Herbal Therapy in Dentistry

An herb, botanically speaking, is any plant that lacks the woody tissue characteristic of shrubs or trees. More specifically, herbs are plants used medicinally or for their flavor or scent. Herbs with medicinal properties are a useful and effective source of treatment for various disease processes. Many drugs used in Western medical science-called allopathic medicine-have their origin in medicinal plants.

In 2735 B.C., a Chinese emperor recommended an extract from the ma huang plant (known as ephedra in the Western world) as a treatment for respiratory illness. Today, the chemical ephedrine is extracted from the plant and used as a decongestant (e.g., pseudoephedrine). Codeine, derived from opium, has long been used as an analgesic and cough suppressant.

During the Golden Age of Western herbology, which occurred from 500 B.C. to 200 A.D., Western physicians and scholars classified hundreds of plants useful in healing. By the Middle Ages, every household had an herb garden to supply it with medicines. Rhubarb was used as a laxative. Salicin, a forerunner of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), was derived from the bark of the willow tree. The tranquilizer laudanum, derived from the poppy, was later used to treat the “vapors” experienced by Victorian ladies.

By World War II, herbology was losing popularity in the West. Penicillin and other “wonder drugs” seemed to be cure-alls. And the war itself had cut off supplies of herbs from around the world. The advent of the drug industry with its synthetic medicines seemed to ring a death knoll for herbology, yet plants remain a major source of drugs today. For example, the previously mentioned ephedrine, digitalis (a heart strengthener), and vincristine (an antitumor drug) are all plant-derived.

Ironically, the same research that threatened to make herbal medicine extinct has also proven its efficacy, breathing new life into it. We now know that the peppermint used for digestive disorders since 1800 B.C. relieves nausea and vomiting by mildly anesthetizing the stomach lining. Laboratory analysis has shown that herbs contain vital vitamins, minerals, and natural chemicals that may be essential to curing a diseased body. Echinacea, for instance, is derived from the purple coneflower and was used by herbalists for centuries to fight infection. Research has shown that echinacea stimulates the production of white blood cells, thereby boosting the immune system.

Many moderns, in support of herbal therapies, believe that extracting the chemical rather than using the whole plant eliminates such active ingredients as minerals, volatile oils, bioflavonoids, and other substances that support a particular herb’s medicinal properties. Some feel that isolated or synthesized compounds may have harmful side effects because they are so concentrated.

Generally speaking, herbs are used to cleanse the blood, warm and stimulate the body, increase surface circulation, increase elimination of wastes, reduce inflammation, and calm and soothe irritation. Herbs may be used internally as pills, syrups, and infusions, or externally as poultices, plasters, and liniments. An external application of clove oil, for instance, will stop the pain of toothache, as will tincture of hops. Herbs are commonly used as additives to bath water-either full body baths or baths for the foot, eye, or face. Moist herbal wraps, either hot or cold, can be used on specific affected parts of the body. These wraps are especially effective for sore, tense muscles such as those in the neck, shoulders, back, or jaw when temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) is present.

Herbs, which are powerful healing agents, must be used appropriately. Always know what you are taking. Keep in mind that not all plant life is beneficial. Certain herbs may be toxic, especially when used over a long period of time or in too great amounts. Herbs contain active ingredients that may interact negatively with prescribed medications or other remedies. It is wise, therefore, to consult a health-care professional in situations in which you question the appropriateness of the herb or its interaction with other remedies. Also note that the herbal recommendations found in Part Two are for adults, not children.

The herbs most commonly used for dental problems are described below. Specific advice on the use of these herbs for various conditions can be found in Part Two. Directions for preparing various herbal remedies can be found under Using Herbs in Part Three.


