ALL ABOUT TONGUE TINGLING
I’ve talked a lot about one of my favourite morning rituals recently, but it still raises quizzical eyebrows — I know! Tongue scraping can sound like an odd thing to do, but I can’t stress the benefits enough. Think of it as tingling your tongue instead — sounds more enticing already, doesn’t it? Tingling your tongue makes it happy, and a happy tongue is the starting point to a healthy gut and body. Hear me out.
By taking good care of your tongue, you are checking in with your health daily. The health of the tongue has long been understood in many Eastern cultures (notably in Chinese medicine) to be a reflection of our overall health. So by checking in every day, you can see first hand what your tongue is telling you about your latest lifestyle habits — is it puffy? Bright red? Sore? Have your teeth caused scallop marks around the edges because it's swollen? Read this article to learn more about how to recognise a healthy tongue.
Of course we all brush our teeth morning and evening, but what about the rest of our mouths? It’s a mystery to me that Western habits don’t think to include the hygiene of the whole mouth as well, even though most people wake up with bad breath and a fuzzy tongue! If you’re wondering why this happens even though you brushed your teeth right before bed, it’s because while you sleep, your body is busy clearing out Ama (toxins), some of which ends up on the tongue as a coating that should be removed rather than re-ingested (sounds obvious when you put it that way, doesn’t it?!).
Enter tongue cleaning and oil pulling. Ayurveda teaches us that, as well as clearing Ama, tongue cleaning activates the salivary glands, which then improves digestion and the ability to taste. This means it can help you become more in touch with what your body needs, and less likely to overeat in search of flavour. It is also said to help with sore throats, sinus infections and blocked noses, as well as removing excess mucus and minor infections. Western studies have also shown that tongue scraping significantly reduces bacterial growth and consequently halitosis inside the mouth.
As for the term “tongue scraping,” don’t let it deter you! The practice is easy, gentle and feels really goooooood (although slightly ticklish) — let me walk you through it.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR TONGUE
Some people use their toothbrush to clean their tongue, which actually just moves the toxins around rather than removing them. The teeth are hard, so they require a soft brush to clean them efficiently, whereas the tongue is soft, so gently pulling a hard tongue scraper across it is the best way to clean up the coating. The best tongue scrapers are simple U-shaped pieces of metal in gold, silver, copper or stainless steel. If you can find it, copper is the ultimate, because of its antibacterial properties — I like this one, my East by West Tongue Tingler.
To use, take the two ends of the tongue scraper in each hand, stick out your tongue, and guide the arch of the tongue scraper to the back of the tongue. Gently scrape forward and down several times, rinsing the white mucus off the scraper in between. Rinse the mouth once you are done, then wash the scraper with hot water after use and store in a clean, dry place (I have a little hook by my bathroom mirror that I hang it on ready for action).
Do this first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything or start talking, which activates the saliva glands (within a few minutes of waking for maximum effectiveness). You can also clean the tongue at night if you’re unwell.
MORE REASONS TO TINGLE YOUR TONGUE!
Tongue scraping is the very first daily Ayurvedic ritual I picked up after learning Vedic meditation 8 years ago, and I waxed lyrical about it to everyone, joking that I’d rather forget my toothbrush than my tongue scraper (true!)! A stainless steel or copper one costs less than £2, and weighs nothing, so it can travel with you and will last a lifetime — plus it helps you check in with what’s going on in your body. Add to that the fact the process takes three seconds in the morning, and it's clearly a no-brainer.
Far from being a new agey fad, tongue scraping has been practised for 6,000 years. In India, children are taught to scrape their tongues like they brush their teeth — it is a very mundane practice! Although it has been largely ignored in the West throughout history, recent medical studies confirm what Ayurveda practitioners have observed for all these centuries: that tongue scraping can reduce bad breath, prevent disease and infection, and has a legitimate place in everyone’s oral hygiene habits.
You can now find a tongue scraper at any dentist’s office, but these tend to be made out of plastic, which is not as effective as copper — and more chemical. This is a step forward, though, as tongue cleaning becomes more mainstream in Western society!
Why not make tongue tingling a part of your daily routine? You’ll quickly notice the difference — everyone who tries it loves it!