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Natural Methods to Get Rid of Canker Sores and Mouth Ulcers

Canker sores and mouth ulcers can stem from the same risk factors. A combination of clinical and traditional remedies may have a soothing effect on symptoms.

Woman wincing in pain while supporting her chin with her right hand and holding a cup of coffee in her left

If you’ve ever experienced a painful canker sore in your mouth or on your tongue, you’d know it’s an unpleasant situation because it hurts every time you eat or drink.

Canker sores are the development of multiple ulcers in the lining of your mouth. They can appear on or under the tongue, on the gums, roof of the mouth, and inside the lip. Typically measuring less than a millimetre, they may expand to a half-inch or an inch in diameter.

Mouth ulcers can appear in the soft tissue lining of the gums, on the tongue, inner cheeks, lip, or palate. They’re a symptom of canker sores but may also erupt due to other factors.

The main difference between canker sores and mouth ulcers is their underlying cause. The former stems from aphthous stomatitis – a condition involving the recurring formation of benign and non-contagious mouth ulcers. The latter is the result of trauma to the mouth.

Discover the risk factors and treatment options that help calm the pain and discomfort if you have a canker sore or mouth ulcer. 

What are the Risk Factors for Canker Sores and Mouth Ulcers?

Smiling girl with blue-coloured dental braces 
Wearing dental braces can potentially cause the development of canker sores or mouth ulcers.

The conditions share a few similar causes, including: 

  • A deficiency of iron and B vitamins 
  • Consumption of acidic foods 
  • Use of braces, retainers, or ill-fitting dentures 
  • Injury on the inside of the mouth or accidental biting of the inside cheek or tongue

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also provoke the onset of canker sores. People diagnosed with autoimmune conditions such as AIDS, Lupus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease are likely to develop complex canker sores. While complex canker sores are less common than simple sores, they’re larger and more painful.

Mouth ulcers can also be a by-product of the following:  

  • An allergic reaction to certain bacteria 
  • Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections 
  • Use of a harsh or abrasive toothpaste 
  • Hormonal changes during a woman’s period 

Do note that a canker sore is different from a cold sore. The latter is contagious, while the former isn’t.

Cold sores describe fluid-filled blisters that can appear in the mouth or around the genitals. The problem transpires in people with the herpes simplex virus, which is contagious. It can spread through kissing and sharing utensils, straws, towels, and even lip balm.   

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) relates the development of canker sores and mouth ulcers to toxic Heat, Stomach Fire or Heat, Heart Fire or a Yin Deficiency.

Treatment Options That Help Alleviate the Pain and Discomfort 

Canker sore pain will subside in a few days without treatment. Mouth ulcers can also heal naturally within two weeks.

Over-the-counter and prescription products may help ease the discomfort felt by people with canker sores or mouth ulcers. Adopting healthy habits will lower a person’s risk of these problems. Examples of these are: 

  • Avoiding acidic, salty, and spicy foods 
  • Brushing your teeth twice and flossing once daily 
  • Consuming a diet that consists of a high intake of fruits and vegetables 
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent tissue irritation 

Topical and oral solutions 

A healthcare provider may suggest you use topical and oral products to subdue the pain and discomfort felt by mouth ulcers. These include: 

  • Antibiotics 
  • Corticosteroid ointments 
  • Medicated mouth rinses 
  • Antiseptic and anaesthetic gels

TCM solutions for canker sores and mouth ulcers

TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling recommends an alternative approach comprising herbal remedies and acupuncture.

Acupressure points

The activation of lian quan (CV23, 廉泉) and he gu (LI4, 合谷) acupoints can help relieve canker sores or ulcers.

Herbal formulas and ingredients 

Herbal remedies can correct the body constitution imbalances that trigger either problem. 

Tiao Wei Cheng Qi soup (调味承气汤) helps remove Heat and dryness in people with Stomach Fire or Heat, thus alleviating symptoms like acne, constipation, bad breath, craving for cold beverages, and gum or teeth pain. Dao Chi powder (导赤散) is useful for clearing Heart Fire, which causes frustration, insomnia, mouth ulcers, and redness on the tip of the tongue. Yin Qiao powder (银翘散) and Sang Ju powder (桑聚散) disperses Wind-Heat and its accompanying symptoms, such as a fever, sore throat, coughs, and aversion to cold,” explains Physician Lim. 

Peppermint (bo he, 薄荷) is present in Yin Qiao and Sang Ju powder and can be consumed as a tea to relieve Wind-Heat and help with ulcers. It can also induce a breakout of rashes to release toxins. Lopatherum (dan zhu ye, 淡竹叶) tea clears Heat, eases pent-up frustration, encourages urination, and relieves thirst.

Eugenol – the active ingredient in cloves – suppresses swelling by numbing an affected gum area. A salt water rinse or sage mouthwash possesses antiviral and antioxidant properties, which can help heal ulcers.

Tandem use of clinical and herbal remedies will effectively address the onset of canker sores and mouth ulcers. It’s advisable to speak to a healthcare provider and TCM practitioner before treating either problem. It’ll ensure that you avoid unnecessary health complications. For example, activation of he gu acupoint isn’t recommended for pregnant women. You should also refrain from using cooling herbs like peppermint and lopatherum on an empty stomach.


  1. Cleveland Clinic. Canker Sores. [online] [Accessed on 15 September 2022] 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Mouth Ulcer. [online] [Accessed on 15 September 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Cold Sores. [online] [Accessed on 15 September 2022]

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