We just completed our Monthly Herbal Council for January 2018. Happy New Year to You!
I so love this topic and so did many herbal students at EMS of Herbs that I wanted to offer some of the content here for daily care of our teeth and gums from an herbal healing perspective. Let's talk the plants first!
The Shiny Ones - Oral Care Medicine Plants That Stand Out
This list is not complete but is a good beginning for our time with this topic. Do add your knowledge and more favorites to this list.
Plants To Consider Here Are:
Calendula Flower, Plantain leaf and root, Echinacea Root and Leaf, Orgeon Grape Root, Goldenseal Root, Myrrh resin, Propolis, Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Fennel seed, Caraway seed, Peppermint, Spearmint, Elecampane root, Cinnamon, Blood Root, Chamomile flowers, Comfrey leaf, Yarrow leaf & flower, Eucalyptus, Neem, Clove, Horsetail, Violet leaf, Spilanthes, Oak leaf, Witch Hazel bark,...
General Hygiene & Daily Oral Detox
Most conventional toothbrushes are made with plastic nylon bristles, which scrape our teeth more so than brush. This can weaken enamel and irritate sensitive gums. Natural bristles are softer and gentler – they actually brush teeth rather than scraping them. If staying with nylon then do pick soft bristle ones. Do stay away from medium or firm brushes which harm gums and teeth. Twice a day brushing is enough, then add flossing and/or water pick use, and tongue scraping daily. These are good daily habits to be consistent with.
And like all good tenders of the hearth and home, wash your tooth brushes occasionally. Simple Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap and water rubbed between your fingers with the bristles for a few minutes, rinse well, and allow to air dry.
The fastest and easiest way to get bacteria out of your mouth is with a tongue scraper. A traditional technique in Ayurveda, tongue scraping cleans bacterial build-up (called a biofilm), food debris, fungi, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. This helps to not only clean the mouth, freshening the breath, but it also stimulates the metabolism as well for the entire map of our body is on the tongue. So we massage and stimulate healing pathways all through the body through this simple daily act of scraping our tongue. I do it morning and night but once a day is fine too.
A simple swish and swirl or 10-15 minutes a day of your favorite oil is the answer to fresher breath, whiter teeth and a toxin- free body. The practice of oil pulling literally pulls toxins from the oral cavity, which is then spit out and cleared from the body. Many research studies indicate that oil pulling reduces plaque-induced gingivitis, and the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, which is known to cause cavities. So grab a jar of coconut or neem oil from the kitchen counter, and get pulling oil. This is also great for active oral infections if you add a drop or two of essential oil of clove.
NON-TOXIC TOOTHPASTES, POWDERS & MOUTH WASHES
Toothpaste is key to maintaining good oral health, acting as an antibacterial, but what type are you choosing? We’ve chosen to commit ourselves to toxin-free living, which means detoxing our toothpaste as well. Eliminate Fluoride, Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Triclosan, Sodium Hydroxide, and other nasty chemicals. These chemicals are damaging to the body as a whole, many are endocrine disruptors as well, and can even reduce the healthy bacteria (probiotics) in the mouth. Opt for a toothpaste that uses natural antibacterial agents and breathe fresheners such as neem, licorice, eucalyptus, clove, cinnamon, and peppermint instead. Or create your own… see recipes below.
GREEN TEA, BONE BROTHS, NETTLES & SEAWEEDS
Drinking green tea and eating regular seaweeds not only protects against radiation, boosts your re-mineralization and helps you to optimize the best body weight for you while it also can improve your oral health. Research has found that the frequent consumption of green tea may help promote healthy teeth and gums, reducing periodontal disease. It is believed that green tea’s mode of action is through its high levels of the antioxidant, catechin. Previous studies have demonstrated catechin’s ability to reduce inflammation in the body, as well as the indicators of periodontal disease, thereby reducing bad bacteria in the mouth. Seaweeds provide trace minerals often missing from farmed foods in amounts we need, even with good farming practices. A little seaweed as a super food supplement is recommended even with a strict organic diet. This is true for regular consumption of bone broths to supplement deep mineral restoration of our bones from the long slow cooking of animal bones. Vegetarians and vegans can stick to lots of Nettles and seaweeds.
We’ve get beautifully focused on balancing the good bacteria in our gut with fermented foods and Kombucha and this also benefits the mouth through good immune functioning doing repair and maintenance work there too. Keep this up! The mouth needs good bacteria too, which is why taking oral probiotics part of our healthcare can be extremely beneficial, especially if cavities are a frequent occurrence. The more good bacteria you have, the more of a defense you have against the bad bacteria, reducing the incidence of inflammation and infection. I only recommend this with more severe oral disease cases. Check on-line or at your local health food store for resources.
CAMU CAMU OR VITAMIN C
In efforts to not only boost our immune system, but to keep our gums happy too, we keep up with a daily dose of vitamin C. Rather than getting it from a synthetic vitamin tablet, some are using the superfood Camu Camu. Camu Camu contains 250mg of Vitamin C per teaspoon, containing more Vitamin C than any other known botanical source. Vitamin C is needed for healthy gums, reducing the incidence of bleeding gums, gingivitis, and even periodontal disease. Camu Camu goes far beyond a healthy gum line, helping to improve immunity and the texture of the skin, while repairing and maintaining cartilage, bones, and teeth. You get to decide where the Vitamin C comes from but do consider daily doses for repair of soft tissue and bone, which includes the mouth.
