Oral thrush, also called oral candidiasis, is a yeast infection of the mouth. It happens when there’s a buildup of the Candida albicans fungus in the lining of the mouth.
Oral thrush may occur in adults or children.
If you have oral thrush, you’ll need antifungal medication to clear the yeast. However, you may be able to manage bothersome symptoms with home remedies, too.
Read on to learn how you can treat the symptoms of this condition at home.
It’s important to treat oral thrush as soon as possible to contain the infection. Doctors often prescribe antifungal medications in the form of mouthwashes, pills, or lozenges.
Mild cases of oral thrush may go away on their own.
The following home remedies, used in addition to antifungal medications, may help relieve symptoms of the infection.
Salt has antiseptic, cleansing, and soothing properties. This makes it a common home remedy for many oral problems.
Rinsing your mouth with saltwater could help relieve symptoms of oral thrush.
- Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water.
- Swish the solution throughout your mouth.
- Spit out the salt solution.
2. Baking soda
Rinsing your mouth with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) may help treat oral thrush.
In a 2009 study, researchers looked at the effectiveness of sodium bicarbonate as a disinfectant of Candida albicans adhered to acrylic resin. The test was meant to simulate the daily disinfecting of dentures.
Researchers concluded that, although not the most effective form of disinfectant, baking soda was a “viable alternative.”
- Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water.
- Swish the rinse throughout your mouth.
- Spit out the rinse.
The cultures don’t kill Candida. Instead, they stop its growth. They may also help restore the proper balance of good to bad bacteria in the mouth.
Since it’s soft, yogurt is also a great food to eat if you’re having trouble swallowing due to painful mouth and throat lesions.
- Eat yogurt a couple of times daily at the first sign of oral thrush.
- Choose unsweetened varieties since Candida thrives on sugar.
- If you don’t like yogurt, you can get the same benefits by taking a daily probiotic supplement.
4. Gentian violet
Gentian violet is a synthetic, violet-colored dye with antifungal properties. It’s a common home remedy for oral thrush.
You can buy gentian violet without a prescription at most pharmacies or online.
- Apply gentian violet to the affected area with a cotton swab two or three times daily, or as directed by your doctor.
5. Lemon juice
Lemon juice is thought to have antiseptic and antifungal abilities that help it fight against the fungus that causes thrush.
According to a small 2009 study, lemon juice was found to be a more effective treatment for oral thrush than gentian violet among people with HIV. Since the study is small, more research is needed.
- Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon to 1 cup of warm or cool water.
- Drink the mixture, or use as a mouth rinse.
Some people apply lemon juice directly to thrush lesions, but the lemon’s acidity may cause burning and irritation.
Turmeric gets its vibrant yellow color from curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful compound thought to have anti-inflammatory abilities.
According to a 2010 study on mice, curcumin may treat oral thrush. The study found curcumin to be an antifungal against both albicans and non-albicans species of Candida, especially when combined with piperine.
Piperine is a compound found in black pepper that helps the body absorb turmeric. Further research is needed on humans.
- Make “golden milk” by combining 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon turmeric paste (store-bought or homemade) with a dash of black pepper and 1 cup of filtered water or milk of your choice.
- Heat in a saucepan until warm.
- Swish the mixture throughout your mouth as you drink it.
7. Clove oil
People have used clove oil as a folk remedy for oral problems for centuries. It’s still used in dentistry today as an antiseptic and pain reliever.
According to a 2005 in vivo and in vitro study on immunosuppressed rats, the main compound in clove oil (eugenol) was found to be as effective in treating oral thrush as the antifungal drug nystatin (Mycostatin).
Further research on humans is still needed, but it could work for you as a beneficial addition to your treatment.
- Take clove oil as a dietary supplement as directed by the manufacturer or your doctor.
- You can also make a clove mouth rinse by steeping 1 teaspoon of whole ground cloves in 1 cup of boiling water for at least 5 minutes.
- Strain the solution, keeping the liquid.
- Swish the liquid around your mouth.
- Spit out the solution.
Cloves may cause an allergic reaction or a numbing effect in the mouth in some people.
8. Oregano oil
Oregano oil is used to flavor foods, but it also has antimicrobial and antifungal abilities.
According to older research conducted on mice and in vitro, oregano oil was effective against Candida albicans. Further research is needed.
- Combine 2 drops of oregano oil with 1 cup of water.
- Swish the mixture throughout your mouth.
- Spit out the solution.
Never use undiluted oregano oil orally or topically.
9. Apple cider vinegar
People with dentures have a higher risk of getting oral thrush. Dentures that don’t fit properly or that aren’t cleaned well provide the ideal environment for Candida to thrive. This may cause a condition similar to thrush called denture stomatitis.
- Add 1 teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water.
- Swish the rinse throughout your mouth for at least 15 seconds.
- Spit out the mixture.
Some natural health professionals recommend rinsing with undiluted apple cider vinegar, but this may cause a painful burning sensation in your mouth.
10. Vitamin C
Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) is necessary for proper immune system function. It does this by encouraging white blood cell production, which helps protect your body against infection.
It also helps these cells function more effectively and protects them against harmful molecules.
A healthy immune system helps bring balance back to your body. Increasing your intake of vitamin C if you’re deficient may help boost your body’s ability to beat the infection.
Oral thrush almost always causes symptoms, although they range in severity and duration.
Common symptoms are:
- raised white lesions that resemble cottage cheese on your tongue, inner cheeks, gums, the roof of your mouth, and tonsils
- mouth redness or soreness
- mouth bleeding
- loss of taste
- feeling like your mouth is full of cotton
- difficulty eating and swallowing if lesions spread to your throat or esophagus
For most people, oral thrush isn’t a serious problem. If your immune system is compromised, however, it may spread and become a systemic infection.
Contact your doctor right away at the first signs of oral thrush if your immune system is weak.
Since most home remedies have been researched on animals — not humans — it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before trying them.
Breastfed babies with oral thrush may spread the infection to their mother’s breasts. If you’re breastfeeding and develop redness around your nipples or pain, see your doctor.
Many home remedies aren’t appropriate for infants and children. Talk to your pediatrician before using.
Home remedies for oral thrush may help relieve symptoms, but they won’t cure the yeast infection.
Home remedies are meant to support — not replace — antifungal medications in the treatment of oral thrush. You may still need an antifungal to get rid of the Candida fungus entirely.
Once you’ve eliminated oral thrush, you can reduce your risk of getting it again by using proper oral hygiene techniques. Brush and floss your teeth twice daily, and replace your toothbrush to prevent reinfection.
To help prevent Candida yeast from taking up residence in your mouth or other areas of your body, follow these tips: