Five Reasons You May Want To Try A Tongue Scraper

File this under weird things I learned at the ashram (again), but I’m officially a tongue scrapring convert.

What’s a tongue scraper, pray tell? While many of you may know—I didn’t—it’s a simple device used to remove the bacteria and buildup that likes to set up camp on the tongue. This film, which can go from clear to thick and white, yellow, or even greenish, can also speak volumes about our health. What’s the first thing a doctor, eastern or western, usually asks to see? Exactly.

But when I told Durga, my ayurvedic consultant that I didn’t need to scrape because I brushed my tongue with a toothbrush, she shuddered, explaining that the using the same tool to clean the tongue and teeth was ill advised.

In Ayurveda, the rituals of self maintenance are very clear: there are specific ways to clean the ears, the eyes, the tongue, the nose, and all the pathways, to maintain the body’s balance. And for the tongue, it’s a scraper.

This is the one that I use, though some folks just opt for a spoon, or the plastic ones you can get at the drugstore. If you are going to try tongue scraping, follow the instructions, and by all means, be very gentle with your tongue—the last thing you want to do is hurt the thing.

Onto the benefits…

1. Better breath. While there isn’t a ton of research on tongue scrapers, clinical studies have shown that removing the bacteria, dead cells, food etc from the tongue does significantly help with bad breath. Most professionals suggest brushing the tongue to remove this stuff, the tongue scraper is just a more sophisticated tool for the same purpose.

2. Ayurveda says it removes ama. And ama is the toxic byproduct of improperly digested food. It is believed to lodge itself in the body creating blockages, but often it shows up on the tongue first. So in order to properly digest one’s next meal, you need to remove this so-called sludge from your tongue. Because then, among other things…

3. You’ll taste flavors more effectively. This is one of the most critical points for Ayurveda. Proper digestion begins with proper taste and salivation. It is believed the more you taste, the more consciously you will eat: You will appreciate the food, digest it better, hear your body when it’s full, and so on. It’s one of those simple ayurvedic prescriptions that just makes sense. Take the time, and have a clean tongue, to taste and appreciate your food.

4. It’s good for your teeth. Like tongue brushing, because tongue scraping gets rid of nasty stuff in the mouth, it’s also believed to help with general tooth and gum hygiene and health.

5. Your tongue is a diagnostic tool—so get to know it. Just like your skin, looking at your tongue can tell you a lot about your health. So a daily practice of consciously cleaning it—and not to get gross, but actually seeing what comes off of it as opposed to mindlessly brushing without really looking—puts you in direct contact with this diagnostic organ. For me, this is kind of the most important point. If you see significant change from one day to the other, you may discover which foods don’t agree with you, or maybe you can just catch an imbalance before it gets too out of wack.

How much do you think about tongue health? Is cleaning it part of your daily routine?

17 Responses to “Five Reasons You May Want To Try A Tongue Scraper”
  1. Madeleine says:

    Thanks! I’ve tried this in the past, but now I have more informed reasons to use it again!

  2. Rebecca says:

    I don’t scrape, but I brush my tongue sometimes. I notice that if I stick to vegan/raw my tongue does not need much cleaning. Same goes for my teeth, actually. I guess that relates to the ama part.

  3. Deanna says:

    I have a tongue scraper but out of convenience I’ve been using my toothbrush. I’m going to start using the tongue scraper again as to not cross contaminate things. I’ve also been looking into oil pulling but can’t fathom the thought of swishing for 15-20 mins.

  4. comagirl says:

    This is from a very old and yellowed book: In general, the tongue shows the condition of the heart and stomach. A white tongue is an early sign of stomach trouble. When the tongue cannot be stretched out straight, there is trouble in the nervous system or brain, (or when the tongue trembles). Ideally, the tongue should be pin. If it is at all red, heart trouble is present. A broken tongue also means heart trouble. However, small cracks in the tongue are normal . . . When one adopts a more balanced diet, i.e. switches from animal products to a more vegetarian diet, white or yellow moles may appear at the root of the tongue and later in the middle, and still later at the tip. We call this condition “tongue mushroom”. It is a discharge . . .

    You get the gist of it.

  5. MC says:

    any tips on where to find a good one?

  6. Amy says:

    I’ve heard someone here mention swishing with coconut oil. I’m curious to know more about that.
    And to know if anyone eats raw coconut oil daily for any health benefits (skin, hair, acne included)….

  7. Shawna says:

    This is a totally weird question… and a bit gross too…

    I read in the comments section of the coconut oil post, actually, that someone was using coconut oil to treat their yeast infections. I’ve never tried it, so I wouldn’t recommend it, but I was wondering if the same concept might work for the tongue. Often the build-up on the tongue is from a yeast overgrowth in the mouth, so could oil pulling help with that?? I have a “long” tastebuds so my tongue needs a lot of attention so it would be great to know. I’ve tried oil-pulling a few times and haven’t noticed much except for slightly whiter teeth.


  8. Sydney says:

    Does anybody know a good place to buy one? Does something make one better than another?

  9. Alexandra says:

    The best place to buy one is online a Banyan Botanicals — they’re a wonderful supplier of all things ayurvedic!

  10. Alexandra says:

    @Rebecca Totally makes sense! I’ve heard people say that when they’re on a cleanse, they know to stop when their tongue is clear. When I was on the ayurvedic retreat we ate kitcheri every day, which is totally vegan, and my tongue was perfectly pink. :)

  11. bunni says:

    a little late to the party here, but I noticed Dr Tung (ha) sells them in a 6 pack. How frequently do you need to change them?

    In regards to the oil pulling, I do it first thing, then while swishing, I do my dry skin brushing, then jump in the shower, then apply lotions, etc. By the time I am finished, voila – 15 – 20 mins have passed by!

  12. Alix says:

    I’ve used one for years. Helps with bad breath and phlegm during a cold. Whole Foods sells them.

  13. Mouse says:

    I use a plastic tongue scraper that I got from my dentist. I’ve been scraping my tongue for many years and it’s just part of my routine anytime I brush my teeth. You can see it here
    You hold an end in each hand and gently pull it forward along your tongue. Then rinse tongue gunk off scraper. Brushing my tongue with my toothbrush makes my gag reflex kick in and does not noticeably lift anything off.

  14. mangomadness says:

    I brush my teeth and tongue twice daily with a natural toothpaste (Nature’s Gate Whitening Gel Natural Toothpaste). On occasion, I follow up with a natural mouth wash (Nature’s Answer PerioWash® Alcohol-Free Mouthwash in Cool Mint).

  15. Charlotte says:

    @Amy – i use coconut oil mixed in the lemon water i drink twice a day. i have found that the coconut oil sort of moisturises my skin/makes it supple from the inside out and i get a nice glow from using it too. i think coconut oil is beneficial because it helps to kill off yeast and other bad stomach germs that contribute to acne but im not entirely sure… all i know is that my skin looks a lot better for using it!

  16. mangomadness says:

    The idea of not using the same tool to clean one teeth and tongue makes tons of sense to me. I’m gonna but Dr. Tung’s Tongue Scraper.

    Question — Should I scrape before or after brushing my teeth?

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