Also known as buffalo herb, alfalfa grows in dry fields, in sandy wastes, and along some roadsides. It reaches a height of one to two feet and has bluish flowers from June through August. The leaves, petals, flowers, and sprouts are commonly used to treat stomach and blood disorders. One of the richest sources of trace minerals and an antioxidant, alfalfa is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, chlorine, and vitamin K.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Alfalfa is useful in cases of hemorrhaging and fungal infections.

  • Available in liquid form, it is an excellent choice as a mineral supplement.

Aloe Vera

A native of southern Africa, the aloe vera plant has fleshy spiny-toothed leaves and red or yellow flowers It is an ingredient in many cosmetics because it heals moisturizes, and softens skin. Simply cut one of the aloe vera leaves to easily extract the soothing gel.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Aloe vera gel should not be taken internally in large quantities by those who have hemorrhoids or an] irritated colon.

  • Pregnant women should not take aloe internally.

  • Applied externally, aloe vera gel is excellent for soothing inflamed gums and sores in the mouth.


Also known as sweet fennel, anise is a native of Egypt. It grows to a height of ten or twelve inches and has light green leaves and small yellow-white flowers. The licorice-flavored seeds are used in medicine and as a flavoring.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • An anti-inflammatory herb, anise is commonly used in tea form to soothe the gums.

  • Chew fennel seeds whole to eliminate bad breath.


A small tropical American tree, annatto is a rich source of vitamins A and D-richer than cod-liver oil. The pulp of the seeds, which is used in cooking, yields a yellowish-red dye. The pulp is also used medicinally.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Apply annatto after tooth extraction or gum surgery.


A mountain plant that grows to about twenty inches in height, arnica has yellow-orange flowers that bloom in the summer. Arnica flowers are commonly used to combat fever, and to stimulate the heart, circulation, and digestive system. Arnica is also a homeopathic remedy.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Available in creams and ointments, arnica can be externally applied to relieve bruises, strains, sprains, pain, and muscle tension.

Bee Pollen

Fresh pollen obtained from bees contains amino acids, calcium, carotene, copper, enzymes, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and other chemicals and nutrients. It is effective for combating fatigue, depression, and colon disorders. Pollen has an antimicrobial effect.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • A small percentage of the population is allergic to bee pollen. Use with caution, starting with small amounts and discontinuing if a rash, wheezing, or other symptoms develop.

Black Cohosh

This tall plant, native to eastern North America, has long clusters of small white flowers. Its rhizomes and roots contain estrogenic substances, phosphorus, vitamins A and B5, and several other chemicals and nutrients. Black cohosh is commonly used to treat pain and reduce mucus levels.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Do not take black cohosh if you are pregnant or have a chronic disease.

  • Overdoses will cause nausea and vomiting.

  • Use black cohosh to relieve cramps in the jaw or neck.


A common plant that grows in almost any moist soil, burdock grows from two to six feet high and has burst The very large leaves-up to two feet long-are poisonous.

Burdock is considered an excellent blood purifier. Its roots and seeds contain a variety of chemicals and nutrients, including biotin, copper, iron, manganese, sulfur, zinc, and vitamins B1, B6, B12, and E. These plant parts are commonly used to treat skin disorders and stimulate the immune system.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Taken internally, burdock root interferes with iron absorption.

  • Burdock poultices (see Using Herbs, Application Preparation, in Part Three) are excellent for the relief of muscle tension and headaches associated with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).


A common wild plant, catnip may reach three feet in height. Its leaves are long with downy undersides, and it has clusters of pale pink, spotted flowers. The leaves have traditionally been used to treat the nerves and intestines. Catnip is excellent for calming the nervous system and controlling irritability. It contains many chemicals and nutrients, including acetic acid, manganese, phosphorus, PABA, sodium, sulfur, vitamin A, and several B vitamins.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Drink catnip tea or take in capsules to help you relax before dental treatment. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)


The pungent fruit of the Capsicum frutescens, cayenne is used to treat the heart, circulation, stomach, and kidneys. Cayenne stops both internal and external bleeding.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • When cooked, cayenne becomes an irritant.

