Alum often appears on lists of home remedies for canker sores. It’s a longtime folk remedy and fans of the substance claim their mouth sores go away almost instantly after applying it. A number of people have used this powder since they were kids, learning about it from parents and grandparents who have used it for decades.
Information on alum for treating canker sores is strictly anecdotal, but people who have used the substance say it reduces the size of their ulcers and heals them oftentimes overnight. While not meant to be a pain reliever per se, it is an astringent and appears to help cauterize the ulcer so it will heal more quickly. It helps dry out the lesions, reduce the swelling and inflammation and decrease the size.
What is Alum
Alum Powder is a white powder used in canning and pickling as a preservative to produce crispness, and it is usually found in the spice aisle at the grocery store as well as online. The label will usually simply say “Alum” on the front. it comes in several forms; the crystallized or granular form is preferably to the fine powder, which may dissolve too quickly.
How to Apply
What most people do is dampen a cotton swab with water and dip it in a tiny bit of alum. I you want to dilute it further, mix a small amount of alum with about a teaspoon of water. Apply it to your mouth sore and leave it there for about five minutes. After applying it, try to keep the area from getting too wet with saliva. Some people like to lay on their side with the canker sore side of their face up to help prevent saliva from running into it.
Burning and Bitter?
The first thing you may feel is a sting or a burning sensation, or it could throb mightily at first before subsiding. Be aware of this and be very cautious about using too much. Alum is very bitter and tastes absolutely horrible, but most folks who try it say it’s worth it. After a few minutes, rinse your mouth. Some people like to brush their teeth afterward to more completely remove the taste, but do it gently so you don’t accidentally scrape your sore and make matters worse.
Numbs the Pain
One of the benefits of alum is that it helps numb the pain. In fact it is so good at numbing that some say you need to be careful not to bite the inside of your cheek after application. Kind of odd, seeing as it can sting so much when first applied. Anecdotally, a number of people have noted that the substance heals their mouth sores faster than anything else. They get such good pain relief that many find they can resume eating and drinking normally while their sore begins to heal, without suffering painful consequences.
Alum can also be used as a mouthwash to treat gum disease and toothaches, it you can handle the bitter taste. It’s also been used to treat other skin conditions such as eczema.
FDA-approved as a food additive, potassium-based alum is food-grade plus it’s cheap and effective. You can keep a small jar on hand and it will last for years without losing potency. It is quite inexpensive, under $5 for a four-ounce container. Keep in mind that this is a folk remedy and a suggestion only; your experience may be different from others.