Tongue Sore-- Causes and Top 10
Natural Remedies
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Last updated August 17, 2016 (originally published July 21, 2010)

By Louise Carr,  Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Registered
Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of our Editorial

Tongue sores can appear as small bumps, red lumps
or raised areas of the tongue. In whatever form a
tongue sore appears, it  can cause you considerable
pain, especially as it’s almost impossible to stop using
your tongue to help the sores heal. What causes
tongue sores? Are there any natural remedies for
tongue sores? What foods should you avoid eating if
you have a tongue sore?

Your attack of tongue sore may be caused by the
oral herpes simplex virus infection, otherwise known
as cold sores, which affects approximately 65
percent of us by the time we reach age 40,
according to a 2010 study by Dr. Rahul Sharma of
Cornell University. This common condition can be a
real pain, causing small blisters or sores on the lips,
mouth and tongue. It’s also contagious. You may
recognize a cold sore’s approach a day or two
before the sore appears, as a tingle or pain in the

Tongue sores can also appear as small bumps on the
tongue. These tongue sores are usually harmless but
an unexplained bump, particularly if it is painless,
may be an indication of oral cancer. Most oral
cancers grow on the sides of the tongue or the floor
of the mouth and hardly ever appear on the top of
the tongue. According to the National Cancer
Institute, oral cancer is rare, with 28,900 cases
occurring annually.

Tongue sores are also called canker sores, painful
sores under your tongue or on the inside of your lips
or cheeks. According to Michael C Plewa, MD,
Department of Emergency Medicine, Lucas County
Emergency Physicians, Inc, and Mercy Saint Vincent
Medical Center in Toldeo, Ohio, canker sores affect
around 20 percent of the general population.

Canker sores are not contagious. They are more
commonly found in women than in men.  

One interesting fact found in a 1988 study from the
University of Buenos Aires is that children from
higher incomed households suffer more from canker
sores than children who are lower-incomed.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine,
you are more at risk of canker sores if you have a
family history of sores, if you have a weakened
immune system, if you are under stress or if you
suffer from food allergies.

While there is no cure for canker sores and other
tongue sores, the following natural remedies can
help ease the pain while they heal.

Topical Creams As A Tongue Sore Remedy

Acyclovir (Zovirax) is a popular cream for treating
cold sores. Zilactin, Blistex, Kaopectate with
Benadryl, and Hydrocortisone are used to treat
canker sores, as are Anbesol and Orabase or Orajel.
These treatments are especially effective if applied
as soon as you notice a tongue sore occurring.
Specially-made topical preparations are preferred by
physicians because they limit the amount of active
medication delivered to the sore which cuts down
the risk of side effects (corticosteroids can increase
the risk of candidiasis and other secondary

Lysine Treats Tongue Sores

Lysine is one of the amino acid our bodies need to
build protein. Some experts suggest that lysine
supplements can help prevent cold sore outbreaks
and sores on the tongue but other studies have
found little benefit from taking this essential amino
acid as a supplement.

One 1987 study from the Indiana University School
of Medicine looked at 52 patients with a history of
cold sore flare-ups. After receiving 3g of lysine every
day for six months, the treatment group
experienced an average of 2.4 fewer flare-ups than
the placebo group and their sores healed faster.

The virus that causes cold sores hides in nerve cells
and can re-emerge in times of stress. Lysine is
believed to fight the virus by blocking the amino acid,
arginine, which the virus needs to function. In this
case, lysine would be most effective when used in
combination with a low-arginine diet.

Vitamin B12 Can Help Treat Tongue Sores

A 2009 study from the Ben-Gurion University of the
Negev found a nightly dose of Vitamin B12 prevented
canker sores by as much as 25 percent.

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, was tested
Vitamin B12 on 58 randomly selected patients.  The
patients who suffered from tongue sores,  received
either a dose of 1,000 mcg of Vitamin B12 or a
placebo, and were tested monthly for six months.

Approximately 74 percent of the patients of the
treated group and only 32 percent of the control
group achieved remission at the end of the study and
the treated patients reported less pain and shorter
outbreaks of tongue sores. (Read more about
that remedy Vitamin B12 deficiency, also called
"pernicious anemia".)

Increase Your Vitamin Intake to Prevent Tongue

Remember that having a weaker immune system
makes you more susceptible to canker sores?

You can make your mouth a lot healthier and boost
your immune system by increasing your intake of
vitamins. A deficiency in vitamins and minerals such
as iron, folic acid and Vitamin B12 can increase the
risk of tongue sores, according to the U.S. National
Library of Medicine.

