A Holistic Approach to Herbs for Healthy Teeth and Gums
A great many herbs and natural substances promote tooth and gum health by tightening the gum tissue, promoting circulation, and removing plaque and debris from the mouth. To name just a few, these include resins such as myrrh and the anti-viral bee product, propolys, which stimulates the production of new mouth tissues, usnea, a lichen stronger than penicillin against strep and staph bacteria, bloodroot, and plantain, a common weed which eases mouth abscesses and inflammation. High-tannin-content herbs such as krameria and oak apples also enhance tooth and gum health. Hawthorn extract, used over time, tightens the gum tissue. Echinacea extract, an antimicrobial immune strengthener, fights bacteria in the mouth. Extract of aloe vera also soothes and benefits the mouth tissues. Licorice root is anti-inflammatory and antibiotic, inhibits plaque growth, and tastes pleasant, so it is often added to toothpastes and mouthwashes. The essential oils of many healing plants are naturally antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, and increase blood flow to the gums. Dental-health-enhancing essential oils include tea tree, peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus, orange, clove, cinnamon, ginger, sage, rosemary, thyme, anise and fennel, to name a few.
Many traditional cultures make natural, disposable toothbrushes and gum stimulators from the twigs or roots of healing plants. Bay, fir, juniper, eucalyptus, oak, willow, and neem-tree twigs have served this purpose, as well as the roots of marshmallow, horseradish, alfalfa, and licorice. Health-food stores often sell a rough equivalent, wooden toothpicks soaked in healing essential oils. You can even make your own by placing undyed wooden toothpicks in a glass jar and covering them with a dental-health-enhancing essential oil. Let them soak in the oil overnight, then allow them to air-dry.
To prepare a simple homemade toothpaste, mix a small amount of baking soda with just enough hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Apply this paste to the gum line, both inside and out, then place the rubber point of the gum stimulator between the teeth, and rotate in a circular motion for several seconds. Repeat this routine twice a day. Many tooth and gum problems occur when the pH inside of the mouth is too acidic, and baking soda alkalinizes the mouth. You can also add small amounts of zinc sulfate, folic acid (you can grind these to a powder in a coffee grinder or using a mortar and pestle), liquid vitamin E, one to two drops of peppermint or tea-tree essential oil, or hawthorn, echinacea, or aloe vera extracts. Experiment to find the particular mixture that best suits you. Other effective tooth powder ingredients are alum, salt, blackened eggplant, myrrh gum, turmeric, and white-oak or prickly ash bark. In some cases of severe gum disease, wrapping tooth powders in gauze and placing them in the corners of the mouth nightly has healed the condition in just a few months.
Herbal teas or extracts can replace water in your oral irrigator or serve as mouthwashes, for added benefits. Even the commercial mouthwash, Listerine contains anti-bacterial thymol, which is derived from the thyme herb. Since thymol reduces gingivitis, Listerine also works well in the oral irrigator. You can also prepare homemade mouthwashes by steeping dried herbs in vodka or apple cider vinegar. Good mouthwash herbs include cloves, coriander, dill, sage, peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, fennel, sage, basil, cardamom, parsley, ginger, blackberry leaf, calendula or chamomile flowers, echinacea or marshmallow root, mint, raspberry leaf, basil, sage, thyme, and yarrow, to name a few.
As this overview shows, you can easily enhance your tooth and gum health naturally by combining herbs with proper diet and nutrition. For further information, including specific recipes, consult the sources listed below.
- “Herbal Care of Teeth and Gums,” by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, in The Herb Quarterly, Issue 79, Summer 1998.
- “A Natural Remedy for Gingivitis, Toothaches, and Mouth Sores,” by Rudy Silva, on ezinearticles.com.
- “Herbs for Dental Health” by Christopher Hobbs L.Ac., A.H.G., on www.healthy.net.
- “Periodontal Disease” by Janet Zand L.Ac., O.M.D. on www.healthy.net.
- “Herbal Therapy in Dentistry,” by Flora Parsa Stay D.D.S., from The Complete Book of Dental Remedies.
- Beauty By Nature, by Brigitte Mars.
- Living on the Earth, by Alicia Bay Laurel.
Debbie Hart is a writer, teacher, and student of nutrition and alternative healing. She co-runs the online University of Yourself for the study of dreams and the I Ching, with Dr. Ron Masa, www.universityofyourself.com/contact.html.