The Ayurvedic Practice of Tongue Scraping to Eliminate Gunk and Funk
For most people, oral hygiene equates to brushing their teeth twice daily. Those who go above and beyond maybe also floss and gargle with mouthwash, taking care of the teeth and gums. But what about the forgotten tongue? Given that it takes up half the space in the mouth- let alone the fact that it enables us to enjoy the taste of food- doesn’t it also deserve some attention?
Considering the tongue is one of the body’s several detoxification paths, keeping it clean is just as important as brushing one’s teeth. Using a tongue scraper is part of the daily routine that Ayurveda has advised for over 5,000 years to remove toxic gunk, bacterias that cause tooth decay, and bad breath- with results that are not those of folklore, but scientifically proven.
When you wake up in the morning take a look at your tongue in the mirror. It’s one of the main diagnostic tools used in Ayurveda because it can tell you what’s going on with digestion even before any changes manifest in your bowels. If you notice a thick, excessive, unpleasant tasting coating on your tongue, there is ama in your digestive tract- a poisonous residue of undigested food, showing that your digestion is abnormal or weak. Ayurveda considers ama to be the beginning stage of any disease.
A thin, slightly white and moist coating is normal and indicates good digestion. Whether your tongue coating is normal or excessive, you should scrape off the toxins that normally accumulate after a night of sleep.
Removal of the gunk on your tongue is done with a special tongue scraper. It’s a V-shaped, thin metal tool that costs less than $10 and will literally last a lifetime. Though Ayurveda recommends a gold, silver, or copper tongue scraper depending on your prakriti (individual constitution), stainless steel is good for all constitutions and much more affordable.
Since we should be trying to eliminate plastic in general for all of its health and earth harming impacts, plastic is not advised. Nor is a toothbrush recommended for this job. Brushing your tongue doesn’t have the same effect as a tongue scraper. It tends to relocate the bacteria or embed them in your toothbrush rather than remove them. Aggressively brushing your tongue can also irritate the taste buds. There’s really no substitute for a special tongue scraper.
Scrape your tongue every morning before brushing your teeth. Start from the back and slowly scrape it all the way to the tip, five to ten times, removing as much toxic buildup as possible. The process takes less than 10 seconds.
The tongue harbors bacteria, plaque and oral debris that the tongue scraper clears away. Studies have shown that it reduces levels of streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus- bacteria known to cause tooth decay. Research has also demonstrated that it improves bad breath better than brushing the tongue with a toothbrush.
Scraping your tongue has powerful benefits beyond detoxification. By removing any gunk and phlegm you’ll increase the power of your taste buds and improve your overall sense of taste.
Tongue scraping gently massages the internal organs that are linked to different areas of the tongue, and stimulates digestion by activating the salivary glands.
Beyond the physical body, the tongue plays a role in the pranic body- the subtle body through which our vital energy flows. Many channels that carry energy (nadis) terminate in the tongue, such as the Saraswati nadi. It ends in the root of the tongue and is said to control speech and keep the abdominal organs disease-free. Using a tongue scraper stimulates such pranic channels.
You may not need to know the scientific and pranic effects behind the practice of tongue scraping to be convinced- the fresh and clean feeling it gives can be motivation enough. Once you incorporate this practice into your daily routine, you’ll probably never go back to not using a tongue scraper. It’s cheap, quick, and just as important to oral hygiene as brushing your teeth.
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Kacera, Walter Shantree. Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis. Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 2006. Print.
Quirynen M, Avontroodt P, Soers C, Zhao H, Pauwels M, van Steenberghe D. “Impact of tongue cleansers on microbial load and taste.” J Clin Periodontol. Jul (2004); 506-10. Web. 1 Nov 2013.
Svoboda, Dr. Robert E. Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution. Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 1998. Print.