10 canker sore home remedies

By Richard S, Willa Cohen Article Sources

Canker sores are extremely unpleasant. They look bad, they hurt, and severe ones can make people feel sick all over.[[1]] Finding effective home remedies for canker sores is good news for people who frequently deal with these uncomfortable lesions. The pain caused by canker sores may also be accompanied by fever and swollen lymph nodes.[[1]] Anything that can be done to end it is welcome. Unfortunately, over-the-counter medication can be expensive and have limited effect. These canker sore home remedies may work for some people without the cost and bother of treatment with drugs.

Salt Water Rinse

Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water is possibly the oldest of the home remedies for canker sores.[[2]] Just 1 teaspoon of natural salt dissolved in half a cup of water is enough. Most versions of this remedy call for rinsing the mouth for 30 seconds. It’s helpful to rinse every surface, but it’s important to focus on the site of the inflammation. Rinse the mouth with cool fresh water afterward to get out the salty taste.

glass of water on the edge of a table


Baking Soda Dissolved in Water

Baking soda is a viable alternative to a salt water rinse. In many ways, it might be better. Baking soda is fairly alkaline, which tends to kill microorganisms.[[3]] A warm mouth rinse with the powder can also be soothing and bring relief from pain. Start this treatment with 1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in about half a cup of warm (not hot) water. Let it swirl around the mouth and rest on the sore for around 30 seconds. Finish with fresh water to rinse.

baking soda in a bowl


Fresh Basil Leaves

Fresh basil is delicious, hence its inclusion in so many sauces. It’s also one of the more pleasant canker sores home remedies out there. One way to use basil is to just chew the leaves. People can also soak the leaves in water and rinse with it. Basil’s antimicrobial properties[[4]] can possibly reduce outbreaks and limit the severity of canker sores, the way other antimicrobials do.[[5]]

basil leaves


Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a good source of acetic acid, which may impede harmful microorganisms while leaving healthy mouth flora in place.[[6]] Vinegar generally has low pH, which makes the mouth more acidic and may produce positive results for fighting infection of the site.[[7]] Popular ways to include apple cider vinegar in a canker sore home remedy include mixing it with salad dressing and garnishing bread with a dish of it. If it’s used as a mouthwash, it should be heavily diluted in water.

bottle of apple cider vinegar in a basket with apples


Probiotic Yogurt

Probiotic yogurt has helpful bacteria cultured into it, which may help restore the mouth’s natural balance.[[8]] Probiotics can also promote a more rapid recovery from some inflammatory conditions.[[9]] Yogurt from the fridge also has the advantage of being cool and soothing when it contacts red, inflamed tissue around a canker sore. Eating moderate amounts of cultured yogurt may temporarily reduce pain at the site of the sore.

bowl of yogurt


Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is a pleasant bedtime treat, but it may also help fight canker sores as well. This tea is made from small plants that are similar to daisies,[[10]] and some of its compounds are known to have antiseptic properties.[[11]] Many people report that chamomile tea is soothing for canker sores. It may also help to speed up healing times if it is used before bed or swished onto the canker sore directly.

teacup filled with chamomile tea


Zinc Supplements

Canker sores can be more common in people with zinc deficiency.[[12]] Taking a zinc supplement can help with this, and they may reduce the occurrence of canker sores by a significant percentage. Most people can safely take a zinc lozenge twice a day for a direct supplement.[[13]] It’s always a good idea to discuss new canker sores home remedies with a doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.

bottle of zinc supplements



Sage is a common herb used in cooking, and it has found its way into soups, sauces, and many gravy recipes. Sage is related to mint, and like mint, it has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.[[14]] Sage as a canker sore home remedy can be diluted in water. Mix 2 teaspoons of dried sage, or a pinch of fresh herbs, into a cup of water and rinse the mouth with it.

sage leaves on a white surface


Clove Oil

Clove oil contains a special compound called eugenol, which is a known painkiller.[[15]] Clove oil is a common analgesic dentists use to reduce painful sores in patients’ mouths.[[16]] It’s a good idea to cut clove oil by diluting in in olive oil first. Adding a few drops of clove oil to a cotton ball soaked with olive oil can help alter the texture somewhat.

pile of dried clove


Cayenne Pepper

Adding a dash of spice to food is probably the last thing on the mind of a person suffering with a canker sore. Cayenne pepper, a fairly versatile food seasoning, might help though. Like all peppers, cayenne has hefty amounts of capsaicin, the oily chemical that makes the pepper taste spicy. Capsaicin inhibits substance P[[17]], a factor in the body’s inflammation response. It may also help slow down or kill off bacteria, which helps prevent secondary infections at the site.[[18]]

spoon of cayenne pepper


The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a qualified healthcare provider before starting any program. Reliance on any information is solely at your own risk. In case of a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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