  • Saturate cotton with oil of cayenne and place it on an aching tooth for emergency relief.


Chamomile grows in well-drained sunny soil in temperate regions everywhere. A hardy perennial that reaches a height of one foot, chamomile has daisylike blossoms. Commonly used as a nerve tonic, sleep aid, and digestive aid, chamomile is also a homeopathic remedy. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and vitamin A.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use chamomile as a poultice for pain and swelling. (See Using Herbs, Application Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Drink as a hot tea to promote relaxation. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Use as a mouthwash to soothe inflamed, irritated gums. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


The most common of weeds, chickweed is found throughout the world. Its leaves are used to soothe skin irritations.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Chickweed mouthwash soothes inflamed, irritated mouth tissues associated with oral cancer; it also helps to relieve pain from canker sores and other mouth sores. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


The dried flower buds of an East Indian evergreen tree, cloves are popularly used as a spice. They also yield a volatile oil used medicinally and in perfumes. Cloves have antiseptic, stimulant, and antiemetic (vomiting preventive) properties and are used to treat the mouth, stomach, intestines, circulation, and lungs.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Rub oil of cloves on sore gums and teeth to ease pain.

  • Chew whole cloves to diminish bad breath.


The comfrey plant grows in rich, moist areas and has prickly green leaves along its stalk, which can reach three feet in height. White flowers bloom at the top of the comfrey plant. Its leaves and roots have traditionally been used to treat the lungs, stomach, and intestines. Comfrey contains phosphorus, potassium, starch, tannins, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Do not use comfrey for longer than three months at a time as it may cause liver damage.

  • Soak a washcloth in warm comfrey tea and use as a compress (see Using Herbs, Application Preparation, in Part Three) to ease jaw tension and relieve the pain of jaw and tooth fractures or adjustments to braces.


Commonly thought of as a weed, the dandelion flowers from April to November. It has long been used to make tea and wine and is a popular seasoning in old English recipes. The leaves, roots, and tops are used to treat a variety of infernal organs and to purify blood. It also increases the production of bile and urine. Dandelion contains biotin, calcium, choline, fats, iron, magnesium, niacin, PABA, phosphorus, proteins, sulfur, zinc, and a variety of vitamins.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Dandelion is useful for treating abscesses in the mouth.

  • Use as a blood purifier.


Historically used against syphilis and gonorrhea, echinacea is a good blood cleanser. Its roots and leaves contain many enzymes, fatty acids, and polysaccharides, which are recognized as immune system stimulators. The plants also contain copper, glucose, iron, potassium, protein, sucrose, sulfur, and vitamins A, C, and E. Echinacea has antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • The alcohol used to prepare tinctures may destroy echinacea’s polysaccharides. The freeze-dried form is preferred.

  • Combined with myrrh and licorice root, echinacea is excellent for the treatment of abscesses in the mouth.


The small edible fruit of the elder-a plant that can reach twelve feet and grows in damp ground-elderberries are a rich source of vitamin C. The dark purple berries are often used to make wine or preserves and have traditionally been used to treat colic, diarrhea, rheumatism, coughs, and colds.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Prepare elderberry mouthwash (see Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three) after gum surgery or after sutures have been placed. The rinse will help tissues to heal properly, thereby preventing scars.


A tall tree native to Australia, the eucalyptus yields a powerfully antiseptic essential oil that has long been used medicinally. As its leaves have commonly been used to lower fevers, the eucalyptus is sometimes known as the “fever tree.”

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Rub eucalyptus oil on sore, inflamed gums for temporary relief.

Evening Primrose

The evening primrose, a native of North America, has four-petaled yellow flowers that open in the evening. The seeds yield an oil that contains gamma-linolenic acid, linoleic acid, and vitamin F. Evening primrose oil is used to treat skin disorders, arthritis, alcoholism, and other disorders. It also aids in weight loss and in reducing high blood pressure.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Rub evening primrose oil on sore, inflamed gums for temporary relief.


