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 Herbal Medicine: Herbs for Dental Health 
Herbal remedies have a long history of use for gum and tooth problems. In many traditional cultures, there are no plastic-bristle brushes, rather, the use of herbal "chewing sticks" are common. Chewing sticks are usually taken from plants, shrubs or trees with high anti-microbial activity. The ends of selected sticks are shredded and they are used to massage the gums and "floss" the teeth.

In California, the young twigs of any of a number of oaks or willows have served for chewing sticks, and are still available today.

In Traditional European Medicine, the following herbs have a long history of use for prevention and in assisting the body to heal itself in gum and tooth disorders.

Table 1 lists the categories of herbal remedies often recommended by herbalists for promoting healthy gums and teeth and for helping to reverse pathology.

Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory resins
  • Myrrh--a resin from North Africa to Arabia, warming, astringent
  • Propolis--a bee product--stimulates production of new tissue, anti-viral, useful for mouth sores and ulcers
  • Pine resin (pitch)--use as "chewing gum" when firm

  • Other Anti-microbial herbs
  • Usnea--a common lichen, stronger than penicilin against strep. and staph.
  • Bloodroot--an eastern woodlands plant--strongly inhibits plaque and decay-causing bacteria
  • Plantain--a common world-wide "weed," use it fresh for abcesses, inflammation

  • Astringents (anti-microbial, tightens tissues)

    *new research shows that tannin-rich plants can be anti-viral
  • Krameria--contains 40% tannin, combine the powder with myrrh as a dentifrice for bleeding or spongy gums
  • Oak galls (oak apples)--contain up to 50% tannins, use powder as a dentifrice
  • Tormentil & sage = use as a gargle for chronic gum inflammation

  • Immune strengtheners
  • Echinacea--gargle or rinse with the diluted tincture, activates local immunity, induces healing
  • Baptisia--antiseptic, anti-bacterial

  • Essential oils
  • Many essential-oil bearing plants are useful for stimulating the blood-flow to gums; they are also anti-bacterial. Examples: peppermint, spearmint, fennel, cinnamon, sage, thyme

  • Diet
    Despite the resistance of modern medicine to the idea that tooth and gum disease is related to diet, this idea is widely accepted among herbalists and holistically-oriented practitioners. The single most effective method of slowing or even stopping tooth decay and gum disease, besides active and consistent oral hygeine, is the elimination of refined simple sugars from the diet. These are hidden in many processed foods, which should also be limited to 5-10% of the diet at most.

    People are often of the mind that honey and fruit juice concentrates are natural sugars, and therefor do not have the side-effects of refined white sugar products. However, honey and fruit juice concentrates are highly refined products. Honey consists of sucrose and fructose--it is refined naturally by the honey bee, but it can have the same effects on the body as artificially refined sugar products. For best protection of the teeth and gums into old age, try eliminating any sweets except fresh fruit in season. After a few weeks, it becomes easy to avoid all other forms of sweets and focus on nature's whole natural fruits.

    References For Further Reading
    Wren, R.C. 1988. Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Wigan, England: Potter's Ltd.
    Felter, H.W. & J.U. Lloyd. 1898. King's American Dispensatory. Cincinnati: The Ohio Valley Co.
    Leung, A.Y. 1980. Encyclopedia of Natural Ingredients. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
    Lust, J. 1974. The Herb Book. New York: Bantam Books.Weiss, R.F. 1988. Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd.
    Weiss, R.F. 1988. Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield, England: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd.
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     About The Author
    Christopher Hobbs LAc, AHG Christopher Hobbs is a fourth generation herbalist and botanist with over 30 years experience with herbs. Founder of Native Herb Custom Extracts (now Rainbow Light Custom Extracts) and the Institute for Natural Products......more
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