By Dylan Smith on July 9, 2014
Jihwa Prakshalana (tongue scraping) has been an important part of the Ayurvedic daily routine for maintaining oral and general health for thousands of years. Tongue scraping is a method of cleaning the tongue to remove any coating, mucous and other debris that may have accumulated overnight. This is most easily achieved using a well designed tongue scraper or cleaner, commonly made from stainless steel, silver or copper. If you are not scraping your tongue in the mornings, please read on so I can convince you to perform this simple yet essential ritual.
Why Do It?
Do you have bad/morning breath or a white/colored coating on your tongue? If you haven’t checked, have a look in the mirror and you will probably notice this.
Ama and Oral Bacteria
While brushing and flossing remove bacteria from the teeth and gums, it is the forgotten bacteria living on our tongues that can cause bad breath and even interfere with our sense of taste. Nearly 50% of our oral bacteria live in the deep crevices of the tongue, and are a major source of bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. The coating provides a base for the microbes to grow on, removing the coating is vital to killing this bacteria.
This toxic residue comes from all over the body. During sleep when the body is resting, the digestive system works to detoxify itself. These toxins (ama) are deposited on the surface of the tongue via the internal excretory channels and are responsible for the coating usually seen on the tongue first thing in the morning. The coating may be yellow, white, black or bluish in colour. 40% of toxins from the day before will come up on your tongue the following day, brought in from the respiratory system, digestive system and nervous system.
If the tongue is not scraped, various types of digestive and respiratory problems can result from continued reabsorption of these waste products. According to the traditional Ayurvedic textCharaka Samhita:
The dirt which is collected at the root of the tongue creates obstructions in respiration and produces a foul smell; hence one should scrape one’s tongue.
– Caraka Samhita, Sutrasthana, V, 75.
By removing this coating using a tongue scraper, the tongue’s pores and taste buds open, allowing it to function efficiently. When our taste buds become blocked we are unable to recognize the taste of food, and the receptors in our tongue become unable to convey the right message to the brain. This confuses our sense of taste and causes false cravings and desires which can be detrimental by depriving the body of specific necessary nutrients.
How to scrape your tongue:
- Get the right tongue scraper! Dental research has found that using a tongue scraper is many times more effective at removing bacteria from the tongue than a toothbrush. Brushing the tongue will loosen and move any debris around, but is not an efficient or effective way of removing the deposits from your tongue. The sweeping action of a tongue scraper will collect the waste deposits in its U bend allowing them to be rinsed away under the tap. Tongue scraper’s are U-shaped, commonly made from stainless steel, silver or copper. The minerals in these metals also induce rejuvenative qualities onto your tongue and whole body.
- Brush and floss your teeth. This needs to be done first as some toxins from your teeth and gums will fall onto your tongue.
- Hold the tongue scraper gently in both hands. Open your mouth and place the curved part as far back on the tongue as is comfortable without gagging.
- Gently pull the scraper forward over the surface of the tongue to the tip of the tongue. Do this a few times.
- Rinse the debris off the scraper under a running tap. Repeat this (scraping then rinse) for 4 or 5 times.
- Do the same for a few times on the sides of the tongue.
- Stick your finger down your throat to initiate gag reflux till some deep seated mucous at the back of the throat comes onto your tongue. *(Optional for further benefit, more suitable for people who have been scraping comfortably for a while).
- Again do some scrapings on the center of tongue.
- When finished, thoroughly rinse the tongue scraper under running water and hang to dry.
- Rinse your mouth with water.
This should ideally be done within the first 3 minutes of waking. After that comes Dosha Gati, the moment the bodily intelligences fall into action. The body’s metabolism will start working and the toxic residue will begin to reabsorb back into various organs and channels. If you wake up at anytime after 3am to go the the toilet and plan to go back into bed after, brush your teeth and scrape your tongue while you are up, before the toxins in your mouth move back into your body!
Tongue scraping is essential for everyone, but especially for people who are consuming toxic food/substances (alcohol, drugs, processed foods). If you feel your body is full of toxins from such substances, you will definitely note a substantial difference, feeling cleaner and healthier as you follow this practice.
Daily tongue scraping helps improve digestion by activating saliva production and stoking the agni, (your digestive fire), for the day ahead. A healthy tongue will look clean, and be pinkish in colour. With continued daily use you will find your overall health improving.
- Do not use if the tongue has ulcers, bleeding or other medical problems exist on the tongue.
- When using, do not apply excessive pressure on the tongue.
- Children should be supervised by an adult. Not recommended for children under 5.
- For hygienic reasons, tongue scrapers should not be shared.