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Oral thrush is treated with antifungal medication, but you can also ease uncomfortable symptoms with home remedies such as salt water, yogurt, clove oil, apple cider vinegar, and more.

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 help manage bothersome symptoms with home remedies, too.

Read on to learn how you can help 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.

1. Salt water

Salt has antiseptic, cleansing, and soothing properties. This makes it a common home remedy for many oral problems.

Rinsing your mouth with salt water could help relieve symptoms of oral thrush.

To use:

  1. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in 1 cup warm water.
  2. Swish the solution throughout your mouth.
  3. 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.”

To use:

  1. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in 1 cup warm water.
  2. Swish the rinse throughout your mouth.
  3. Spit out the rinse.

3. Yogurt

Probiotic yogurt contains live, “good” bacteria cultures that may help treat oral thrush.

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.

To use:

  1. Eat yogurt a couple times daily at the first sign of oral thrush.
  2. Choose unsweetened varieties of yogurt since Candida thrives on sugar.
  3. If you don’t like yogurt, you can get the same benefits by taking a daily probiotic supplement.

4. 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. (Gentian violet is another home remedy for oral thrush, but recent evidence shows it may cause cancer.) Since the study was small, more research is needed.

To use:

  1. Add the juice of half a lemon to 1 cup warm or cool water.
  2. 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.

5. Turmeric

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.

To use:

  1. 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 filtered water or milk of your choice.
  2. Heat in a saucepan until warm.
  3. Swish the mixture throughout your mouth as you drink it.

6. 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 may work as a beneficial addition to treatment.

To use:

Take clove oil as a dietary supplement as directed by the manufacturer or your doctor. You can also make a clove mouth rinse:

  1. Steep 1 teaspoon whole ground cloves in 1 cup boiling water for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Strain the solution, keeping the liquid.
  3. Swish the liquid around your mouth.
  4. Spit out the solution.

Cloves may cause an allergic reaction or a numbing effect in the mouth in some people.

Buy clove oil here.

7. Oregano oil

Oregano oil is used to flavor foods, but it also has antimicrobial and antifungal abilities.

According to older research from 2001 conducted on mice and in vitro, oregano oil was effective against Candida albicans. Further research is needed.

To use:

  1. Combine 2 drops oregano oil with 1 cup water.
  2. Swish the mixture throughout your mouth.
  3. Spit out the solution.

Never use undiluted oregano oil orally or topically.

Buy oregano oil here.

8. Apple cider vinegar

People with dentures have a higher risk of 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.

According to a 2015 in vitro study, apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties against Candida and may be a good alternative treatment option for people with denture stomatitis.

To use:

  1. Add 1 teaspoon raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1 cup water.
  2. Swish the rinse throughout your mouth for at least 15 seconds.
  3. 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.

Buy apple cider vinegar here.

9. 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 the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, the roof of the 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 you have a compromised immune system.

Other conditions mimic oral thrush, such as oral hairy leukoplakia and lichen planus. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis before self-treating.

Since most home remedies have been researched on animals, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before trying them.

Breastfed babies with oral thrush may transmit 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 with 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 that treat 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 brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily. 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:

  • Rinse your mouth after meals and each time you use a corticosteroid inhaler.
  • Keep your dentures clean, and remove them every night.
  • Treat dry mouth.
  • If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar.
  • If you’re pregnant, treat vaginal yeast infections promptly.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. Visit Smokefree.gov to create a quit plan that will work for you.