Herbs won't cure your canker sores, or ease bad breath
SUMMARY: While herbs, spices, supplements and amino acids might not be doing much harm, they rarely have any benefit when it comes to canker sores.
Posted: July 10, 2012
Folks with canker sores will go to a lot of trouble to get rid of them. After all, these little spots - also known as aphthous ulcers - cause bad breath, and they can be hellaciously painful. (If you've ever bitten one, it's unlikely that your memory of the moment has faded.) So how do people get rid of these little annoyances?
Well, if you want to knock out canker sores faster than your immune system can do it, try rinsing two or three times a day with an alcohol-free specialty breath freshening mouthwash. Such products kill bacteria and neutralize odor, all without roasting your canker sores with concentrated alcohol.
Conversely, herbal or alternative treatments won't get rid of canker sores or halitosis, but they will relieve you of your cash. Here are a few at-home canker sore remedies that you can skip over, since they do little or nothing for oral health.
- Cayenne pepper. If you ever see "capsicum" listed as an herbal remedy for canker sores, what this word refers to is cayenne pepper. As both Discovery Health and Yahoo! Voices have suggested, cayenne contains capsaicin, the molecule that makes spicy foods so hot. This compound is supposed to numb the sores and alleviate pain. Thinking about the logic of this, even for a few seconds, should convince you that this is a terrible idea. People with canker sores should avoid spicy foods - even the Mayo Clinic says so. If you've ever eaten some extra-hot salsa with a canker sore, you know that capsaicin doesn't "numb" anything. Instead, it makes your mouth feel like a blistering inferno. We can only hope that most cayenne-for-canker-sores tips are practical jokes.
- Garlic. Believe it or not, some naturalists suggest eating garlic to quell the pain of canker sores and to boost the immune system. To date, few studies have indicated that eating raw garlic has any lasting effect on the bacterial population in your mouth. And then there's the small fact that eating garlic will send canker-sore-related halitosis into the ionosphere.
- Licorice. As Yahoo! Voice has noted, licorice has been considered a natural pain reliever for centuries. However, that doesn't mean it is one. While herbalists occasionally point to licorice as a treatment for canker sore pain, there's almost no scientific evidence to back this up. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), just one small study has found any data suggesting that licorice (dissolved in water) does anything for canker sores. And imagine the oral odor it would give you...
- Lysine. Also known as L-lysine, this compound is an essential amino acid, meaning humans and most other animals can't synthesize it. We get it through our diet instead. Lysine-rich (and halitosis-causing) foods include meats, cheeses, eggs, spirulina and fenugreek. While this amino acid is necessary for cellular health, it won't do anything for canker sores. Folks who think it will may be a bit confused, because it's cold sores that can heal faster when dietary lysine increases, according to the UMMC.
So what are some canker sore treatments that actually work? First and foremost, there are alcohol-free specialty breath fresheners, which can kill the bacteria that cause aphthous ulcers without causing excessive pain or discomfort.
Other good home-brewed pain remedies include:
- Using a dab of over-the-counter benzocaine.
- Applying ice directly to the sore.
- Swishing with salt water or hydrogen peroxide.
- Making a paste of baking soda and water, and applying it to canker sores.