Plants have been used for ages throughout history for addressing a wide variety of health problems, including oral health support.
Before modern dentistry, and still to this day, native and indigenous people have relied on plants to support tooth and mouth health. A recent review of herbs used by traditional healers in Cameroon revealed a total of 52 plants used for oral issues, including toothaches, mouth sores, broken teeth, sensitivity, gingivitis, and other oral diseases .
There are many ways herbs can be used for oral care and lots of plants to choose from. Let this article serve as an informative overview of the different plants you can incorporate in your oral hygiene routine and how to best use them.
Ways to Use Herbs for Oral Health
Depending on the issue, herbs can be prepared in a variety of ways to support a person’s oral health. For example, internally you could prepare herbs as a tea, tincture, pill or syrup to provide support for an issue. This may be helpful if you are experiencing pain related to a toothache or your jaw.
Externally, you could use herbal poultices, pastes, liniments, essential oils or herbal infused oils for treating things like toothaches, sore throats or bleeding gums. An herbal wrap or external compress could be helpful in relieving pain in the neck and jaw if you experience temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. For general oral health, plants are also prepared into toothpastes, mouthwashes, or gargles, which are technically used internally but not swallowed.
Oil pulling is an ancient practice of Ayurveda considered extremely important for dental care. The term “oil pulling” simply means to swish a small amount of oil in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. It can help to maintain healthy teeth and gums through eliminating toxins from the mouth.
In Ayurveda, the entire gastrointestinal tract (GI) tract is reflected on the tongue. Swishing oil for this long first thing in the morning is said to help wake up the digestive system, as well as support oral health. Oil pulling is also known to soothe issues related to the jaw, ease neck and shoulder tension, and to have anti-aging effects for the face through moisturizing the skin and by exercising the muscles of the cheeks, mouth and jaw.
To practice oil pulling, you could use an herbal-infused oil or a plain oil like sesame, sunflower or coconut. To make a refreshing herbal-infused oil to use, you could pick one or more plants, like Mint, Cinnamon, Neem, Fennel, or any of the plants listed below in this article. Store in a cool, dry place.
When oil pulling, use approximately 2-3 teaspoons and swish it around in your mouth. You can start with simply swishing for a minute or two, and with practice, can work your way up to oil pulling for 20 minutes. After you are finished, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with warm water. Do not swallow the oil. For best results, this can be done daily after brushing your teeth.
Aromatic Plants For Oral Health
Peppermint or Spearmint are included in almost every toothpaste on the market today due to their refreshing, clean taste. But this isn’t the only reason they’re such a staple in oral care. Mint has an affinity for the nervous system, and when applied topically can also reduce pain . For this reason, Peppermint and Spearmint have been commonly used to address toothaches and cavities .
Mint can also be added to mouthwash or gargles to reduce inflammation in the gums and mucosa of the mouth, as well as relieve sore throats. If you are experiencing pain in the jaw, you can dilute Mint essential oil in a carrier oil and externally apply it to the jaw and neck.
Myrrh is a golden-red colored resin extracted from many trees of the genus Commiphora. It is astringent in quality and is said to have a soothing effect when tissues of the mouth and throat are inflamed. Myrrh has properties which are known to be antimicrobial and antiviral. It has an affinity for the “waters” of the body, the mouth, the respiratory and nervous system and has indications for laryngitis, bronchitis, colds, coughs, asthma, and sore throat.
Myrrh resin tincture can be added into a gargle or mouthwash to ease pharyngitis, tonsillitis, gingivitis and ulcers in the mouth. Topically, Myrrh resin can aid in healing cuts and wounds. Myrrh tincture can also be used to treat inflamed gums and gingivitis . This can be done by applying a few drops from the tincture to the inflamed area on the gums, and then gently moving a swab over the area.
