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What You Need to Know About Cold Sores Vs. Canker Sores (Mouth Ulcers)

Updated on October 10, 2019
Healthyannie profile image

I love health and passionately believe we should do more to look after our health. Natural remedies are often as effective as conventional.

Cold Sore on the lip
Cold Sore on the lip

What You Need to Know About Cold Sores and Canker Sores

Both cold sores and canker sores (mouth ulcers) are painful and don't look nice. Natural remedies are effective against both, and this article takes a look at natural remedies for cold sores and mouth ulcers. This is what I am going to cover in this article:

  • What you need to know about cold sores and mouth ulcers
  • Mouth ulcers vs cold sores
  • Why do we get cold sores and mouth ulcers
  • Mouth ulcers
  • What causes mouth ulcers and cold sores
  • Cold sores
  • How to treat mouth ulcers and cold sores
  • 10 ways to remedy cold sores and mouth ulcers

Cold sores and mouth ulcers are common and can happen at any time. They are not quite the same thing but the symptoms, causes and look of cold sores and mouth ulcers are similar. Most of the time they just go away by themselves, however, there are times when they linger.

One symptom they both have in common is pain. The pain of cold sores and mouth ulcers can be excruciating, and people that suffer from them on a regular basis often describe the main symptom as their mouth being on fire. Sufferers often find it hard to talk and even eat.

Mouth Ulcers Vs. Cold Sores

The main difference between mouth ulcers and cold sores is the time they take to heal. Mouth ulcers often heal slower than cold sores. If what you first thought to be a cold sores does not clear up within a couple of days you more than likely have a mouth ulcers

Why Do We Get Cold Sores and Mouth Ulcers?

There are several reasons why we suffer from both cold sores and mouth ulcers. Cold sores are often common around the cold and flu season, and this is mainly down to a reduced immune system. When the immune system is busy fighting a cold or flu it gives the Herpes virus the chance to raise its ugly head. The Herpes simplex virus is behind most outbreaks of cold sores and can also, cause mouth ulcers as well. Mouth Ulcers are also caused by bacterial infections in the mouth.

Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers are more common than we think, the main issue is that we presume we have a cold sore when in fact we have a mouth ulcer.

There are three different categories of mouth ulcers:

1) Minor ulcers which measure up to 8 mm

2) Major ulcers which are deeper and larger. A major ulcer is often ridged and deep.

3) Herpetiform ulcers - Herpetiform ulcers are formed by many small ulcers and can fuse into one large ulcer.

What Causes Mouth Ulcers?

Most of the time mouth ulcers are not caused by the Herpes simplex virus. The are many reasons for mouth ulcers appearing and even though they are very unpleasant they are not contagious. At the same time, it is worth bearing in mind a mouth ulcer or cold sore caused by the Herpes simplex virus is contagious so perhaps it is best to avoid kissing, or more intimate contact for a while. The Herpes simplex virus can also manifest itself on the genitals.

The most common factor behind a mouth ulcer is smoking. If you are a regular sufferer you should consider giving up smoking.

Other common triggers of mouth ulcers include:

- Stress

- Anxiety

- Hormonal changes

- Bacterial infections

- Food

Some foods are more likely to cause mouth ulcers. The most common foos known to cause mouth ulcers are coffee, chocolate, strawberries, wheat flour, tomatoes, oranges, and peanuts.

Mouth ulcers triggered by food suggest you may have a food intolerance and should avoid the food which is causing the problem. Wheat flour is a common cause of mouth ulcers along with oranges. Although oranges are full of vitamin C which boosts the immune system, but are along with tomatoes and strawberries, they are also acidic. Apples and raspberries are better alternatives.

Mouth ulcers can also be caused by a vitamin B group deficiency and everyday drugs such as Ibuprofen plus Aspirin. They have also been linked to Beta-Blockers. Medical conditions which cause mouth ulcers are arthritis, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are linked to a reduced immune system and can happen any time when your immune system is under attack. They are more common during the winter and are experienced by sufferers of Chickenpox. If you find you suffer from a sore throat on a regular basis, you are more likely to develop frequent cold sores.

Cold sores are very contagious and must be treated with the utmost respect. If you suffer from cold sores on a regular basis your first port of call should be your immune system and you need to find out what you can do to boost your immune system.

Cold sores can appear on the lips as well as in the mouth. The skin infection impetigo is not a cold sore but it can often be seen around the mouth. On occasion, it is confused with cold sores.

