A Seriously Simple Way to Banish Canker Sores

Illustration for article titled A Seriously Simple Way to Banish Canker Sores

Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.

The first time I ever had a canker sore, I was 8 or 9, and it was a Friday during Lent, and my mom was taking classes at a university a couple of hours away, which meant my dad was taking care of the three of us, which meant that we were eating Vandecamp's fish sticks and oven french fries for dinner because that was pretty much the only thing he knew how to cook. I loaded my plate with probably too much ketchup, dipped a crunchy, salty fry in, and took a big bite — to searing pain. I was sort of a kid who cried a lot anyway, but this was Serious Business discomfort, and I bawled. I felt like my mouth was full of cuts. I had to eschew tartar sauce and ketchup that meal. Worst Lenten Friday ever. (Well, I mean, besides the original bad Lenten Friday, with the crucifixion and stuff.)

When my mother returned home later, I told her what was wrong, and she proceeded to teach me one of the most valuable lessons of my tiny life when she handed me a small jar of alum and a baby spoon. Go look in the mirror, she said, and find where the white spot on the inside of your mouth is. Put a little bit of this white stuff on your canker sore. Count to 100. Rinse your mouth. By tomorrow, you'll be able to eat ketchup and tartar sauce again.


She was right. When I woke up the next morning, the canker sore was gone. Vanished. Kaput. On the rare occasion that I've suffered a canker sore since, I've always treated it with alum, and it's always gone away by the next day.


Alum's a spice added to pickles to make them crispier, and, from what I understand, it works to cure non-cold sore mouth ulcers by drawing moisture away from the sore (if you get cold sores, stick with Abreva or whatever you've been prescribed — canker sores and cold sores aren't the same thing). Either that or it's magic.

It's not a perfect method — alum burns a little bit when you apply it to a canker sore, and you're not supposed to swallow it, so during the 100-count time when it's supposed to work its magic, you might drool all over yourself. Your mouth will also feel kind of goofy for a little bit once you rinse and spit, but it's a small price to pay for the quick, cheap, long-lasting relief alum can bring. A small jar of it can last for years. And anything that removes barriers between me and delicious lowbrow condiments is worth it.


Less than $5 for 4 oz, your grocer's spice aisle

Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.

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THIS IS A LIFESAVER! I used to get canker sores ALL THE TIME (like, usually a mouth full once a month) and all anyone told me to do was gargle warm salt water, but that just burned and I never really noticed a faster healing time. Someone said something about mustard powder, but I never tried it because it sounded gross (not a huge mustard fan to begin with). But if this is a proven remedy that will take a way canker sores over night, by god, I will do it, even if it does taste disgusting.