma Park, MD, USA) on 10/06/2008

[YEA]  I had started taking apple cider vinegar twice a day, and after two days noticed the beginning of a canker sore. It didn't hurt yet, so I checked this site, then went out and got some Alum in the grocery store. I did as someone else suggested and wetted my finger, then dipped it into the alum, and then held it on the canker sore for about 5 minutes. Because I caught my canker sore so early, it didn't really sting at all.

I did that twice the first day, and again twice on the second day. It never hurt at all, and it got a little larger at first, but then started receding, and now 4 days later, its basically gone! I'm so happy with the Alum cure! I used to spend a whole week in agony thinking there was no way to help it- I love this website!


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