There is no doubt about it – aphthous ulcers – more commonly known as canker sores – can be excruciatingly painful. They are also surprisingly common; up to 20 percent of the population has, or will have, one of these troublesome mouth lesions, which can linger for up to two weeks and cause severe stinging sensations that make eating and talking difficult.
To make matters worse, doctors don’t really know what causes canker sores – although some nutrition experts believe vitamin deficiencies may be to blame in some cases – and there is no conventional ‘cure’. Prescription medications designed to relieve painful symptoms and limit the frequency of attacks do exist, but can carry serious side effects.
Is there a natural remedy for canker sores?
Once again, Mother Nature comes to the rescue – propolis, a substance made by bees, is emerging as a drug-free treatment – which can not only relieve symptoms but help to limit outbreaks of recurrent aphthous ulcers.
What exactly is propolis?
Also called bee putty and bee glue, propolis is a resinous substance used by bees to caulk, seal and secure their hives. Consisting of natural beeswax mixed with secretions from conifer trees, propolis is a natural germicide, and has been used for thousands of years by herbalists and natural healers to fight infection and speed wound healing.
Now, modern medical research is revealing the amazing beneficial effects of propolis on canker sores and dental health issues.
Naturopaths and medical authorities are impressed with propolis
Dr. Weil, M.D., a medical doctor, naturopath and leading expert on natural remedies, is sold on the therapeutic value of propolis. Noting that propolis has well-documented antibiotic and antiseptic properties, Weil endorses it as a safe and useful home remedy for canker sores.
On the conventional side, the University of Maryland Medical Center confirms the beneficial effects of propolis, and reports that it boosts the immune system and helps to fight infection. NYU Langone Medical Center notes that studies have shown that people who use propolis mouthwash after oral surgery have faster healing times. The center also confirms that test tube studies support propolis’ antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
How does propolis ease pain and prevent infections?
One key to propolis’ powers is its high levels of antioxidant flavonoids – which give it antimicrobial effects. Caffeic acid in propolis has been shown to influence epithelial function against microbes. Propolis also has natural anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.
In one animal study, a propolis extract showed an ability to reduce inflammation equivalent to that of diclofenac, a pharmaceutical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication sold under the trade name Fenac.
Has there been a clinical study specifically on propolis and canker sores?
Yes. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study published in Clinical Oral Investigation in 2007, canker sore sufferers were given either 500 milligrams of propolis per day, or a placebo. Researchers noted that 60 percent of the patients in the propolis group experienced more than 50 percent reduction in the frequency of canker sore outbreaks.
The team recommended the use of propolis to treat aphthous ulcers, and also called for larger scale studies to be conducted.
How does propolis prevent the development of cavities?
In a scientific review published in 2009 in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the authors examined numerous in vitro and in vivo studies of propolis conducted between 1978 and 2008. They concluded that propolis extracts reduced levels in saliva of Streptococcus mutans – a bacteria responsible for dental caries – while interfering with its adhesion capacity. The authors concluded that propolis is a promising cariostatic – or cavity-preventing – agent.
In addition, propolis is being investigated for its use in treating severe periodontal disease, as well as for its effectiveness as a tooth enamel hardener.
What is the best way to use propolis?
Propolis is available online and in health food stores in a wide variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gargles, tinctures, toothpastes and mouthwashes. To treat canker sores, Dr Weil advises using it in a tincture; you can also take it in capsule form, as subjects did in the clinical study.
Naturally, you should check with your doctor or dentist before using propolis to treat canker sores. Propolis is considered generally safe, but some people develop allergic reactions to it, especially after extended use. An allergy to poplar or conifer trees can make a reaction more likely, as can a predisposition to eczema.
If you experience burning, swelling, redness, or fever, stop using propolis. If you are allergic to beestings or bee products such as honey or royal jelly – don’t use it.
Bottom line – painful canker sores usually resolve without serious medical consequences, but this isn’t much comfort when you’re suffering the intense pain of these nasty little mouth ulcers. Propolis – natural, drug-free, and safe – could be just the ticket to bring blessed relief.