Tongue Scraping: The Ayurvedic Practice That Takes (About) a Minute—and Yields Many Wellness Benefits
Jihwa prakshalana, tongue scraping, is a prominent part of an Ayurvedic self-care routine. An easy ritual that takes only a minute or so, tongue scraping can have a profound impact on your digestion and overall wellbeing.
Overnight a build-up of food, fungi, dead cells, bacteria, and other toxins forms on your tongue–which is why it is common to wake with sour breath. (In Ayurveda, toxic accumulation in the body is called ama, which can often present on the tongue and in the mouth.) The body's intention is to expel these debris, but without the proper oral hygiene the toxins can be reabsorbed into the tongue and the body, potentially causing imbalances, digestive problems, acne, and other health issues.
Gently scraping the tongue helps to remove these toxins. Studies show it also significantly helps to reduce the microbial load on the tongue and greatly improve sensation and taste. (Some experts even laud tongue scraping as a way to enhance the experience of eating and consume less food.) A separate study found that tongue scraping boasts more benefits than teeth brushing when it comes to reducing the amount of volatile sulfur compounds in the mouth, one of the main causes of bad breath.
Tongue scraping can also be a lens into what's happening in other areas of your body. A noticeable build-up of toxins, bacteria, or debris on the tongue could be a sign that something else that's out of balance in the body, such as digestive issues. It can also signify a fungal or yeast infection, poor oral health, or dry mouth. Different parts of the tongue are correlated to specific parts of the body, according to Ayurvedic practitioner, Dr. Vasant Lad. "For instance, if you see the impressions of the teeth along the margins of the tongue, this indicates intestinal absorption," Lad writes in Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. "A coating covering the tongue indicates toxins in the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine."
Incorporating tongue scraping into your routine truly takes very little effort. You can purchase one for $10 or less online (Thrive Market has an excellent copper option, which is the material traditionally recommended in Ayurveda). Get into the habit of scraping your tongue first thing in the morning before drinking or eating. Let your tongue loosely fall out of your mouth and then gently run the tongue scraper from the back of your tongue to the front. Rinse it off and repeat several times until the entire surface of the tongue has been accounted for. (Wash your scraper with warm water and soap before storing it in a dry place.)
Even after just one morning you'll likely notice a difference.