Clove has a numbing effect on tissues and can actually be applied directly to the gums in the case of tooth pain. Clove can be ground into a paste or diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the tooth to provide temporary relief in the case of a cavity . Clove has an affinity for the plasma, marrow and nerve tissues and is said to be powerful in cleansing the lymphatic system in the case of colds and coughs . Clove is also indicated for issues such as laryngitis, pharyngitis, sore throat and asthma .
The numbing properties of Clove could also be helpful to relieve TMJ pain when used externally on the skin in a diluted essential oil preparation. Clove is pungent and warming, and can be too strong or irritating if there are heat-related issues within your body or any skin sensitivity. Another interesting way to use Clove is in the form of rock candy cough drop. This can help to soothe sore throat, cough or pain in the mouth.
Sage has been used for centuries as a remedy for common colds and coughs. In traditional medicine, Sage tea is commonly gargled to relieve sore throat and gingivitis . Sage has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-viral properties and is also known to be useful in treating tonsillitis, or any inflammatory issues related to the oral cavity .
To use Sage tea as a mouthwash or gargle, chop up 2 tablespoons of fresh leaves, or use 1 tablespoon of dried leaves, and add to 2 cups of boiling water. Cover and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Next, strain and let it cool, then swish around the tea several times per day in your mouth. If you haven’t used it within a day, discard and make a new batch if you plan to do this for several days.
Neem makes for a great addition to your herbal mouthwashes or toothpastes because of its antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. Neem is cooling in quality and commonly used in Ayurveda due to its cleansing effects. The cooling qualities of Neem help reduce inflammation or excess heat in the body, so if there are inflamed gums or sore throat, Neem could be a wonderful plant to reach for.
Neem leaves can be made into a paste or infused into an oil and applied topically if there is inflammation on the skin, such as cold sores around the mouth. Neem is extremely bitter in taste, so if you plan to add it to an herbal mouthwash, toothpaste or pulling oil, you may want to also add plants like Mint or Fennel to balance out the taste. For healthy teeth, gums, and overall oral support, Ayurveda actually recommends chewing on small Neem sticks, so if you enjoy the flavor – give it a try!
Thyme pairs well with Sage and is another classic herb to reach for in the case of colds, coughs and sore throats. Thyme is indicated for dry coughs and can be helpful in treating oral herpes, candidiasis and halitosis . Thyme has antibacterial properties that can help to stop the growth of bacteria in the oral cavity, and could potentially prevent dental infection .
Thyme can be utilized as a tea or tincture and used as a mouthwash or gargle. To use Thyme this way, it can be prepared similarly to Sage – by chopping up fresh or dried plant and infusing it in hot water. Thyme has a distinct flavor that also makes for a great addition to herbal toothpaste, mouthwashes, or to your pulling oil!
Cinnamon is warming in its nature, and has antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal qualities. It can be used topically to reduce pain and inflammation. Cinnamon has been utilized historically for its ability to preserve and stop the growth of microorganisms.
Cinnamon can help to reduce plaque from teeth, inflammation in the gums or mouth, and support overall gum and tooth health . A great way to incorporate the sweet, spicy, citrusy, woody flavor of Cinnamon into your oral care routine is to add it to an herbal mouthwash, oil, pull, toothpaste or gargle in tincture form.
Herbal Mouthwash Recipe
Making an herbal mouthwash is a simple and easy way to start experimenting with creating your own oral care products that work best for you. Here is a fun recipe to get you started!
1 cup distilled or filtered water
2 ½ tsp Myrrh tincture
2 tsp Frankincense tincture
2 tsp Spilanthes tincture
2 tsp calcium carbonate powder
1 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a clean mason jar. Put the lid on and gently shake the jar. Label it with all ingredients and the date. Store in a cool, dark place.
The resins, salt, and alcohol in the tinctures all make great natural preservatives, therefore it will have the shelf life of 1 year.
How to Use:
Pour liquid into a shot glass and swish in your mouth for 1 minute, then spit it out.
Article Written By Dawn Gibson
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*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.