See Anise.


A plant related to the onion, garlic has a bulb that is divided into cloves. Garlic has been used for centuries to prevent and treat a variety of illnesses and to ensure longevity. Today, it is used as a natural antibiotic that is good for fighting infections caused by fungi or bacteria. It helps strengthen the immune system and is used to lower blood pressure. Garlic is also used to treat arteriosclerosis, asthma, arthritis, and digestive and circulatory problems. Garlic contains calcium, copper, germanium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamins A, B1, B2, and C, and a variety of other chemicals.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Fresh oil of garlic or raw cloves are considered the most effective forms.

  • Odorless garlic extract, sold in health-food stores under the name Kyolic, is available.


Gentian root (Gentiana lutea) is a powerful stimulant that is effective for such conditions as poor appetite and slow digestive system. Taken as a powerful tonic, gentian helps purify the blood and enhance circulation. It is also effective in fever reduction.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Those with high blood pressure and pregnant women should not take gentian.

  • The usual dose of gentian is 1 to 30 grams before meals. Overdose can cause nausea and vomiting.


There are two varieties of ginseng, one native to eastern Asia and the other native to North America. Both have small greenish flowers and a forked root. It is the root that has medicinal properties. Like the famous mandrake root, the ginseng root is shaped like a man. In China at one time, the ginseng root was believed to have almost magical qualities and was used in such quantity that it became nearly extinct. At that time, the Chinese began to import American ginseng, which is now grown commercially.

The ginseng root is used as a whole-body tonic. It promotes appetite and is used for digestive disturbances and in cases of impotence. It contains calcium, camphor, iron, starch, and vitamins A, B12, and E, along with other chemicals.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Large amounts of ginseng should not be used by elderly or weak people who have high fevers.

  • Use in a tonic to promote circulation and to help repair irritated gum tissue.


Derived from the tuber amorphophallis plant, glucomannan helps regulate blood glucose levels and aids in the removal of toxins from the colon.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Take glucomannan to eliminate toxic substances produced during digestion.

  • Do not take glucomannan along with any medications or supplements. This may interfere with the effectiveness of glucomannan’s fiber substances.


Once, this herb grew wild in the woods of eastern North America. Now, the wild form is almost extinct, but goldenseal is cultivated in shady areas with rich soil.

The yellow root-stalk has large rounded leaves. The roots and rhizomes have been popular as both internal and external remedies. Internally, they are used for all problems involving mucous membranes. Externally, they are used to help relieve open sores, inflammations, and itchy skin conditions. Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It contains biotin, calcium, chlorine, choline, fats, iron, manganese, PABA, phosphorus, potassium, starch, the B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Long-term use of goldenseal may reduce the bacterial flora in the colon.

  • When used as a toothpaste or mouthwash, goldenseal is excellent for soothing inflamed gums. (See Using Herbs, Toothpaste Preparation and Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


Native to northern temperate zones, hops are grown commercially for use in beer, bitters, and ales. Hops vines grow to eighteen feet and have conelike flowers and seedlike fruits. The leaves have three to five lobes and are deep green and very rough. The fruits and leaves are used to treat nervousness, stress, and pain. Among the chemicals and nutrients contained in hops are choline, manganese, PABA, and vitamin B6.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Prepare hops tea (see Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three) and drink as a remedy for toothache.

  • Drink hops tea to promote sleep and relaxation.


The prehistoric horsetail plant is rich in healing silica and is commonly used to reduce fever. It also has antiinflammatory properties, stops bleeding, and repairs damaged tissue.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use a horsetail mouthwash to relieve mouth and gum infections. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


A large brown seaweed, kelp contains biotin, bromine, calcium, choline, copper, iodine, PABA, potassium, a variety of B vitamins, vitamins C and E, and other chemicals and nutrients. It is used to treat the sensory nerves, goiter, ulcers, and obesity, and to protect people against the effects of radiation. Kelp is available in tablet or powder form.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • One of the richest sources of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, kelp taken daily will help ensure healthy gums and bone.

