Stick out your tongue and say “ahhh”.
No, really… stick out your tongue and look at it in the mirror.
What do you see? Does it look healthy and plump? Pink? Moist? Or is it cracked or has a heavy coating?
Your tongue is a window into your inner health and the science of life – a.k.a. Ayurveda – tells us your tongue mirrors your health status.
This makes your tongue an amazing tool and indicator of your health. A warm pinky-colored tongue is a sign of good overall health. If your tongue is not warm and pinky, it may be trying to tell you something. See your doctor if what you see concerns you.
Ayurveda and modern dentistry tell us the many benefits of good oral hygiene… Ayurveda adds the important practice of tongue scraping. This is a practice not to be overlooked… it takes less than 30 seconds and my favorite tongue scraper is $7.99. Find it here.
Your mouth and tongue – your entire oral cavity – are critical spaces where your external environment and your internal systems come together. It’s the space where you bring external nutrition, knowledge, experiences, and energies into your physical body.
This “gateway,” when kept clean and healthy, supports our internal system, organs, and overall wellbeing.
The Strongest Muscle in the Body
As a young child, I remember telling anyone that would listen that I knew the strongest muscle in the body was the tongue. A fun fact to share indeed… did you do the same?
To be honest, until I started to do a bit of research for this article, I think I still thought it was the strongest.
It isn’t. Different research sources have slightly varying “strongest muscle” lists, much depending on how they measure strong.
After a few very quick Google searches, the top five strongest muscle list I felt was the most accurate says the heart is the strongest, followed by the jaw, one of the calf muscles, the glute max, and the uterus (indeed, uterus, that sounds right!).
But hey, the tongue isn’t even one muscle. It’s eight… eight intertwined conglomerated muscles.
And this group of muscles doesn’t even need a bone to bond around. It’s a playful, flexible muscle group that plays a critical role… as it lengthens, straightens, and flattens … basically its Olympic-like gymnast movements… and it allows you to swallow, speak, taste, and eat.
So strongest or not, it’s a pretty awesome part of your body.
And if you are like me and can curl your tongue to make a straw-like shape, you know that is a straight-up superpower!
Anyway, I digress…
Ayurvedic Tongue Scraping Wisdom
Many years ago, I began studying and experiencing the Ayurveda lifestyle and practices at The Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. Now Chopra, and always under the brilliant guidance and wisdom of Dr. Deepak Chopra, who still remains one of my greatest teachers.
It became an annual trip I went on by myself to find space, silence, and connection with myself and other like mind souls. The practices felt so natural, each trip was filled with powerful “ah-ha” moments, and it was all so intuitive and made so much sense. I became extremely curious about everything the Ayurvedic practitioners shared and soaked it all up.
It was there I learned the true power and intelligence of the tongue. Prior to that, the main purpose of the tongue to me was for a sense of taste, talking, and impressing people with my tongue curling power.
Actually, I never really thought much about the tongue, well, besides it being the most powerful muscle.
Ayurvedic wisdom of the tongue enhanced my understanding of not only the tongue itself but the role it plays with the rest of the body, including the gastrointestinal system, the immune system, and really our overall health.
I want to share with you the importance of tongue scraping. In order for me to convince you to actually buy a tongue scraper and use it each day, I need you to understand a few key points about the power and importance of the tongue. (I promise I will keep this short and only list a few)
An Integrative Ayurvedic Tongue Scraping Ritual
We all now know the tongue is a combination of muscles. It’s one of our many internal organs – a muscular organ – loaded with taste buds that make up a critical piece of our digestive system.
It’s actually the first major organ to experience the food you eat and beverages you drink.
The thousands of tiny taste buds – what I like to call “tongue intelligence” – are located mainly on the surface of the tongue and communicate with the brain what tastes it is exposed to… sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent tastes for example.
A signal – think a small current impulse from the taste buds to the nervous system journeys to the brain to share messages that can then be communicated to the rest of the body.
Can we just pause here for a moment? Isn’t this incredible!?
