Most of us take pride in our daily cleansing routine but how often do you think about cleaning your tongue?
As a nutritional therapist I have always been fascinated by the ancient natural and holistic approach to physical and mental heath, Ayurveda*.
One of the practices used in Ayurveda is Jiwah Prakshalan or tongue scraping to you and me.
It involves gently grazing the tongue with the help of a u-shaped tool or a scraper to remove the debris and bad bacteria, and clear out the surface of the tongue. This is a complementary practice to brushing, flossing, and mouthwash. Toxins that accumulate due to weak metabolism or digestion also show up on the surface of the tongue. If not cleared out, these are absorbed back in the system and can lead to diseases and weak immunity. You can compare it to plaque building up on your teeth, if you leave it there too long, it will lead to decay and if not treated, eventually loss of the affected tooth.
What are the benefits of tongue scraping?
Better sense of taste. Scraping removes dead cells and other unwanted substances and creates space for taste buds to function naturally. You'll find that you'll be able to taste foods and drinks better and in a more distinguishable way.
Natural colour of the tongue. It helps the natural colour of the tongue to emerge by removing the discoloration and debris, returning the tongue to its soft pink and clean state.
Removes bad breath. At night while we sleep, bacteria gather in the mouth because the production of saliva is reduced. Tongue scraping removes these bacteria, which are responsible for creating bad breath and tooth decay.
Immunity Booster. Gradual and consistent building up of toxins weakens the immune system by putting it to work continuously against foreign bodies or bad bacteria. The tongue is one of the first lines of defence in the body. Scraping supports the healthy functioning of your body's immune system.
Better digestion. Digestion of food starts in the mouth. Enzymes present in the saliva break food down for easier digestion by the gut. When the taste buds are blocked due to the accumulated mucus on the tongue, the messaging function of their receptors conveying to the brain to activate relevant enzymes required for digestion of the food is impaired.
Taste bud activation. Active taste buds are also important for healthy digestion because they prevent a host of ailments that contribute to poor digestion and formation of toxins, which may lead to gut related disorders such as constipation. Tongue scraping ensures that the surface of the tongue is clean for taste buds to function optimally.
How to Scrape the Tongue
Stick your tongue as far out of your mouth as it will comfortably go.
Place the scraper as far back as you can without gagging.
Exert enough force that the scraper sits flat against your tongue (but not so much that it hurts - the papillae are fragile so you don't want to harm them, you simply want to remove the superficial coating).
Slowly pull it forward to the tip of your tongue.
Spit out any saliva and debris that has accumulated on your tongue, and rinse or wipe off the scraper.
Repeat several times, ensuring you have scraped the whole surface.
Rinse the mouth with warm or room temperature water - if you like, add rock salt and turmeric for additional benefits. The salt can keep the gum and throat healthier while the antibacterial properties of turmeric helps stave off infections.
Clean and rinse the scraper thoroughly with warm water.
Dos and Don’ts
Keep the scraper clean and sterilised.
Do not use it harshly on the tongue, or use too much pressure. If you experience irritation, use care as you may be scraping too vigorously. The tongue is a delicate organ and needs to be treated gently.
Use a good quality scraper. Plastic scrapers should be avoided.
Scraper should not have a sharp outline. This can injure the tongue or increase the roughness.
Do not share your scraper—consider it an extension of your toothbrush.
Do not scrape your tongue if you have a mouth sore or wound.
Which tongue scraper should I use?
Tongue scrapers come in many shapes, sizes, and materials—both plastic and metal. Since ancient times, scrapers made from silver, copper, and gold have been used for their antibacterial properties. Copper was found to be the first metallic antimicrobial agent. Studies have found that bacteria reduce by 80% on the surface with copper scraping. It also helps provide enzymes required for the healthy bacteria to thrive in the mouth and maintains the alkalinity of the tongue. Copper utensils were widely used to store water in ancient times. The significance is now proven scientifically as well. Copper ions have also been found to dissolve lymph congestion subsequently promoting smoother flow of lymph fluid in the lymphatic system, which is responsible for the body’s immune system.
For all of these reasons, and because copper is the most authentic to Ayurvedic traditions, this is the type of scraper I would personally recommend and the one I use myself.
*Originating in India, the word Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda translates to knowledge of life. Based on the idea that disease is due to an imbalance or stress in a person's consciousness, Ayurveda encourages certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit, and the environment.