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Natural remedies for canker sores: discover myrrh!

Digestion and intestines

Natural remedies for canker sores: discover myrrh!

How to identify, prevent or deal naturally with canker sores

Canker sores are a discomfort that belong to the category of stomatitis: acute and painful inflammation of the oral cavity, its lining and structures. These small injuries can be a real "nightmare" for those who are prone to be affected by them, even if they are not dangerous and usually go away by themselves. The use of some natural remedies for canker sores, such as myrrh, and some simple rules may, however, help us prevent this discomfort or make it go away faster.

What are the causes of canker sores and how do they manifest?

Canker sores may affect:

  • the inside of the cheeks;
  • the intraoral surface of the lips;
  • the floor of the mouth and the middle of the tongue.

Stomatitis becomes aphthous when it shows small and painful lesions (ulcers) of a rather circular shape; their colour is bright red at the edges, while the central part is whitish to gray, because of a layer of fibrin that covers the floor.

What are the causes that lead to the appearance of canker sores? In general, it is thought that the development of canker sores is due to an immune system response. Actually the causes of the onset of canker sores can be different and are not yet completely understood; however, experts have put forward some hypotheses that have been confirmed.

The main causes of this discomfort may include viruses and bacteria, although the most likely hypothesis remains that which ascribes its onset to three main factors:

  • weak immune system;
  • excessive stress (which often causes the lowering of defences);
  • a neglected oral hygiene.

In addition, «gluten could interact directly with the oral mucosa or produce functional alterations of the immune system inside the jejunum [Editor's note: the central part of the small intestine] may act in other seats differently from coeliac disease» (J. E. Pizzorno jr, M.T. Murray, Trattato di medicina naturale, Novara 2001).

Onset and development of mouth ulcers

In their first phase, canker sores are preceded by a sense of discomfort that anticipates the formation of white blisters of a few millimetres, where fluid accumulates; once burst, they turn into small ulcers, which cause pain especially when drinking or eating (especially acidic, hot, spicy or salty foods) and when you touch them with your tongue or toothbrush.

The areas where canker sores develop more frequently are those where the mucous membrane is thinner, while they are rare where it is thicker, as the hard palate. In general, canker sores last 7 to 10 days, after which they heal without leaving marks. When canker sores affect only the oral mucosa and recur constantly in time, we are talking about recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

 4 rules to prevent canker sores

Since it is not always clear what causes mouth ulcers, it is difficult to identify the precautions to prevent their occurrence. Surely one should:

  • follow a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients;
  • maintain good oral hygiene;
  • avoid brushing the teeth using the same brush for too long;
  • drink for more than one day from the same glass.

In the last two cases, indeed, microbes tend to accumulate encouraging the development of canker sores. Moreover, note that the Department of Health in England has compiled and made available online a few useful guidelines to promote oral health and prevent oral diseases in children: among the various issues considered, we also find stomatitis, next to tooth decays.


Myrrh and 4 other effective natural remedies for canker sores

When prevention has not proved efficient and canker sores have nevertheless made their appearance,  it may however be possible to take action to mitigate the pain caused by this disease and make it heal more quickly. One of the natural remedies for canker sores most commonly used in herbal medicine is the extract of myrrh, but there are others that can give good results as well. Let's look into them together:

1) Myrrh

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) is a gum-resin formerly used as an ambient perfume or as an insecticide; today this substance is used in herbal medicine to also promote the oropharyngeal mucosa function. Not only that! The EU Commission and ESCOP (The European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy) have credited myrrh with "antiphlogistic and astringent properties valid to treat the irritation of oral mucosa (mouth ulcers, gingivitis etc.)" (E. Campanini, S. Biondo, Terapie complementari in geriatria, Milano 2011). In short, the action of myrrh on throat and mouth "is considerable: it properly heals mouth ulcers, stomatitis and the periodontal disease" (R. Tisserand, Manuale pratico di aromaterapia. Proprietà e uso terapeutico delle essenze aromatiche, Roma 2003). Some concentrated liquid extracts made from myrrh are available on the market. They can help those affected by aphthous stomatitis, to comfortably carry out gargling, and dab with a cotton swab the affected areas.

2) Tea tree

The essential oil of tea tree is extracted from the leaves of melaleuca (Melaleuca alternifolia), an Australian-born tree. The natives of the areas of origin have always used this essential oil as an antiseptic to deal with skin and mucous membrane problems. You can locally apply the essential oil on mouth ulcers using a cotton swab on which a few drops were previously shed. In fact, «on these soft tissues, besides performing an antiseptic activity, it helps alleviate irritation, gingivitis, mouth ulcers …» (C. Valnet, S. Daniel, Medicina Alternativa – La Trilogia, Edizioni R.E.I, 2014). Alternatively, you can also make your own mouthwash by diluting 10 drops of essential oil in a glass of luke water.

3) Milk of Magnesia

The milk of magnesia can be purchased in a pharmacy with the name of magnesium hydroxide. To mitigate the discomfort caused by ulcers in the mouth, you can dab, on the small wounds, a cotton swab moistened with this substance. You just have to be careful not to swallow it, as it can also have a laxative effect.

 4) Salt water or baking soda

Salt can slow the growth of bacteria and somehow "sterilise" small wounds caused by canker sores. Only we recommend not to overuse it because it can be a bit irritating. Baking soda, then, applied topically, can lower the pH level to alleviate the pain. It is advisable to dissolve a teaspoon of salt (or bicarbonate) in half a glass of warm water, which you will use to rinse your mouth.

4) Mallow

Mallow (Malva sylvestris) is a rather common and widespread plant, even by the roadside and in uncultivated areas. In herbal medicine the extract of the leaves and flowers of this plant is used, which has a soothing effect on the digestive system and the respiratory mucosa. The liquid extract, as well as taken orally, can be used for localised wraps; indeed, "the plant has an anti-inflammatory action on the mucous membranes with which it comes into direct contact [...] Therefore the indications to the traditional use of Mallow [...] are represented by gingivitis, stomatitis ...» (F. Firenzuoli, Le 100 erbe della salute, Milano 2003). It's no coincidence that a mallow wrap is among the natural remedies for canker sores most recommended by "Come stai" (How are you), a monthly magazine of Andi (National Association of Italian Dentists).


Nutrition and canker sores

Oral cavity is often the first place where nutritional deficiencies occur, given the high turnover of the mucous tissue.

Although many nutritional deficiencies (iron and vitamins, in particular) can promote the occurrence of aphthous stomatitis, the most significant cause would seem the lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine), which should be taken with food, since it cannot be stored in the body; moreover, just a few studies confirm that "nutritional deficits are much more common in those who suffer from aphthous stomatitis" (Ibid). On the other hand, a varied and balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is also effective in reducing as much as possible the occurrence of phenomena such as aphthous stomatitis!

Myrrh, from sap to balm of incorruptibility

The use of myrrh in dead body embalming, known in Greece particularly in relation to Egypt and the East, has given this gum resin many symbolic meanings. Not surprisingly, in the Gospel of John we read that Jesus Christ was buried with a "mixture of myrrh and aloes". Conversely, there is a legend about the birth of this substance, which tells that "goddess Myrrha, also known as Smyrna, daughter of Theias, king of Syria, was forced by Aphrodite to copulate with her father. She managed to escape death at the hands of this man thanks to the gods, who transformed her into a myrrh tree"(P. Telesco, Magia delle erbe, Roma 1999).







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