When he came to see me, Dave complained of painful sores in his mouth and on his lips. When I took a look, I found many circular, yellow-white sores inside his mouth and on his gums and tongue (canker sores) and two large red ulcers on his lower lip (oral herpes). Many people suffer from one or both of these common lesions at some time in their lives, but fortunately, the following remedies can be used individually or simultaneously to help them heal—see what works best for you…*

Canker sores are small, painful, noncontagious lesions that occur inside the mouth. They can be caused by trauma to the mouth (such as biting yourself), dental procedures, digestive problems, food allergies, excess sugar, acidic foods or emotional stress. Canker sores can hurt for seven to 10 days and may take weeks to heal. To speed the healing process, try…

  • Licorice root paste. Licorice root is soothing and reduces local inflammation. What to do: Make a paste of powdered licorice root (use deglycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL, if you have high blood pressure—the ingredient that can raise blood pressure has been removed) and water. If you can’t find licorice root powder, purchase capsules and open several of them to make the paste. With your finger or a Q-tip, apply the paste to each canker sore several times a day for immediate, though short-lived, pain relief.
  • Chamomile tea. The tannins in chamomile help with wound healing, including canker sores. What to do: Steep two chamomile tea bags in 16 ounces of hot water for five minutes. A mouth swish with warm, strong chamomile tea offers pain relief and speeds healing. Swish as often as you like. Note: Avoid chamomile if you are allergic to plants in the ragweed family.

Also: Avoid coffee, sugar and citrus foods to help heal canker sores.

Oral herpes lesions, commonly referred to as “cold sores” or “fever blisters,” most often occur on or near the lips. However, these red, ulcerated sores can spread to other parts of the face, including the eyes, so they should not be touched. Lasting for seven to 10 days, they are caused by the herpes simplex virus and are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact (kissing or touching) or by sharing objects (lip balm, eating utensils, razors, etc.) with a person who has the virus but not necessarily the sores. After the initial outbreak, the virus remains dormant in the body. Future outbreaks can be triggered by stress, illness, sun exposure and allergies. What helps these sores heal…

  • Lemon balm. This herb is a potent antiviral that’s highly effective against herpes. What to do: Use one tablespoon of dried lemon balm in 16 ounces of hot water. Steep, covered, for five minutes. Discard herbs. Apply the tea directly to the lesions with a Q-tip or washcloth four to seven times a day, and drink 16 ounces of lemon balm tea a day for up to a week. Note: Lemon balm tea can be sedating.
  • Lysine. This amino acid also helps fight oral herpes. I recommend 3,000 mg of lysine daily while the herpes outbreak is present.

Also: Avoid chocolate and nuts—these foods feed the herpes virus.

*Caution: If any mouth sore lasts for more than two weeks, see a doctor to rule out a cancerous lesion. Also, check with your doctor if you take medication or have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, before using these remedies.

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