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Herbs and Supplements for Canker Sores

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Canker sores are irritating, unsightly, and bothersome. Read on to find out how you can heal your canker sores once and for all with the right herbs and supplements for canker sores.

Do you suffer from canker sores? Canker sores are irritating and painful and can make eating difficult. Although most canker sores will eventually go away on their own, there are several remedies you can try at home including a regular routine of herbs and supplements for canker sores that will heal existing canker sores faster, and make their return less likely. Read on to find out what herbs and supplements help prevent canker sores from returning.

What is a Canker Sore?

Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference between a cold sore and a canker sore. A cold sore is a type of herpes simplex virus and causes a sore on the edge of the mouth or under the nose outside of the mouth. Cold sores are not found inside the mouth. However, canker sores are found exclusively inside the mouth. A canker sore is a swollen, irritated red spot inside the mouth, commonly found on the side of the cheek. The spot will often have a white blister, that eventually pops and leaves a temporary crater inside the mouth.

Canker sores can appear in one spot only, multiple spots, or clumped together. They are usually painful and may make it difficult to eat. Canker sores usually disappear within a week.

What Causes Canker Sores?

Canker sores are a common ailment, and it is unknown if one single thing can contribute to their arrival. However, the following conditions have been shown to increase the likelihood of getting a canker sore:

Causes of Canker Sores
  • Injury to the mouth
  • Acidic foods
  • Allergies
  • Low-nutrient diets
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Gastrointestinal diseases or issues
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Illness
  • Oral cancer
  • Certain medications

For most people, stress and a poor diet are the most likely culprits for a canker sore popping up.

Treatments for Canker Sores

Canker sores can be treated externally and internally. One popular treatment is a saltwater rinse. The saltwater gently cleanses the area and helps prevent any infection from food particles or bacteria getting inside the sore.

Internal treatments are designed to help boost the immune system and prevent them from occurring as often.

Supplements that Prevent Canker Sores

Try the following supplements added to your diet, both when you feel a canker sore developing and right after you’ve had an outbreak to lessen your chances of getting a canker sore again in the future. If you add these nutrients to your diet, your immune system will be stronger, and your chances of seeing frequent cold sores will lessen.


Zinc is an important mineral for immune function. Zinc supplements can prevent and treat infections. If you have low levels of zinc, you are more likely to have recurring canker sores. In one study, a person who had a low zinc level was given zinc supplements for three months. After the supplement period, the person did not have canker sores for a one-year period following the supplementation period. In another study, 40 patients with frequent canker sore outbreaks were given zinc supplements. The study participants found a 50 to 100 percent reduction in the number of canker sore outbreaks while taking zinc.

Vitamin B-12

If you have canker sores, you may be deficient in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is attributed to a boost in immune system function. In one study in individuals with frequent canker sores showed improvement and had fewer outbreaks after starting to take B12 supplements.

Folic Acid

Folic acid is another important vitamin for immune system function and the reduction of canker sores. In one study of over 300 people with frequent canker sores, it was found that nearly all of them had low folic acid levels. Increasing the amount of folic acid in the diet was able to cut down on the number of outbreaks seen by each patient.


In one study of 330 patients with mouth sores, it was found that they were low in iron, among other nutrients. Adding more iron back into the diet was able to help speed healing in individuals with canker sores. 


L-lysine is a powerful remedy that can help reduce the severity and frequency of canker sores. L-lysine is often used in the treatment of cold sores, and it is able to boost the immune system and help prevent the recurrence of canker sores and mouth ulcers.


Glutamine is an amino acid that has a positive effect on the GI tract and thereby improves immune function. A healthy gut is one of the starting places for a healthy immune system, as many of the body’s immune defenses are created in the gut. Glutamine is used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the mouth. Glutamine helps increase the resistance to inflammation in the mouth and will not only make canker sores less likely but will also help them feel less painful when they do occur.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another vitamin important for proper immune function. Without the right levels of vitamin C in the body, the body is forced to work at reduced capacity. Those with low levels of vitamin C in the mouth are more likely to suffer from frequent canker sores. Many individuals with frequent canker sores are found to have diets low in vitamin C. Adding more vitamin C to the diet is an easy way to reduce the instances of cold sores you see. Vitamin C also helps increase the number of white blood cells in the body, which are important for fighting off canker sores.

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (also called DGL) is a substance in licorice that has anti-inflammatory properties. This form of licorice is often used to help heal and soothe cold sores in addition to canker sores. DGL is used to improve the healing capacity of the mouth, making the duration of a canker sore much shorter.

In one study, 75 percent of patients who used a mouthwash containing DGL had 50 to 70 percent improvement in their canker sores in just one day. By day three, all canker sores were gone.

Other Ways to Prevent Canker Sores

Stress is one of the biggest triggers for canker sores, combined with a poor diet. The best way to prevent canker sores from coming back, after taking supplements, is to make sure your diet is high in nutrients, avoid junk food, and keep your stress levels low. If you live a high-stress life, take time daily to have at least 30 minutes to an hour a day to unwind with something like a book, warm bath, massage, listening to calming music, or just sitting quietly and not engaging in any stimulating activities. You can also try a nightly calming ritual, like a foot soak, meditation, or chamomile tea.

You Can Keep Canker Sores Away

Studies show that these supplements can be effective at reducing the number of canker sores you get each month or year. The better your immune system is, the less likely you will be to have canker sores. Adding these supplements to your diet has been shown to lessen the likelihood of getting canker sores for both men and women. The supplements listed in this article are also able to help speed the healing of existing canker sores, making them ideal to add to your diet if you get frequent canker sores.






Next Article: 10 Foods You Need to Avoid If You Have Canker Sores