Before modern medicine rolled out convenience products, simple herbs and spices aided in oral health and treatment of dental problems. From regular cleaning to dealing with deep-rooted problems, the fifteen ingredients below were used all over the world and throughout history as antiseptics, anesthetics, and pain relievers. Their legacy continues today and often measure up to the on-market options.
Cinnamon usually wafts memories of Christmas or decadent desserts to mind. However, this aromatic spice is rich in calcium, making it a great way to strengthen the teeth and jaw. Cinnamon is also anti-microbial and a mild pain reliever.
In times past, it’s been utilized to numb teeth and gums, and to help with teething toddlers. It was listed in the 1834 medicine inventory of the Maryland’s Homewood House, built by one of the U.S. founding fathers. You can buy the powder (used in most recipes) or get oil drops, both of which come from the inner bark of the plant. Two common recipes are used for gum health and teeth cleaning. The first is mixing honey and cinnamon and rubbing it on the gums. The second is as simple as seeping cinnamon sticks in warm water and drinking.
Cloves is a staple among Indian households, to treat a multitude of common ailments including headaches and asthma. Like cinnamon, it contains a natural anti-septic called eugenol. It also battles fungal infections and relieves pain at an elevated level compared to cinnamon.
You can find clove oil in major drugstores labeled to cure toothaches with just a few drops to the infected tooth cavity. A 2006 Journal of Dentistry study found that clove oil numbs oral pain compared to Benzocaine, the active ingredient of Orajel. A homemade clove gel is equivalent to 20% concentrated benzocaine gel.
Coriander’s historic influence dates back to ancient China, where it was known as Chinese parsley. Today, the plant leaves used in American kitchens are called cilantro. Its anti-bacterial tendencies made it perfect to clean out and initiate healing for mouth ulcers and infections. If you’re suffering from open oral sores, boil one teaspoon of coriander seeds in one cup of water and gargle 3-4 times daily.
Goldenseal herb was medicinally used by Native Americans for stomach and liver problems. It grows wild in North America, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The compound Bererine in goldenseal is anti-bacterial, -viral, and -fungal. Goldenseal is believed to fire up the immune system, fights gingivitis, and is an astringent so it tightens up loose gum tissue.
Goldenseal tea is a divine mouth rinse or throat gargle for oral sores, a sore throat, or cough. Alternately, swishing half an ounce of goldenseal oil around your mouth for about three minutes and then swallowing freshens mouth, boosts immunities, and destroys any digestive intruders. If you have a specific spot of inflamed gums, apply five drops of goldenseal extract on some gauze and lightly press against the inflicted area. It should heal within five nights.
Green tea has been touted as an energy-giving, super healthy option for daily drinks. The benefits it offer the mouth are often overlooked. The antioxidants, bacteria battling catechins, and other micro nutrients in green tea fortify tooth structures, whitens teeth (opposite of what you’d think, huh?), keeps breathe fresh, and dissolves plaque. Decaffeinated green tea still has these compounds, and thus, the oral benefits. So consider an unsweetened cup or two each morning. Trust me; anyone who has to speak with you will thank you for it.
Licorice root has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, and is supported by the American Dental Association as an herb that inhibits plaque build-up and gum disease. You can do so by simply chewing on a root or drinking steeped dried root and drinking 3 times daily, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties can also treat canker sores and oral ulcers.
Myrrh is best known for its part in the Christian Christmas story as one of the gifts brought to baby Jesus. The ancient herb has been used since before that historical time for a lot of medicinal purposes such as inflamed or loosening gums, canker sores, throat and nasal infections, and breathing issues. Adding myrrh oil to warm water and using as a mouth rinse is the best way to alleviate bacteria and maintain good dental hygiene.
The entire anatomy of Neem (roots, stem, bark, and fruit) is esteemed in Ayurvedic practice. Ancient people of India and its surrounding regions chewed on neem twigs or rubbed them over teeth and gums to prevent tooth rot and reduce inflammation.
Though the ADA hasn’t acknowledged Neem for oral health, many homeopathic practitioners consider its antibacterial, astringent, and antiseptic properties as a great way to maintain dental sanitation or deal with problems such as gingivitis and periodontal pockets. Neem powder can be mixed into your toothpaste and used regularly, or you can order neem-based toothpaste online.
Nutmeg is more than an eggnog topper or ingredient in sweet breads. This mellow spice contains the same eugenol as cloves and cinnamon, so it works against plaque and bad breath. IN addition, the eugenol can ease swollen gums or tender teeth. To do so, simply rub nutmeg oil on the sore area or seep a cup of warm nutmeg tea and drink it.
Like all other common cooking herbs, sage lends its antibacterial properties to your mouth. It battles plaque to prevent and cure damage from tooth decay, and can help clean out oral sores. Brewing a cup of sage tea and rinsing your mouth with it is a cheap and easy way keep your mouth, and thus body, healthy.
In most major surgeries or medical situations, saline is used to keep things sterile. Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water is the same idea. The salt water will break up any food stuck in between teeth and kill any bacteria that may be causing damage. It is also a great way to ease pain and reduce inflammation from infection of the gums.
Thyme contains the antiseptic and anti-fungal micro-compound called thymol, that can help with gum troubles and tooth decay. Thymol is one of (and one of the best) ingredients in commercial mouthwashes such as Listerine® as well as in a plethora of natural household cleaners, so you know it has the research backing up its effectiveness.
This isn’t a joke, a toothache tree exists! This aromatic shrub of Northern America also goes by the name angelica tree, prickly ash, or Suter berry. Native Americans chewed on the bark to relieve their toothaches similarly to the way neem was used in ancient India. The numbing it triggers is profound, and induces salivating to clean the mouth and prevent tooth rot. It’s also effective for stomach disorders, rheumatic problems, skin infections, sore throats and coughs.
This brightly colored spice used in Middle-East and Indian dishes boasts more than a strong, unique flavor. Its anti-bacterial and anti-inflamatory properties are more pronounced than other herbs mentioned above. For centuries, it was used in Ayurvedic in tooth and gum care rub. The paste combined 1 teaspoon of turmeric with half a teaspoon of salt and just enough mustard oil to get a wet consistency. They encouraged applying it twice daily, or packing it against an infected or inflamed area to reduce pain and bacterial growth.
White Oak Bark Powder
White Oak Bark Powder is an astringent which contains tannins; micro compounds that help tighten damaged gums against the teeth. White oak bark powder used regularly can also retain the elasticity of the gums, and contains large doses of minerals that will strengthen teeth structure and jaw bone. Past dental damage cases show a significant healing of the tendons below the gum surface that attach them to teeth within two months of regularly applying powder.
A Lot of Options
Fifteen may seem like an extreme list, especially since a lot of the herbs properties overlap. The key to offering you so many options is so that you can figure out what works best for your dental routine. Flavor and texture preferences, as well as personal experimentation will help you decide the best choices for your mouth. Don’t be afraid to mix and match herbs or spices that have corresponding benefits. If you don’t have much sage, pair it with thyme or nutmeg to stretch the cleansing and healing power they provide. Or opt for a single type of rinse once you’ve done your daily brushing. However you choose to use the information, I know that if you do, your visit to me with be that much more enjoyable. I’ll be able to look at you through my tiny dentist glasses at your next visit and say you’ve done right by your mouth.