Making that face because she had canker sores! – Photo Courtesy: Angell Tsang
Aphthous ulcers are better known as canker sores, but those of us that get them and feel their effects wish we didn’t know them at all. They’re painful, they keep us from enjoying our favorite foods, and they always seem to get worse just when you don’t think they could. And worst of all, there doesn’t really seem to be a consensus on how to treat a canker sore anywhere on the web or in our own herbal knowledge.
So here’s a little fact sheet that compiles and explores the herbal treatment options for canker sores. Find the one you like best, and stick with it.
What Causes these Canker Sores?
First, what causes these little monsters? Their exact cause is unknown, but chances are that the person suffering from them probably has a family history of aphthous ulcers. If you have a tendency to get cankers, factors that can exacerbate the condition include stress, illness, and just a minor injury, such as an accidental bite that breaks the skin. Some also say that sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in most toothpaste brands, irritates the mouth in some individuals. Even more reason to change to a natural toothpaste or make your own!
Treating Canker Sores Naturally
Beginning to treat a canker sore seems daunting — the very thought of putting anything on it makes at least me cringe. But these methods can help to restore the pH in your mouth, take away the pain, and speed up the healing time, so they may be worth a try.
The good cultures in acidophilus can help to get rid of cankers quickly – combine acidophilus pills with another pain-relief treatment, and you should have success in 2-3 days.
This wonderful cactus juice soothes the sore, so you can use it as a mouth rinse several times a day.
3. Baking soda
This is the classic, and usually the one I first turn to. If I have a cut or a scrape in my mouth, I find that 90% of the time I can prevent it from becoming a canker sore by rinsing with a baking soda solution. If you already have a sore, make a paste with the baking soda, dab it on, and leave for 30 seconds, and then rinse. It burns a little bit, but the result is a pain-free mouth until you next eat something. Using a baking soda-based toothpaste is also a good preventative measure.
Health food stores readily have goldenseal available, and research has shown the herb’s effectiveness in preventing oral ulcers. It can also help treat cankers when used as a mouth rinse. For tea, put the powdered root in double cheesecloth (or chop up fresh goldenseal if you’re lucky enough to have it), and brew in hot water for five minutes. For more on goldenseal tea, go here.
5. Grapefruit seed extract (GSE)
It’s a powerful antibacterial, so you need to be careful with it – use only a couple of drops and make a mouthwash. You can use it several times a day.
6. Tea bags
A wet tea bag (black tea only) applied directly to the sore will relieve the pain. It probably won’t help with the healing time, but it’s a good and inexpensive way to deal with the irritating pain.
These remedies are good for your average canker sore. If you’re having recurrent, large cankers that take a long time to heal, consult your doctor because it may be a sign of another problem. But if you’re an occasional sufferer, I hope you find these tips helpful!
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.