Answer:

There is some evidence that the amino acid lysine (L-lysine) may help to prevent canker sores (also known as aphthous stomatitis) and reduce healing time. Lysine may also help to reduce the occurrence and severity of cold sores (herpes simplex labialis), although the evidence is mixed. For details, including dosage, and our tests and top picks among lysine supplements, see the Lysine Supplements Review.

Deficiencies in certain B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B-6 and B-12 have been associated with the development of recurrent canker sores. Even in people not deficient in vitamin B-12, a daily dose of vitamin B-12 was found to reduce the number and duration of canker sore outbreaks as well as decrease pain. More details, including dosage, and our tests of B-12 supplements and Top Picks, can be found in the B Vitamins Supplements Review.

Deficiencies in zinc and iron have also been associated with recurrent canker sores, and correcting these deficiencies may reduce the occurrence of sores.

For information about other proposed treatments, see the Encyclopedia article about Canker Sores.

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6 Comments

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scott18152
July 22, 2019

lots of conjecture and extremely sad that the medical community has assisted so little in this area. so at this point we have lots of anecdote - joy. But i will hazard to add my own experience 1] acute use of zinc may help, 2] longer term use of B12 also seems to help [i take till it seems i dont get them then i quit and dont take till i feel one coming back]. 3] HOWEVER the most promising treatment i have found is simply an antihistamine -- this has completely removed my suffering and usually i just take a benadryl etc when i feel one start.. good luck

Leland11501
December 10, 2016

I suffer from canker sores, almost always from eating dairy. Certain types of dairy are worse, usually processed or cooked cheeses. Aged cheese I find less of a problem. Ice cream is almost a guaranteed canker.

I've heard of B-12 and supplemented with it but found no difference.

I've heard of L-lysine for cold sores (herpes sores) which I do not have or get, so I'm surprised they list that here as I didn't think canker sores are herpes (although I wonder if any tissue disorder like this is related to herpes, I understand there's like 100 strains of herpe virus).

Anyway - I'd like to know what consumer labs finds in relation to Alpha Lipoic Acid supplementation. I started taking an ALA supplement with collagen for support to fix a detached intercostal rib and have found it mostly prevents getting canker sores, and if I do binge on some nasty cheese, I'll get a small one and it goes away very quickly. It is the closest thing to prevention I have found. Would be interested in learning if this works for anyone else. I imagine everyone body is different, and one person's deficiency is not another's problem etc.

ConsumerLab.com
December 12, 2016

Hi Leland - As noted in the Lysine Supplements Review, it had been suspected that canker sores were associated with the herpes simplex virus, but research suggests this is not the case ( https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/Lysine/#wright). There doesn't appear to be any research on alpha lipoic acid for this use, but thank you for sharing your experience.

Ellen11451
December 3, 2016

L-Lysine has been the best solution for me. I seem to be very sensitive to lysine/arginine imbalance. This is triggered especially by nuts and seeds.

G16961
July 16, 2018

I used to get cankers so severely that I could barely swallow water, let alone eat or talk, and they would last weeks. Lysine made a huge difference in terms of prevention for me. After a few months of taking 500 (on occasion 1000) mg, I stopped getting almost completely, and when I would get them, they wouldn’t be as bad or take as long to heal. One of the triggers of cankers for me is oral allergy syndrome (OAS), and I was one of the rare unlucky individuals who also had severe stomach pain from OAS. Amazingly, lysine also worked to prevent the stomach issues of oral allergy syndrome for me, allowing me to greatly broaden my diet. After taking lysine daily for about 1.5 years, I have been able to reduce to occasional intake or when I feel a canker starting to form. Stomach pains are very rare for me these days. I’m assuming the lysine has now built up in my system and corrected my imbalance/strengthened my mucus membranes. I’m almost at the two year mark and so far so good. I recommended to my brother who’s also seen reduced and less severe cankers from taking lysine every few days. I’d highly recommend others suffering from cankers to give lysine a shot.

Ryan11450
December 1, 2016

Canker sores will go away if you gargle at the first sign of symptoms. I've successfully used this remedy for 20 years as follows: 20 seconds three times a day with Listerine (the original formula) or any mouthwash containing those same active ingredients at the first sign of symptoms. I assume the active ingredients in Listerine Eucalyptol, Menthol, and Thymol are key to this remedy.
In addition, as a preventative measure I routinely brush my teeth once a day using Listerine instead of toothpaste. I don't also gargle unless I have symptoms.
Previously I would get painful canker sores in my mouth that would persist for a week. After discovering the remedy described above, I now rarely get any canker sores but if I do they vanish within a few hours of treatment.

Camilla11444
November 30, 2016

Yes. Sls in toothpaste gives me cancer sores also.

Cindy 11448
December 1, 2016

same here.

Cindy 11449
December 1, 2016

Especially in Colgate.

Gary11498
December 9, 2016

Definitely true. Sensodyne Pronamel is SLS-free. I've tried going back to Crest (wife's) but within a week my cheeks and gums were sore.

G16962
July 16, 2018

ditto. biotene toothpaste has been the most helpful for me.

Rosalie11440
November 30, 2016

I found out years ago that SLS in toothpaste caused my canker sores.

ConsumerLab.com
November 30, 2016

Thank you for adding that, Rosalie. There is preliminary evidence (and many anectdotal reports) that sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a foaming agent in some toothpastes, may irritate the lining of the mouth.

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