Your mouth deserves natural care. Try these easy herbal remedies at home.
By Vasant Lad
Kissing, tasting, talking, laughing our mouths experience so many pleasurable activities. But they can also be a site for excruciating pain, from toothaches to gingivitis to those pesky, stress-related cold sores. Here’s the good news: Ayurveda offers simple, natural oral remedies and hygiene tips that you can try at home today. They’re easy to do and they’ll always leave a smile on your lips.
To Keep the Dentist Away
Gargle with warm sesame oil
To beautify your teeth and gums, gargle with warm, organic, unrefined sesame oil, then hold it in your mouth for one minute before expelling it. Next, apply some oil to your index finger and gently massage your gums. This whole process (the swishing and massaging) is called kavala. It can prevent cavities and soothe an impacted wisdom tooth, receding gums, and sensitive teeth.
Use a tongue scraper
In ancient ayurvedic literature, the tongue is called the organ of taste, speech, and cognition (karmendriya). Tongue scraping is called jihva nirlekhana and it provides a host of benefits. To begin with, your tongue contains hundreds of taste buds that process six different tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Gentle tongue scraping activates all of these taste buds and releases the six different tastes in your blood. (And that’s a good thing.) In addition, the tongue is associated with the thyroid, lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach, and colon. By scraping the tongue, you not only maintain a healthy mouth, but on a subtle level, you also maintain healthy viscera. Plus, jihva nirlekhana removes ama (toxins) and dead bacteria, improves the flavor of your food, reduces bad breath, and clears your mind.
So, how do you do it? Using a stainless steel tongue scraper, gently scrape the entire tongue from the back forward for 7 to 14 strokes every morning, and observe the benefits for yourself.
Use herbal toothpaste
According to ayurveda, sweet toothpastes cause a thickening of the saliva and an increase in its calcium content, which can lead to tartar formation. And too much fluoride or baking soda can erode the gums. The best toothpaste is bitter and astringent, made with herbs such as neem, triphala, cinnamon, clove, fennel, babool, and pilu. You can find herbal toothpastes online and at Indian grocery stores.
Eat sesame seeds
Problems with your teeth are often related to a deficiency of calcium, magnesium, and zinc. To compensate and to prevent future problems chew a handful of mineral-rich white sesame seeds (roasted or toasted) every morning before breakfast. Then brush your teeth with plain water so the residue of the sesame seeds can rub against your teeth, polishing and cleaning them.
Chew on licorice root
Licorice cleanses the mouth, promotes salivation, and increases secretions in the gastrointestinal tract. Chewing on licorice root will clean the mouth and cleanse the teeth, halting tooth decay.
For receding gums and sensitive teeth, moisten a soft, clean toothbrush with water and a few drops of tea tree oil. Brush your teeth. Then use a cotton swab to apply some tea tree oil to the exposed part of the gums. You can also apply tea tree oil to your dental floss to treat deep pockets of infection that your toothbrush can’t reach.
For a toothache, place a small piece of natural, edible camphor (not the synthetic kind, which is poisonous) next to the painful tooth. The saliva will mix with the camphor and will relieve the toothache. (But don’t settle for getting rid of the pain. If you have a cavity, be sure to take care of it.)
For cold sores, apply aloe vera gel or ointment directly onto the affected area. At night, take one-half teaspoon triphala (a mild ayurvedic laxative) in warm water. This will pacify systemic pitta (the fiery energetic principle responsible for cold sores) and relieve your symptoms.
For canker sores, drink one-half cup cranberry juice between meals to heal the sores and relieve any burning sensations or irritation.
For gingivitis, massage the gums with coconut oil.
For bleeding gums, drink one cup orange juice with one-half teaspoon natural sugar and a pinch of cumin.
For swollen gums, apply turmeric directly to the affected area.
To prevent cavities, eat two pinches of ground cardamom with oatmeal. Cardamom is aromatic, stimulating, and refreshing. It also kindles digestive fire, sharpens the mind, and freshens the breath.
Reading Your Tongue
According to ayurveda, different parts of the tongue correspond to different organs of the body that’s why vaidyas, or ayurvedic physicians, examine their patients’ tongues in order to diagnose imbalances. The front one-third of the tongue relates to the lungs, heart, chest, and neck; the central third relates to the liver, spleen, stomach, and pancreas; and the rear one-third area relates to the lower abdominal organs, such as the small intestine and colon. Discoloration, depressions, or elevations on these areas signify all sorts of physical, and even emotional, imbalances.
For example, if your teeth have left impressions along the margin of your tongue, you may be experiencing poor intestinal absorption. A coating that covers your entire tongue indicates toxins in the stomach or intestines. And believe it or not, a line down the middle of the tongue indicates that you’re holding emotions along your vertebral column, which can lead to stiffness in the back. So the tongue tells the tale of two “cities” the body and the mind.
Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, is a world-renowned ayurvedic physician and author. He is the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.