Friday, June 29, 2012

One herb a day to keep your tooth woes away

If you are planning to visit Terai and especially a Tharu village, never worry to take your brush and toothpaste for your daily brushing. Enjoy the natural toothbrushes of different flavours and medicinal properties while supporting the environmental cause. Do as the Romans do in Rome – it would be better to say do as the Tharus and Madhesis do in Terai/Madhes.

I never bother to carry a tooth brush and tooth paste tube when I visit my home in the Terai. Instead, every other day I use bamboo, neem, babool, Ficus spp., Jatropha curcas, Clerodendron spp. and Achyranthes aspera (prickly chaff flower, devil’s horsewhip, Sanskrit Apamarga) twigs as natural toothbrushes. Apologies for the botanical names!

Bamboo twigs 
Almost every village in Terai has bamboos planted in the village outskirts. Probably, due to the manifold uses of bamboo – in building houses, baskets, fishing equipment, rice storage barns, mats, fencing and so on.

It’s quite simple to break off bamboo twigs. Just remember to press hard at the nodes. If you are not used to snapping off bamboo twigs, use a sharp knife. A twig of 8-10 inches length and around 1 inch diameter makes and ideal toothbrush.

Start chewing one end of the twig until it takes shape of a brush. Don’t swallow the bitter juices, just roll them around your gums and brush your teeth as per your usual schedule. When you are done with the brushing, split the twig into two parts and use them as tongue cleaners.

Neem (Azadirachtha indica)
Neem is an essential ingredient in Ayurvedic toothpastes. Just like the bamboo twig, you can choose a tender twig and with the help of a knife make a brush.

The process of chewing the twig and brushing is similar to that of a bamboo twig. The juice from the natural brush contains beneficial ingredients that kill harmful bacteria, reduce inflammation, and stop bacteria and plaque from sticking to your teeth.

As in case of bamboo brush, after cleaning the teeth the neem stick can be split in half, bent into a U-shape, and can be used as a tongue cleaner.

Babool (Acacia arabica)
Babool is another important ingredient Ayurvedic toothpastes. In the Terai, it is famous for whitening of teeth. It is called baboor in local language.

The babool twigs can be used as disposable toothbrushes after removing the thorns. The tannin present in babool is effective in whitening teeth.

Shahor (Ficus spp)
There is a commonly found tree in Terai called shahor, leaves of which are used as fodder. The shahor twigs can also be used as brushes. The brush making and brushing process is same as that of Neem.

Likewise the aerial roots of the banyan (Ficus religiosa) can also be used as disposable toothbrushes. The banyan roots have astringent properties, which not only make the teeth whiter, but also make the teeth and gums healthier.

Baghandi (Jatropha curcas)
Jatropha grows in wasteland and is used as natural fence in Terai. The small tender twigs can be used as a toothbrush to clean teeth. Jatropha juice has gum strengthening properties.

It is believed that the sap from the leaves can be rubbed onto the gums of babies to aid with teething.

Clerodendron is called Bhait in local language.
Bhait (Clerodendron spp.)
There’s a saying in Terai which identifies bhait as the second best herb to brush your teeth with, while ulta chichri or apamarga is the best for brushing.

While the plant is used as decorative plant in other parts of the world, they are found in abundance in wastelands and forests in Terai. I have seen the plant in mid-hills too.

The plant is uprooted and the stem which has many medicinal properties is used as tooth brush.

Ulta chichri (Achyranthes aspera)
As it resembles a whip with thorns, it is called devil’s horsewhip and ulta chichri (meaning thorns arranged conversely to the stem) in local language. It is called apamarga in Sanskrit and is supposed to act as a safeguard against scorpions and snakes by paralysing them. It is described as purgative, pungent, and digestive, a remedy for phlegm, inflammation of the internal organs, piles, itch, abdominal enlargements, rheumatism and for enlarged cervical glands.

Devil's horsewhip is the best natural toothbrush.
In India and Terai of Nepal, the juice is applied to relieve toothache. The stem of the plant is used as toothbrush after removing the thorns. The infusion of the twig is also used as a wash for tooth pain. Roots are said to be useful in treatment of cancer and decoction of roots is used in stomach troubles.

So isn’t it a good idea to brush your teeth everyday with a different herb? Be a part of the green movement by leaving aside your plastic toothbrush and using natural toothbrushes to brush your teeth.

1 comment:

  1. There are several roots, branches, leaves and some herbs which were traditionally used for brushing tooth. I have used Licorice roots, and it has a sweet taste which I personally find enjoyable. Licorice roots can kill the bacteria which lead to tooth decay and gum disease.