Natural Support for Canker Sore Relief

Canker sores are small white, painful ulcers that can appear on the tongue, lips, gums, and inside of the cheeks. About 20% of Americans experience recurrent canker sores. While canker sores may look like or feel like cold sores, they are not related. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus and are highly contagious whereas canker sores are not believed to be viral in origin nor contagious.

There are several factors believed to contribute to canker sore ulceration:

  • Oral trauma (from orthodontic braces or retainers)
  • Food sensitivities (especially gluten and dairy)
  • Food preservatives
  • Environmental allergens
  • Stress
  • Nutrient deficiencies (mainly B vitamins)

Herbs that can help soothe and heal sores include chewable DGL licorice (by Enzymatic Therapy), slippery elm lozenges (by Thayers), as well as an on oral rinse of aloe vera, echinacea, goldenseal, propolis, and sage. I particularly like the herbal product called Mouth Tonic by Herbs Etc. and have gotten great feedback from people saying that it works very well to speed healing. Nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, quercetin, probiotics, and B complex vitamins can also promote tissue healing and enhance immune activity. Many of these nutrients can be found in a high quality multivitamin. In addition, a small amount of manuka honey can also be applied directly to the sore several times a day to aid in the healing process. And, two homeopathic remedies to consider for canker sores include Borax and Natrum muriaticum.

In terms of dietary support, testing for food sensitivities and/or doing an elimination diet is highly recommended in order to uncover possible food triggers. While experiencing canker sores, it is also best to avoid irritating foods such as acidic foods, sugar, citrus fruits and juices, and chocolate.

Article written by Margo Gladding, MS, CNS, LDN for Ellicott City Pharmacy.

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