In the middle of a mind-blowing meal, overzealous chewing can suddenly ruin everything. Ever bitten your lip or tongue in the middle of this type of feeding frenzy? It hurts like a [insert expletive here]!
And once it happens, the area swells up, making it much more likely you'll bite the same spot at least once or twice more before you even leave table. The excruciating open wound left in your mouth can lead to one of those little ulcers most commonly known as canker sores. These can take the fun out of eating for a week—or longer.
This is just one of the ways you can get canker sores. There are other possible triggers:
- Stress and a weakened immune system
- Eating chocolate or acidic foods like citrus fruits
- Deficiencies in B12, zinc, folic acid, or iron
- Sodium lauryl sulfate, an irritant found in many toothpastes and mouth rinses
But because the actual root cause is unknown—canker sores aren’t set off by a virus like cold sores are—they’re virtually impossible to prevent, and it’s pretty difficult to see them coming.
Luckily, there are some effective natural remedies to shorten their stay, and help relieve the pain.
This is the yummiest cure you could wish for—and it really works! Researchers at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia discovered that honey, applied directly on canker sores four times daily for five days, eased pain and healed them. It’s all because of propolis, a resin-like substance that bees extract from tree buds and use to make honeycombs; inside propolis is an active compound called caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE) which is antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory.
Since raw honey is minimally processed and most likely to have bits of honeycomb—and propolis—try that instead of conventional honey. Apply to the affected area with a cotton swab four times a day until the sore disappears.
Ever heard the adage, “Salt water cures all wounds”? Rubbing salt on a canker sore might sound agonizing, but diluted in water, it’s actually an effective treatment: dehydrates the area which reduces swelling.
Try gargling salt water—make your own solution with a sprinkle or two of sea salt dissolved in ¼ cup water—once a day as the sore persists. After the initial sting, you’ll actually notice the pain start to diminish right away.
Some natural health enthusiasts swear by coconut oil, an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, as a mild yet potent remedy for canker sores and other minor abrasions. Using a cotton swab, apply a dab directly to the sore four times a day until it heals.
Soothing, antimicrobial chamomile has been used traditionally to treat lesions and ulcers, including canker sores. Studies have actually shown it heals wounds and facilitates tissue growth. Feel free to sip some chamomile tea along with any of the above remedies. You’ll be back to eating your favorite foods comfortably in just a few days.
Illustration by Foley Wu