One of the problems with mainstream mouthwashes is that they’re a little bit too powerful. They not only “kill the germs that cause bad breath;” they kill plenty of beneficial bacteria, too, while also drying out your mouth. Over time, this can actually make bad breath even worse.
Herbal rinses can be a better option, particularly when they contain botanicals known to be effective against odor-causing bacteria. According to new research in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, licorice root may be just one of those botanicals.
The study involved 60 adults with chronic bad breath who were randomly split into two groups. One used a saline rinse, while the other used a gargle containing an extract of Glycyrrhiza uralensis, or Chinese licorice, which is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Each participant’s oral bacteria was tested before, during, and after the 5-day test period.
Bad breath was significantly reduced among those who used the licorice rinse, both immediately and at the end of the 5-day followup. Those who rinsed with saline experienced no real improvement.
“Therefore,” the authors wrote,
using a mouthwash containing safety-guaranteed natural ingredients such as G. uralensis extract instead of a chemical mouthwash that can cause adverse effects will contribute to the improvement of the oral environment by inhibiting the development of halitosis.
Of course, licorice root is hardly the only option for improving chronic bad breath naturally.
In many cases, the solution is mostly about improving hygiene – not just brushing but flossing (or otherwise cleaning between the teeth and at the gum line) and, importantly, cleaning the tongue. The tongue is a great harbor for bacteria (and viruses and fungi), with all those little papillae (bumps) they can cling to.
Also key is staying well hydrated so you produce plenty of saliva. Saliva continually bathes your teeth, protecting them from harmful bacteria (not to mention delivering important minerals to them). Drink plenty of water, but also eat lots of fresh produce each day, especially vegetables, which are high in water-content. You get the added bonus of their nutrients and fiber, plus their help in maintaining a healthy, well-balanced microbiome (in mouth and gut alike).
Eating more fermented foods and naturally nitrate-rich foods while limiting your intake of ultra-processed foods can further help maintain this balance.
There are some specific foods that can be helpful to chew to eliminate bad breath – parsley, for instance, or fennel seeds. Chewing a bit of orange or lemon rind also can be helpful.
Homemade rinses with baking soda can also make a difference. Just mix a teaspoon of baking soda into one cup of water and add a few drops of peppermint oil for taste. That will yield several doses. Just be sure NOT to swallow it.
If you find bad breath persisting despite home remedies like these, it’s time to go see a dentist who can determine if infections or other oral conditions may be fueling the problem. In some cases, certain medications and medical conditions can be the cause of chronic bad breath rather than anything dentally related.
Ultimately and as ever, the goal is to pinpoint the cause and treat that rather than simply chase after symptoms. That’s the sure path to lasting improvement and a future of better health and well-being.