A 2009 study from Baskent University in Turkey
found that diminished antioxidant activity (vitamin E
and selenium) can increase your  risk for recurrent
tongue sores.

One 2010 study from the University of Connecticut
School of Dental Medicine led by Dr. S. Kozlak
discovered that as many as 20 percent of patients
with recurrent canker sores also had  deficiencies in
iron, folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12.
(Read more about
foods that help to remedy iron
deficiency -anemia.)

To boost your anti-oxidant supply, add more fresh
vegetables and fruits to your diet. Aim to include
vegetables of as many colors as possible --purple
(eggplant), red (cherries, beets, apples,
pomegranates), green (spinach, collard, turnip
greens, seaweed) orange and yellow.

Herbal Remedies for Tongue Sores

One 1990 study by a research team from the
University of Oslo  used a product containing vitamins
and minerals as well as the herbs paprika, rosemary,
peppermint, milfoil, hawthorn, and pumpkin seed to
treat various mouth-related conditions and found it
significantly reduced the frequency of mouth sores).

The American Academy of Family Physicians
suggests rinsing the mouth with herbal mouthwash
that contains sage and chamomile.

A small study in 1998 tested the effectiveness of a
chemically-altered form of licorice and found it made
canker sores disappear more quickly (Das SK, Das V,
Gulati AK, et al ‘Deglycyrrhizinated liquorice in
aphthous ulcers’, 1989).

Another 2008 study used a licorice herbal extract
patch to reduce the size of ulcers compared to a
placebo (Martin MD, Sherman J, van der Ven P, et al
‘A controlled trial of a dissolving oral patch
concerning glycyrrhiza (licorice) herbal extract for
the treatment of aphthous ulcers’, 2008).

Another herbal solution could be aloe vera.
According to a 2005 report by Richard L. Wynn, PhD,
in General Dentistry, the Academy of General
Dentistry's (AGD) clinical journal, aloe vera taken as
a gel or a juice can treat many oral health problems
including tongue sores. It was reported to speed up
healing and reduce pain.

Reduce Stress To Prevent Tongue Sores

Stress increases your risk of developing canker
sores. A 2009 study from The University of Sao Paulo
found that people with canker sores have higher
than average anxiety scores when compared with
the general population.

Yoga, deep breathing and eating
foods that help you
reduce stress  can  help lower your outbreaks of
tongue sores.

Change Your Toothpaste To Heal Tongue Sores

Canker sores are often be caused by a seemingly
harmless everyday product -- toothpaste.

Certain toothpastes contain a chemical called
"sodium lauryl sulfate", which is the agent that
causes the paste to foam in the mouth.

A 1996 study from the University of Oslo found that
this chemical can cause minute damage to the tissues
in your mouth, including the tongue, causing canker
sores or making them worse.

Check the label on your toothpaste. If necessary,
change your brand of toothpaste to one that does
not contain this chemical to cut down tongue sore

Prevent Trauma To The Tongue

Taking care of the tongue and protecting it from
burns and bites can prevent tongue sores. Make
sure you gently brush your teeth and use a soft-
bristled brush.

Good mouth hygiene significantly reduces not only
the number of tongue sore outbreaks but also their
severity, according to a 2005 study from the Tblisi
State Medical Academy.

Avoid crunchy or hard foods if you have a tongue
sore you want to go away. Also, don’t talk with your
mouth full --- you increase the risk of minor bites and
cuts to the tongue.

Food Allergies Can Cause Tongue Sores

Foods can cause tongue sores. Many foods can
trigger an outbreak of tongue sores including
cinnamon, gluten, cow’s milk  as well as coffee,
potatoes, cheese, chocolate, nuts, citrus fruits and

A 2009 study from the Institute of Oncology and
Radiology of Serbia discovered that all of these foods
can trigger a outbreak of tongue sores.

Your best bet is to avoid certain foods if they seem
to affect your tongue, or carry out an allergy test if
your symptoms are severe and you’re not sure
which particular food is causing your flare-ups.

Avoid These Chemicals To Cut Down Tongue

High levels of nitrates in drinking water have been
associated with increased canker sores. Several
studies have confirmed this connection, including a
1999 study from SMS Medical College in Jaipur, India.

According to a 1999 study by a research team from
Kuwait University,  using nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also trigger
tongue sores.  


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Coffee and other foods can trigger an outbreak of a
tongue sore, a study has found.