Licorice Root

Often called “the grandfather of herbs,” licorice root has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Beneficial as an anti-inflammatory for arthritic or allergic conditions, licorice root is also used as a digestive stimulant and a soothing expectorant for lung disorders, such as asthma and bronchitis. Its antibiotic properties are effective in the treatment of ulcers. There is further evidence that glycyrrhizin, the active ingredient in licorice, inhibits plaque growth and is effective against Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria associated with tooth cavity development. Sweet and flavorful, licorice is often added to toothpaste and mouthwash.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Drink licorice tea to promote a healthy immune system. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, or if you are taking digoxin-based drugs.


In the wild, lobelia is a small weed that grows abundantly in the eastern United States. The plant and its seeds have traditionally been used to treat the lungs, stomach, muscles, and circulatory system. Recently, an alkaloid in the plant (lobeline) has been used as an aid in breaking the smoking habit. In addition to the alkaloids, lobelia contains chelidonic acid, selenium, and sulfur. Lobelia aids in hormone production; it is also used as a cough suppressant and powerful relaxant.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Mix lobelia with black cohosh, skullcap, cayenne, and myrrh, and prepare as a tea. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.) Drink to ease jaw pain.


An annual herb that grows to two feet in height, the marigold has a “hairy” stem and leaves. The flowers are yellow or orange-yellow, and the fruit is semicircular with a strong, unpleasant odor. Commonly used as a homeopathic remedy (Calendula, called “the homeopathic antiseptic”), marigold flowers have been used internally as a diuretic, a stimulant, and an antispasmodic. Externally, they are used in the treatment of burns, wounds, and impetigo of the scalp.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use marigold as a mouthwash (see Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three) to help relieve ulcers, wounds, or inflamed areas, and to relax muscles associated with tension in the jaw joint and pressure from braces.


Marjoram, either sweet or wild, grows in dry pastures and at the edges of woodlands. The plants of either variety grow to approximately twenty feet, and have a pyramidal shape, faded and aromatic rose-colored flowers, and leaves with downy undersides. The flowering tips are used to flavor foods and prepare home remedies. In ancient times, marjoram was used to combat acidity and flatulence. Today, it is considered an antispasmodic, expectorant, antiseptic, and stomachic.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Prepare marjoram as tea (see Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three). Drink hot to ease headaches and relieve toothache pain.


A gum obtained from the trees and shrubs of the genus Commiphora, myrrh may be best known as one of the gifts the Wise Men brought to the Infant Jesus. Myrrh is a powerful antiseptic that has long been used to treat stomach and lung disorders.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Taken in large quantities or over a long period of time, myrrh can be toxic.

  • Myrrh helps promote healing in cases of pyorrhea. Rinse the mouth with myrrh tea and brush with the powder when gum disease exists. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Gargle with myrrh to help eliminate bad breath. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


An aromatic herb commonly used as a garnish or seasoning for food, parsley contains potassium and vitamins A and C. It is also a natural diuretic.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Chewing on a sprig of sweet, aromatic parsley will help eliminate bad breath.

  • Excessive amounts of parsley may stop milk production in nursing mothers.


This mint grows in moist, open areas to a height of three feet and has dark green, lance-shaped leaves and purple flowers. One of the oldest of household remedies, it has been used to treat the stomach, intestines, and muscles, and to improve circulation. The leaves and flowering tops are now used to treat colic, fever, convulsions, and especially nausea and diarrhea. Peppermint contains menthol, methyl acetate, tannic acid, and vitamin C.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Peppermint may interfere with iron absorption.

  • Use peppermint oil for toothache. Soak a cotton ball in the oil and place it in the cavity or rub it on the tooth.

