The first time I heard about tongue scraping, I have to admit that I scoffed. My tongue was just fine the way it was, thank you very much. But then I was in yoga and overheard a class regular raving about his better breath and improved digestion—and he attributed it all to tongue scraping.
At first, I was sceptical. Then the yoga teacher, Lorilee Gillmore—an Ayurveda guru and owner of Phoenix-based Moksha Ayurveda—who’s been tongue scraping twice a day for almost seven years joined in on the applause, so I decided to give it a try. It’s not some new trend, after all, but an ancient Ayurvedic practice dating back some 3,000 years. I figured I had nothing to lose (well, except the buildup on my tongue).
Here’s the drill:
Use a tongue scraper (they only cost about $5 and you can usually find one at your local chemist or on Amazon) or metal spoon. Scrape from back to front 7 to 10 times first thing in the morning (even before drinking water), rinsing off the buildup in the sink. Then rinse your scraper and mouth and continue to brush and floss as usual.
Talk about instant gratification; I was hooked straight away. And real, science-backed benefits that I experienced firsthand kept me going back for more. It might sound overly dramatic, but this may be the closest thing to a magic pill I’ve ever found. Here’s why.
1. IT GOT RID OF THE GUNK
AMA is the Ayurveda term for that white coating on your tongue, a combo of bacteria and food debris. Stick your tongue out in front of the mirror and see for yourself. “It’s toxicity that’s created due to weak digestion, and if you don’t scrape it off, it’s reabsorbed into your body,” says Gillmore.
2. IT STARTED MY DAY OFF ON A HEALTHY NOTE
Kicking my morning off with a healthy habit not only gives me a major sense of accomplishment, but that positive momentum also carries me through the rest of the day. I’m more likely to eat a healthy breakfast, take my vitamins, drink more water…you get the drift. And because I tongue scrape at night, too, after I wash my face but before I brush and floss, I now spend a little more time and care on my nighttime teeth routine. It’s a win-win.
3. MY BREATH IMPROVED
We’ve all wondered at some point whether our breath is more cool mint or fire-breathing-dragon, but until there’s an app for that, all you can do is hope for the best, right? Wrong. Turns out that gunk on your tongue contains gas-emitting compounds that cause gnarly breath, and scraping it off can halt halitosis. One study found that tongue scraping was 75 percent effective at reducing bad breath culprits, even more than tooth brushing (which was only 45 percent effective).
4. MY WHOLE MOUTH FELT CLEANER
It’s not just my breath that got a makeover; tongue scraping gave me that fresh-from-the-dentist feeling from tongue to teeth to gums, and research has my back. Studies show that tongue scraping reduces levels of streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus, both plaque-causing bacteria that can lead to cavities and gum disease. No wonder I got glowing reviews on my next dental exam: better gums (check!), less plaque scraping (check!), and no cavities (check!).
5. MY TASTE BUDS GOT A MAKEOVER
Before I started tongue scraping, Gillmore assured me that food would actually taste better. The idea is that, if you clean your taste buds, they will work better. Some experts even claim it can curb your appetite since food tastes more satisfying. Now, I can’t say I lost any weight or ate less overall, but my food satisfaction did soar. All of a sudden strawberries tasted sweeter, dark chocolate richer, and sea salt saltier. Was it all in my head? Maybe, but a study in Journal of Clinical Periodontology did find that taste sensations improved after just two weeks of tongue scraping.
6. I’M MORE IN TUNE WITH MY TONGUE (AND HEALTH)
If I ever get a stomach bug, my tongue is the first to know; it turns pasty white. That’s because your tongue can act like a crystal ball to your health, tipping you off to digestive disturbances, vitamin deficiencies, infection, and even stress. “Get in tune with your tongue and you will become more in touch with your general wellbeing,” seconds Gillmore.
This article originally appeared on Rodale’s Organic Life.