TEA TREE OIL (or Peppermint, Cinnamon) FLOSS
There is just no way around it – flossing is an integral part of keeping our mouths fresh and clean, so why not add an extra bonus with plant oils that smell and taste good too. These all have natural disinfectant actions that reduce bad oral bacteria. Research indicates that tea tree oil significantly reduces gingivitis and bleeding of the gums. That white ‘stuff’ we scrape from between the teeth is a biofilm of bacteria having a good time thriving on the surfaces within our mouth. Physical gentle scraping with floss deep between the teeth is part of good oral care. Some dentists argue on whether flossing or water picking is better. We do both here.
BREATHE FRESHENING IDEAS
Chew on herbs and seeds instead of gum. I must admit, I do love a fresh pack of gum, especially when working long hours at the hospital. But most gums contain lots of different nasty chemicals that are certainly not at all good for my body. The solution? Chew on some fresh parsley, mint, fennel, or caraway seeds. These herbs help to fight odor-causing bacteria, leaving your mouth feeling fresh and clean. These also contain antibiotic properties to help fight bad breath. The best part about these spices is that they’re totally portable. Carry a small container in your purse and chew all day long.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Added to you water (1-2 tablespoons per pint) will keep your breath fresh and the bacterial film that covers the tongue and teeth during the time between cleaning to a minimum. Highly recommended for those with severe halitosis (bad breath) history. This is a start but this condition requires deep internal cleansing practices as well.
We go back and forth with a water pick and floss each day. I find that even with good flossing I still wash out food particles with the water pick, and even after using the water pick I still scrape a biofilm from between my teeth with a good floss. So I suggest both, maybe not every day but maybe sometimes. With travel I floss and oil pull because they are easier to travel with, of course. I add my herbal mouth rinse to the water pick water, 2 droppersful, to help get the herbs deeper into pockets between the teeth and around the gums.
COCONUT OIL: Trade in your teeth-whitening gel for coconut oil. If you haven’t tried oil pulling yet, I suggest you do so the first chance you get. Swishing coconut, neem, sesame, or olive oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes each day can help pull toxins from your mouth — and possibly even your whole body. It can help whiten teeth, prevent dryness of the mouth, prevent cavities, strengthen teeth, kill infection, and a whole lot more.
ACTIVATED CHARCOAL: Brush with the powder charcoal – YUP! Sounds scary but this black powder lifts stains and absorbs toxins from the enamel and mouth mucosa. Try working into your recipes for daily care if inspired.
Oral infection brewing. So now what?
Support Immune System function with increased hydration, rest, stress reduction, superfoods (seaweeds, bone broths, spirilina to name a few), and clean simple easy to digest foods, and herbs (see our list above).
Direct drip straight tincture along infected gums once per day of Echinacea root, Bloodroot, Goldenseal root, Propolis, Myrrh, or Oregon Grape Root. Have a loved one help for upper teeth by hanging your head over the edge of the bed and add a few drops along the gum line.
Daily Intensive treatments are required. Consider these:
Work on all levels as the healer.
Two Recipes to Inspire You
ELDERMOON’S HERBAL MOUTH WASH
(FROM LESSON #8 IN BIRTHING AN HERBALIST IN 13 MOONS ON-LINE COURSE - have a read through first)
This can be added you the water pick water, or straight into the mouth. 2 droppersful, which I swish around while I go about my business for 5-10 minutes and then spit out.
This is a strong yet mild tasting, and effective mouth rinse particularly for those with periodontal disease. Also helpful for toning gums tight to the teeth, for cold sores, and sensitive gums and teeth. The festering infections up around the tooth roots that cause periodontal disease have been linked to heart disease and stomach cancers. Insurance companies still won’t pay for the preventative care needed which completely disturbs me. Treating our gums is far more cost effective than treating heart disease and cancer.
I’ve made this and given the recipe out for years with great reports of great results. You begin by making a full strength tincture. When done, it has a few additions to ease the alcohol content but keep it stable and improve taste. Those with alcohol dependency issues cannot use this remedy and so I suggest salt water and baking soda gargles daily for them which work great too. We have to tend more to the openings in our body that are more susceptible to microbes from the outer world.
INGREDIENTS & DIRECTIONS:
You can bottle and use just like this or add 30 drops of Spearmint essential oil and 10 drops of Tea Tree Essential oil. Shake well and shake before each use to keep the oils dispersed well.
Taste and swish! Find the perfect bottle to pour it into and enjoy! Remember to label it.
#2 Recipe Share: HOMEMADE TOOTHPASTE
You can search the web for other recipes too. Find one you love and make it yours with a bit of tweaking. This the one I work with at the moment. This recipe will last a family of 4 for about 1 month.
1. Melt coconut oil over a very low heat until completely melted. DO NOT overheat.
2. Add clay, salt, baking soda, powdered herbs in a small wide mouth glass jar that your tooth paste will be stored in.
3. When the coconut oil is melted, add it to the jar with the rest of the ingredients; mix well, cap quick to keep your essential oils in there, and let cool completely before using.
4. To use: do NOT put your tooth brush in this jar or you will introduce bacteria and it will be most counterproductive! Instead keep a small spoon handy or a wooden popsicle stick in there so you can scoop a small amount out to your hand and then wipe your moist toothbrush into this and brush gently as usual.
Jennifer Costa, Herbalist, Teacher, BS, RN, CST, and Founder of ElderMoon School of Herbs & Earth Medicine