How to Treat Mouth Ulcers and Cold Sores

The best treatments for both cold sores and mouth ulcers are similar. Dealing with the actual sore or ulcer is important as well as boosting your immune system.

The treatment is very individual as there are so many different triggers and it is important to find out what has caused the problem. Cold sores are more likely to have a link to colds and other virus infections.

But, cold sores also occur when undergoing certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy. If you are undergoing chemotherapy you should avoid acidic fruit and vegetables. Try sticking to cruciferous vegetables. The humble apple is a good fruit along with dried prunes.

Natural Remedies for Mouth Ulcers

Both honey and roman chamomile can help to remedy mouth ulcers and cold sores.
Both honey and roman chamomile can help to remedy mouth ulcers and cold sores. | Source

10 Ways to Remedy Cold Sores and Mouth Ulcers

1) Avoid spicy food - this can irritate the sensitive membranes in the mouth and cause inflammation

2) Honey - nature's antiseptic. Honey is a safe and quick way to clear up cold sores. Brush a bit of honey on the cold sore several times during the day. It stops the virus in its tracks and soothes the pain. Honey is also an effective treatment for mouth ulcers.

3) Chamomile mouth wash - make your own special mouth wash using chamomile tea. Strong chamomile tea will last at least two days unless you store it in the sunshine. Rinse your mouth with cold chamomile tea several times a day. The active ingredient in chamomile is bisabolol which helps to heal and has antimicrobial properties. It is worth adding Chamomile is anti-inflammatory.

4) Rest - cold sores can make you feel tired and it is important to rest. The Herpes virus infection responds well to rest.

5) Boost your immune system - one of the best herbal remedies for a stronger immune system is Echinacea. Purchase a good tincture, drink the tea or invest in a herbal supplement. Echinacea is a precious herb and should not be used all the time as it can become ineffective.

6) St Johns Wort - If you have very painful mouth ulcers or cold sores consider investing in St Johns Wort. It is a good pain killer and natural antiviral treatment. It can be purchased as a tincture or as a tea. It is available as a herbal supplement however this is not as good as the tea or tinctures when it comes to problems in the mouth. Use a rinse or the tincture can be applied directly to the problem area.

7) Lemon balm - lemon balm is also an effective herb when it comes to the treatment of mouth ulcers and cold sores. It is easy to use, and if you buy it fresh it is better. It is easy to make your own remedy. Simply pour hot water on the lemon balm and allow to cool.

Rinse your mouth with the cool solution several times a day. Lemon balm is both antibacterial and antiviral. Gargling with lemon balm solution is a good remedy for regular sore throats.

8) Apples - apples are rich in vitamin C which an excellent antioxidant. It can be painful to eat chew a whole apple. A good idea is to grate the apple and eat it once it is grated. Baked apple topped with cinnamon can be an excellent remedy for cold sores. Cinnamon can treat both virus and yeast infections.

9) Salt is also a natural disinfectant and can be used as a mouth wash.

10) Licorice tinctures - there are finally some great tinctures based on licorice on the market. Apply the tincture directly to the cold sore or mouth ulcer. Do it several times per day and you may even want to put a few drops in a glass of water which you can sip throughout the day.

Tea tree essential oil is another remedy you can try. It can clear up a cold sore or mouth ulcers quickly, but you need to use it sparingly as used neat, it is strong.

If your cold sore or mouth ulcer persists it is important to see a doctor or a dentist. St Johns Wort should be used with caution if receiving treatment with antidepressants, or taking sleeping tablets.

Never use St Johns Wort when you are on HRT, the Pill or any other hormonal treatment.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Annie Messeri


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      mouth ulcers is very common to me now. is there any permanent remedy for this??

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Thank you for dropping by and look after your health.

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Thank you and may you never suffer mouth ulcers! Love your health.

    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 

      6 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      Great hub with useful suggestions. Thanks!

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Frangipanni ( one of my favorite scents)- Ouch that is all I can say. If your husband has had a cold or a virus recently he needs to boost his immune system. No kissing. Annie

    • Frangipanni profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi, my husband had 3 cold sores arrive today so we will try your suggestions. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and following.

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Thank you for dropping by. I think most of us suffer from mouth ulcers from time to time. A lot of them probably come from spicy food.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      6 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      Sometimes I get annoying ulcers in my mouth. I'll try some of your natural remedies next time. Good hub full of useful info - voted up, interesting and useful.


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