In traditional medicine, the tongue is not just an organ for taste and speech. It is considered to be the microcosm of the entire body. In other words, the state of your tongue—the shape, color, coating or texture—indicates the state of your overall health. A uniform pink color, which comes from tissues called mucosa, indicates a healthy tongue.
Connection Between the Tongue and Other Body Parts
Various parts of the tongue are related to different parts of the body. For example, the front roughly one third of the tongue is related to lungs and heart organs and grief can be diagnosed from a light curve in this portion of the tongue. The tiny bulges that give the tongue a certain rough texture are called papillae, and these are covered with a thousand taste buds. These are connected to critical nerves in the brain. The central portion is connected to the pancreas, liver, spleen, and the stomach, while the back of the tongue relates to the colon and both the intestines. A quick way to know if you have slimy toxins building up in the body in the form of ama is to look at this portion of the tongue; paleness or whiteness indicates ama deposits.
Tongue and Gut Health
draws a meaningful connection between the tongue and your state of gut health. The degree and nature of the toxicity, dosha imbalances, and strength of your digestion can be easily diagnosed by analyzing its features. Any discoloration in the tongue is considered to be indicative of illness or imbalances in specific parts of the body.
- White color of the tongue reflects kapha imbalance, caused by mucus formation.
- Red or yellow-green discoloration is due to pitta imbalance.
- Vata vitiation is reflected in black or brown colors in the tongue.
- Pale colored tongue shows deficiency in rakta dhatu.
If your tongue is too dry, you may need more hydration and it could reflect dryness of rasa dhatu.
The tongue harbors both beneficial and harmful bacteria. Just like plaque is the accumulated waste in the teeth, bacteria and food particles tend to accumulate between the papillae. If these particles aren’t removed in time, they get covered with a mucus lining that can lead to persistent bad breath. So cleaning the tongue is a vital part of oral hygiene.
Ways to Clean the Tongue
There are three ways to clean the tongue:
- Brushing. Some people use the soft bristles of the brush to clean the tongue with.
- MouthWash. You can wash off the bacteria with an herbal mouth rinse, which leaves you feeling fresh and alive.
- Tongue Scraping. Recommended widely by dentists to maintain oral hygiene today, this technique has been prescribed by Ayurvedic physicians for ages. Charaka Samhita, one of the most comprehensive texts on Ayurveda mentions that scraping of the tongue removes ama or toxins, bad breath, and tastelessness in the oral cavity.
What is tongue scraping?
Also known as Jiwah Prakshalan in Ayurveda, this is the practice of gently grazing the tongue with the help of a u-shaped tool or a scraper to remove the debris and bad bacteria, and clear out the surface of the tongue. This is a complementary practice to brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.
Toxins that accumulate due to weak metabolism or digestive agni also show up on the surface of the tongue. If not cleared out, they are absorbed back in the system and can lead to diseases and weak immunity.
Benefits of Tongue Scraping
- Better sense of taste. Scraping removes dead cells and other unwanted substances and creates space for taste buds to function naturally. One can experience different tastes better and in a more distinguishable way.
- Natural color of the tongue. It helps the natural color of the tongue to emerge by removing the discoloration and debris, returning the tongue to its soft pink and clean state.
- Removes bad breath. At night while we sleep, bacteria gather in the mouth because the production of saliva is reduced. Tongue scraping removes these bacteria, which are responsible for creating bad breath and tooth decay.
- Immunity Booster. Gradual and consistent building up of toxins, or ama, weakens the immune system by putting it to work continuously against foreign bodies or bad bacteria. The tongue is the first line of defense in the body. Scraping aides the healthy functioning of this immune system.
- Better digestion. Digestion of food starts in the mouth. Enzymes present in the saliva break food down for easier digestion by the gut. When the taste buds are blocked due to the accumulated mucus on the tongue, the messaging function of their receptors conveying to the brain to activate relevant enzymes required for digestion of the food is impaired.
- Taste bud activation. Active taste buds are also important for healthy digestion because they prevent a host of ailments that contribute to poor digestion and ama formation, and lead to gut related illnesses including constipation. Tongue scraping ensures that the surface of the tongue is clean for taste buds to function better.
- Activates organs. Since the tongue is connected to various organs of the body, scraping it gently activates related organs too.
How to Scrape the Tongue
- Stick your tongue as far out of your mouth as it will comfortably go.
- Place the scraper as far back as you can without gagging.
- Exert enough force that the scraper sits flat against your tongue (but not so much that it hurts).
- Slowly pull it forward to the tip of your tongue.
- Spit out any saliva and debris that has accumulated on your tongue, and rinse or wipe off the scraper.
- Repeat 7–14 times, ensuring you have scraped the whole surface.
- Rinse the mouth with warm or room temperature water. You can add rock salt and turmeric for additional benefits. The salt can keep the gum and throat healthier while the antibacterial properties of turmeric helps stave off infections.
- Clean and rinse the scraper thoroughly with warm water.
Dos and Don’ts
- Keep the scraper cleaned and sterilized.
- Do not use it harshly on the tongue, or use too much pressure. If you experience irritation, be watchful of the way you are doing it as you may be scraping too vigorously. The tongue is a delicate organ and needs to be treated gently.
- Use a good quality scraper. Plastic scrapers should be avoided.
- Scraper should not have a sharp outline. This can injure the tongue or increase the roughness.
- Do not share your scraper—consider it an extension of your toothbrush.
- Do not scrape your tongue if you have a mouth sore or wound.
Which tongue scraper is the best?
Tongue scrapers come in many shapes, sizes, and materials—both plastic and metal. Since ancient times, scrapers made from silver, copper, and gold have been used for their antibacterial properties.
Copper was found to be the first metallic antimicrobial agent. Studies have found that bacteria reduce by 80% on the surface with copper scraping. It also helps provide enzymes required for the healthy bacteria to thrive in the mouth and maintains the alkalinity of the tongue. Copper utensils were widely used to store water in ancient times. The significance is now proven scientifically as well. Copper ions have also been found to dissolve lymph congestion subsequently promoting smoother flow of lymph fluid in the lymphatic system, which is responsible for the body’s immune system.
For all of these reasons, and because copper is the most authentic to Ayurvedic traditions, it is our recommended material.
We invite you to explore what works best for you and your budget—invest in the best that you can, take care of it properly, incorporate tongue scraping into your daily routine and start enjoying its many health benefits!