Canker sores (a.k.a. mouth or aphthous ulcers or stomatitis) affect 20 percent of the population, and while the exact cause is unknown, possible triggers include stress, hormones, genetics, nutritional issues, tobacco use, bacterial and viral agents, and even some systemic immune diseases. In the largest review of conventional and alternative medicine in canker sore history, no single treatment was found to be effective.
However, multiple nutritional deficiencies (caused by anemia, gluten intolerance, or malabsorption problems) may play a role in canker sores, so if you get frequent sores, you should work with a nutritionist and doctor to get tested. Basically, anything that is safe and might help even a little is worth trying, folks! The goal of any treatment is to impact one or more of the following: pain and ulcer size, rate of healing, and risk of recurrence. Keep your eye out for ongoing studies on hyaluronic acid gel. Also, zinc sulfate in high dosages (150 milligrams twice daily) has shown some preliminary promise for speeding ulcer healing times.
What are the Best Supplements For Treating Canker Sores?
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)
A mouthwash with DGL has preliminary data showing it might improve recovery time for canker sores, but the product is hard to find. You can mix the supplement with water, though, swish it around, and then spit it out a few times a day (you can find a DIY version on YouTube).
There’s also early data for the herbal product berberine when applied topically in gelatin form to the sore four times a day over 5 days; it reduced both ulcer size and pain. Laboratory research with this compound suggests it has immune-modulating, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties, which makes it a natural for canker sores.
Omega-3 fatty acids
In one study, taking 1,500 milligrams daily of the active ingredients in fish oil (the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA) over 6 months led to a significant reduction in the number of ulcer outbreaks, average level of pain, and the duration of ulcer episodes per month, starting in the third month of treatment. The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s may be the key. I think this would be a good option to try for people with an increased risk of short-term recurrence.
In a preliminary trial, 1,000 micrograms of sublingual B12 over 6 months reduced ulcer duration, number of ulcers, and pain. What’s more, initial vitamin B12 blood levels did not impact the results—meaning you don’t have to be deficient in B12 to try it. This is an option for anyone suffering from regular canker sore outbreaks.
A paste made from this Brazilian plant improved 5-day cure rates and pain relief more than a comparative steroid, but this herbal is hard to find outside of Brazil.
What Supplements Are Useless For Canker Sores?
These have proven worthless for canker sores in clinical trials, which is why I’m skeptical about just solving nutritional deficiencies to prevent or treat these sores when there are so many other potential causes.