Krista Merwede LMT
Most of us have experienced the cleansing of a salt water rinse after a dental appointment or during times of mouth pain. The gentle swishing of the water and the abrasiveness of the salt cleanse and promote healing. This being said, there are many different herbs that you can add to your salt water-rinse to take it to another level and address the more individual challenge may be having. A good time for a salt water rinse is 3 to 5 minutes, but if you have a bit more time on your hands you may want to consider the technique of oil pulling.
Both an Ayervedic technique and traditional Western folk medicine, the technique known as oil pulling is an effective way to promote general dental health or respond to challenges in the mouth and throat. It is also known to be a good tool for supporting asthma and diabetes mellitus. It involves swishing oil or a herb-infused oil (about 1 Tablespoon), in the mouth for 5-10 minutes with the intention of addressing the deep mucous membranes. Just swish it all around your mouth, then spit it out. Aim to increase the time swishing as you get used to it, up to 20 minutes. Dr. McClure offers that the shower is an ideal setting for this procedure. Consider oil pulling with an empty stomach and follow with a salt water rinse.
As far as which oil to choose, Dr. Johnson enjoys using sesame oil while a NIHA manager prefers using coconut oil due to its antibacterial properties. Both of these oils are cold-pulled which allows them deeper penetration into the mucous membranes, and selecting organic oil is always best. You can combine different herbs within the oil and even marry different oils for a customized treatment. Some benefits of oil pulling are fresher breath, reduced plaque build-up, soothing bleeding gums, and detoxifying the mouth.
Herbs to add to Salt Water Rinse or Oil Pulling
Cayenne – Also known as Capsicum or Chili Pepper, this spicy addition to your dental regimen will surprise you with its depth. It is a pungent powder, rich in Vitamin C and volatile oils. It is a counter-irritant and an anti-inflammatory, known to have analgesic (pain relieving) properties also. Those who suffer from chronic laryngitis will benefit greatly from this herb.
Chamomile – Herbs with volatile oils often are effective for mouth health and this pretty yellow flower is no exception. A strong choice to help heal a Canker sore, its properties include anti-ulcer, wound-healing and anti-inflammatory.
Clove - A traditional resource for helping with a toothache, clove oil contains volatile oils and triterpenes that make is a potent anti-inflammatory. Like oregano, it is both antibacterial and antifungal, and it is also an antioxidant and local anesthetic.
Green Tea – An herbal veterinary friend from Pennsylvania, Dr. Laurie Dohmen, highly recommends swishing or puling with green tea for recovering from a dental procedure. She rinses all her animal patients’ mouths out with it after dental work, and points out that in humans we can also drink some of the tea to gain additional systemic effects. Traditionally this herb is a magnificent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Oregano – One of Dr. McClure’s favorites, the volatile oils and pungent, bitter principles within this herb create a great healing effect in the mouth. Both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties promote cleanliness while the strong anti-inflammatory effect is ideal for swishing to address inflammations of the mouth and throat.
Peppermint – This herb is one of my favorites for promoting good breath. The volatile oils it contains penetrate deeply to address the flora and fauna of the mouth. It is a powerful antimicrobial and is ideal for use within a mouthwash.
Krista Merwede L.M.T., has been a therapeutic massage therapist for over a decade and a Reiki Master since 2006. She customizes treatment protocols for each patient's needs and offers a myriad of massage therapy techniques (deep tissue, trigger point, craniosacral therapy, and more). Krista is currently attending Maryland University for Integrative Health's Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism program with a graduation date of August 2014. She is also a graduate of the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine's Clinical Herbalist certification program.