Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on January 29, 2011 by Paulina Nelega, RH
If you’ve ever had a bout of bad breath, or “halitosis” as it’s called in the medical community, you know how distressing it can be… trying to talk without getting too near to anyone, or avoiding breathing directly towards them. Perhaps even worse is not knowing you’ve got it ‘till it’s too late… hmm, why is everyone discreetly edging away from me…
The most common reason for bad breath is bacteria. What may surprise you, though, is that it’s not the bacteria around your teeth or under your gum line that’s the major source. It’s the bacteria on our tongue. These bacteria end up metabolizing food debris, old cells, and the mucous that drips down from the back of our nose. Because most of these bacteria are anaerobic (they don’t require oxygen), they produce particularly foul-smelling byproducts and gases. Other causes of bad breath arising from the mouth include poor oral hygiene, faulty dental work, abscesses or other infections, and gum disease. Food odors can, of course, also contribute. Certain other conditions can also cause breath odor, such as diabetes, but there will usually be other tell-tale symptoms present.
So, along with regular brushing and flossing, it’s equally important to keep your tongue clean. To this end, you can either use your toothbrush or, better, a device designed specifically for this purpose, called a tongue cleaner or tongue scraper. In the ancient Indian tradition of Ayurveda, tongue cleaning is included in the daily hygiene regime to remove ‘Ama,’ or toxic wastes.
Here’s an easy, inexpensive, and effective natural mouthwash that can be prepared at home:
• Put 1/4 cup of warm water into a small glass bottle that has a fitted lid/cap (so you can shake it). Must be glass, not plastic.
• Add 2 drops of either Tea Tree, Lemon Tea Tree, Peppermint, Spearmint, or Fennel essential oil (or a combination of any two of these)
• Add 1 drop of Myrrh essential oil (optional) – Myrrh is especially helpful with bleeding gums
Put the cap on and give it a vigorous shake to disperse the essentials oils evenly. Pour into a glass and rinse your mouth, swishing it around for 1-2 minutes before spitting out. You can make your mouthwash up fresh each time, or, if you prefer, prepare a few days worth at a time and keep in the refrigerator.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan