Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers or mouth ulcers are painful white, grayish, or yellow sores in the mouth. They form on the soft areas like the inside of the cheeks, between the inside of the lip and the teeth, and under the tongue.
They are not dangerous or contagious, although they can get infected if oral hygiene isn’t being taken care of. Doctors aren’t exactly sure about what causes them, but they seem to be caused by nutritional deficiencies, stress, mouth injuries, or bacteria.
Most canker sores are minor, they are small and don’t go very deep. Major canker sores are larger, deeper and more painful, unfortunately, they can scar. Herpetiform canker sores are more common in older people and are very small canker sores that develop in clusters of 10-100 (1).
Canker sores go away on their own but they are painful and easily irritated by heat, food, toothbrushes, and teeth. They usually take between a week and 6 weeks to heal on their own depending on the severity. Instead of reaching for medication that can have undesirable side effects and are far less effective, use honey for canker sores to get rid of them quicker.
Does Honey Help Canker Sores?
Honey has been used to treat wounds for centuries and as the world looks for more natural treatment options, luckily there have been studies done on honey. Honey is clearly very effective:
Honey, specifically when applied to canker sores, reduces pain quickly, within a day or 2.
Honey also sped up the healing of the ulcer. After 3 days it was almost completely gone.
Honey has antimicrobial properties.
Honey is anti-inflammatory.
All this with no side effects. Check out these tips for putting honey on canker sores and expect your mouth sore to be gone within a few days.
Topical Honey for Canker Sores
Go for raw or manuka honey because the processed honey is heated up to the point where all the benefits are destroyed. Some of the really poor quality brands also put high fructose corn syrup into the honey. You may have little to no actual honey in the bottle if you go with processed honey.
Although you don’t need much more than honey for mouth sores, there are a wide variety of remedies to put with honey if you prefer to do that. If you find that for some reason the honey might not be working on its own, you can try one of the other remedies combining honey for canker sores with other helpful ingredients.
Use your chosen remedy 3 times a day for the best results.
1. Honey By Itself
Simply dab some honey onto your canker sore using cotton wool or a Q-tip. Leave it there for at least 5 minutes. You can spit it out or swallow it, whichever you prefer.
2. Honey and Tea
Add a spoonful of honey to your tea. Make sure that your tea isn’t too hot when you add the honey. This will retain the health benefits of the honey and it will also make sure that you don’t hurt your canker sore by drinking very hot tea. Warm tea is much better than hot tea in this situation.
You can also then use the tea bag as a compress once it’s cooled down. Apply the compress 20-30 minutes. The tannic acid and benefits from the tea leaves will help your canker sore.
3. Honey and Essential Oil
Many different types of essential oils disinfect wounds and promote healing (2). Good options are tea tree, lavender, or Roman chamomile essential oil. Never swallow essential oils without first speaking to a herbalist or naturopath. For example, tea tree oil can be toxic when swallowed.
Mix together honey and essential oil in a ratio of 1-2 drops of tea tree oil per tablespoon of honey.
Dab the mixture on your canker sore as you would plain honey.
Alternatively, you can actually leave the cotton wool on your canker sore with the mixture on it.
After 5 minutes, spit it out.
Rinse your mouth with water.
4. Honey and Turmeric
Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce pain (3).
Mix together 1 teaspoon of honey and ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Apply the paste to your ulcer.
Leave it there for 5 minutes.
Swallowing it won’t be a problem, but if you prefer to, you can rinse your mouth out instead.
5. Honey and Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is another remedy used for centuries to heal wounds due to its anti-inflammatory properties and the fact that it speeds up healing (4).
If you have an aloe plant you can cut a leaf off and squeeze out the gel or you can use store-bought aloe gel (make sure the store-bought gel is chemical-free).
Mix the honey and aloe gel together to form a paste.
Apply it to your canker sore for 5 minutes.
It’s advised to spit it out afterward as aloe can have a laxative effect.
Tips and Precautions
Don’t use honey if you are allergic to pollen or propolis.
Never give honey to children under the age of 12 months, though canker sores are very rare in children, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Don’t pick at the canker sore, this will only make it worse and more prone to infection.
If the pain from your canker sore is severe and it’s large, medical treatment can be a good course of action.
Keep an eye out for swelling and/or fever as this is an indication that your canker sore may have become infected.
Stress is a major culprit of canker sores. Deep breathing and meditation is a great way to relieve stress. Exercising and making time to relax and do things that you enjoy is important. Delegate and learn to say no to relieve some of the unnecessary pressure that you are under. Teas like chamomile, black, green, kava kava, and ginseng can be helpful too.
Continue to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily, but do it gently so as not to cause further damage to your canker sore or mouth.
Eat a variety of nutritious foods to prevent any nutrient deficiencies. Those who don’t consume meat or any animal products should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
If you prefer not to use honey for canker sores, there are some more great remedies you can try, for example, baking soda. Please let us know if these remedies worked for you and feel free to ask us questions if you need to know more.
Jane Scott grew up on a farm in California and is a crossover between a country girl and an evangelist for healthier living. She’s a nutritionist who preaches that healthy living need not be complicated.
She believes that by exercising regularly, eating mostly non-processed foods (with plenty of vegetables), and using home remedies for the small things and doctor’s advice for the big things, almost anybody can feel great and live a happier and healthier life. She’s excited to share her knowledge of natural remedies and healthier living on HRFL.
In her spare time, Jane enjoys cooking and watching bad rom-coms. She also loves nuts, and is a bit of a nut herself when it comes to Yoga, which she’s a little too obsessed with in the opinion of her friends and family.