For real, what you taste and experience in the mouth travels almost instantly to the brain and body to let your entire system know what’s coming! “Rapid taste reception” at its best!
Wow! Ok, so this first point of contact, the place where most of us simply experience with very little to zero thought about anything but the pleasure or displeasure of a taste, is influencing and interacting with your entire mind-body system.
This means if there is something not working well at the tongue, this can lead to different local and systemic pathologies. Not a doctor? Me either. What systemic pathologies mean in this situation is what happens in the mouth can and most likely will affect another part or whole part of the body.
(*Need to know more like I did? Head over to NIH for clinical studies. They have great research on the topic.)
In short, there is a significant number of bacteria that live on the tongue and in the mouth. The bad bacteria can have a negative impact on our taste reception and can create overall poor oral hygiene and tooth decay, and this all affects your digestive tract and beyond.
So, I am suggesting a great way and an easy ritual to help the good bacteria win in your mouth, your oral health to stay strong, and the rest of your body to benefit too.
Jihwa Prakshalana … Say What?
Does tongue scraping roll off the tongue more easily? Yeah, for me too!
Jihwa prakshalana is simply the Sanskrit word for Ayurveda’s tongue scraping practice.
“Yeah, thanks, I brush my tongue.”
Well, that’s great, but toothbrush bristles do not clean the surface of the tongue as completely as tongue scraping.
A stainless steel or copper tongue scraper does the best job at keeping your tongue clean and healthy, free of food particles, and reduces build-up and coating on the tongue, which minimizes your sense of taste.
Your senses are such beautiful gifts and powerful tools that allow you to experience the world around you. So, a clean tongue provides not only a healthier mouth but a healthier body. If you didn’t hear or see something well, would you look for a solution?
Of course, you would. Most of us simply do not realize our sense of taste has dulled, and this is perhaps one reason some of us tend to need so much salt on our food.
How do you get a clean tongue? The most effective way is daily scraping the tongue. This gets you a clear tongue and better general health.
Not to mention, with a clean tongue, we have a greater ability to taste and enjoy the perfect salty-sweet balance of a salted dark chocolate-covered cashew.
I digress again, can you blame me? I mean, the thought of salted dark chocolate! (activate mouth-watering here)
We all know that brushing, flossing, and gargling are necessary, and now you have some data to support tongue scraping.
Ayurvedic Health Benefits of Tongue Scraping
There are many reasons to tongue scrap, some perhaps less obvious, like including freshening up and keeping friends and loved ones close! No one likes a conversation filled with bad breath. Just saying!
Some more scientific health benefits include:
- Improved taste reception
- Reduced bad bacteria
- Minimized bad breath
- Supported digestive tract and overall health
- And your tongue will say “thank you”!
Are you ready to start your new daily ritual now? Remember, it only takes 30 seconds! Great!
Important Steps of This Daily Ayurvedic Ritual
- Stand in front of a mirror and stick out your tongue
- Place the scraper at the back of your tongue and pull it forward 2-3 times
- If you experience a gag reflex, don’t go so far back on the tongue
- Remember to go easy and not put too much pressure. This should not hurt
- Enough times to remove any white coating, thick coating, or “hairy tongue stuff” allowing you to expose your clear tongue!
- Rinse your tongue scraper after each pull
- Rinse your mouth and store your tongue scraper in a clean, dry place.
When you are finished, be sure to smile and enjoy the rest of your day, knowing you created a subtle shift toward better health!
The best time to tongue scrap is when you know you will actually do it! So, pick morning or evening and stick to these simple steps.
Here’s the deal, consistency is the key. Use this time to find a mindful connection with your overall health, take a peek at this powerful window into your health, be curious, and know you are making a difference in your mind-body system.
It is important to check your tongue regularly and to let it show and guide you. Let it be one messenger of your overall health. Ayurveda tells us the tongue never lies and clearly indicates if your body is accumulating toxins or if there are any other indications of health areas you should look further into.
Let me know if you give it a try and what your tongue has to say about your new practice!
Of course, if you see something that concerns you, always consult with your doctor.