  • Use peppermint mouthwash to relieve gum inflammation. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)

Prickly Ash

An aromatic shrub or small tree native to eastern North America, the prickly ash has prickly stems and feathery leaves. The bark has traditionally been used to treat the circulatory and digestive systems. Powdered bark is used as a poultice for wounds.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • If taken when the stomach is irritable, prickly ash may cause vomiting.

  • Use to increase the flow of saliva.

Red Clover

Used mainly as a blood purifier, the blossoms of the red clover are also helpful in treating acne, boils, and skin infections. It is also effective as a mild sedative.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • For a general calming effect, drink warm red clover tea. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Red clover mouthwash is healing for irritated, diseased gums. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • After making red clover tea, prepare an ointment from the strained blossoms and leaves. (See Using Herbs, Application Preparation, in Part Three.) Rub the ointment, which has antibiotic properties, on gums that are abscessed from disease, or sore and inflamed from root canal therapy or other dental procedures.


Sometimes referred to as sun rose, this low-growing evergreen of the genus Helianthemum loves the sun. It is helpful in reducing anxiety.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use rockrose mouthwash to soothe and heal canker sores and mouth ulcers. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Drink rockrose tea to promote relaxation. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)


Native to the Mediterranean region, this evergreen shrub is widely grown for its aromatic leaves, which are used as a seasoning, in perfume, and for medicinal purposes. Long used to treat the stomach, intestines, liver, nerves, and lungs, rosemary increases the pro- auction of bile and raises blood pressure.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Drink rosemary tea as a stimulant (see Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three); do not drink more than three cups a day.

  • Use rosemary mouthwash for the treatment of gum disease and bad breath. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


A member of the mint family, sage grows wild in fields and along roadsides. The plants have square stems that grow to eighteen inches in height. From May to June, the grayish-green evergreen leaves are accompanied by purple flowers. Revered by the Romans as a giver of life, sage was an obligatory ingredient in medicinal preparations during the Middle Ages. Today, the leaves are used to treat laryngitis, tonsillitis, and sore throats. The herb also has antiflatulent and mildly laxative properties.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Lactating women should not drink sage tea; it can interfere with production of breast milk.

  • As a mild antiseptic, this herb will help heal bleeding gums and mouth ulcers (cold sores).

  • Drink a cup of hot sage and chamomile tea to ease apprehension before dental treatment. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)


A perennial that grows to two feet in height, sanicle has finely toothed leaves and pale flowers. The seeds are contained in round burst This herb was used long ago to dissipate “evil humours,” and was considered a panacea. Today, the flowering tips and leaves-rich in tannin, resin, and essential oil-are used for their antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, stomachic, and astringent properties.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use sanicle when a powerful antioxidant is desired.

  • Use as a salve or ointment to heal septic wounds. (See Using Herbs, Application Preparation, in Part Three.)


A perennial climber with prickly stems, sarsaparilla has large leaves, red or black berries, and yellowish flowers that bloom from late spring to late summer. It was once considered an antidote against all venemous things. The roots-which contain hormones, iron, manganese, sodium, sulfur, vitamins A and D, and zinc-are now used to treat skin eruptions and arthritic conditions. Sarsaparilla tea increases the flow of urine, breaks up gas, and is a good eyewash.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Drink sarsaparilla tea to promote relaxation and to protect against harmful radiation. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three).

Shepherd’s Purse

Also known as St. John’s wort, shepherd’s purse is a very common “weed” that grows to about eighteen inches in height and has tiny white flowers. The tops are used for their astringent, diuretic, and stimulant properties. As a homeopathic remedy, it is known as Hypencum.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use the fresh tops of shepherd’s purse to help stop bleeding after tooth extraction.


An herb with clusters of two-lipped flowers, skullcap is used to treat nervous disorders, migraine headaches, rheumatism, and convulsions. It contains glycoside, iron, sugar, tannins, and vitamin E. Skullcap’s aerial parts (leaves) help relieve pain, stress, cramps, and spasms, as well as improve circulation.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Drink skullcap tea to relieve anxiety before a dental appointment. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)

Summer Savory

A hardy annual, summer savory grows to eight or nine inches in height and has small stringy roots, “hairy”

branches, and white flowers tinged with pink or lilac. Commonly used as an aromatic herb in cooking, summer savory has therapeutic properties, particularly for the stomach and bowels. The dried tops are used to treat colic, flatulence, diarrhea, poor digestion, and frayed nerves.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Soak a cotton ball with summer savvy oil and place it on a sore tooth or rub it on inflamed gums for temporary relief.

  • Drink summer savvy tea to promote relaxation. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)

Tea Tree Oil

Derived from the Australian malaluca tree, tea tree oil is used in several commercial products including mouthwash and toothpaste. It is highly antiseptic and antifungal for cuts and abrasions, as well as warts and cold sores.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Rub tea tree oil directly on cold sores to promote healing. (Apply to the area as soon as a developing cold sore starts to tingle.)

  • Rub tea tree oil directly on sore, inflamed gums for temporary relief.

  • Use tea tree oil mouthwash to soothe mouth inflammation. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


A member of the mint family, thyme grows wild in moist fields and along roadsides. It has a square, slim, woody stem that reaches about a foot in height, small leaves, and a pungent aroma. Thyme has been used since ancient times to, among other things, embalm the dead and enhance beauty. It is a powerful antiseptic (bacilli exposed to thyme essence do not survive for more than forty minutes), and the leaves and flowers are used to treat chronic respiratory problems, colds, sore throats, and the flu. Thyme contains fluorine, trace minerals, thiamine, thymol, the B-complex vitamins, and vitamins C and D.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use a salve made of thyme, myrrh, and goldenseal to treat oral herpes. (See Using Herbs, Application Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • As thyme is a uterine stimulant, therapeutic doses in any form should be avoided by pregnant women.


Violets (Clematis virginica) have been used medicinally since ancient times. Known for their sedative properties, violets are also used for a wide range of skin disorders.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Mouthwash made from violets helps relieve the pain and tenderness from sores caused by oral cancer. It is also helpful in soothing canker sores and cold sores. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)


A perennial that grows in fertile forest areas with other evergreens, wintergreen has a creeping root, grows to about ten inches in height, and produces a spike of white flowers. The leaves have long been used to treat wounds and stop hemorrhages. Today, wintergreen is considered a good remedy for cystitis because it flushes the urinary tract and contains a natural antiseptic.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Wintergreen mouthwash is an excellent astringent and antiseptic. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)

  • Soak a cotton ball in wintergreen oil and place it on a sore tooth or rub it on inflamed gums for temporary relief.

Witch Hazel

A shrub native to eastern North America, witch hazel has yellow flowers that bloom in late autumn. The bark and leaves have astringent, sedative, and hemostatic (acting to stop the flow of blood) properties. Witch hazel is used internally to treat excessive blood flow during menstruation and hemorrhages. Externally, is good for healing sores and wounds.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Use witch hazel mouthwash to cleanse the mouth and help fight infections. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)

Wood Betony

Also known as lousewort, wood betony grows in shady places and reaches heights of twelve to twenty-three inches. The stem is slightly hairy with aromatic leaves and purplish flowers arranged in terminal spikes. In ancient times, wood betony was considered the “infallible remedy” for almost fifty serious diseases, including rabies. Today, the leaves are used to treat diseases that stem from impurities of the blood, to kill intestinal worms, and to heal open wounds. Wood betony contains magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and tannins.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Drink wood betony tea to promote relaxation before a dental appointment. (See Using Herbs, Tea Preparation, in Part Three.)


The yarrow plant grows in pastures, in meadows, and along roadsides. It stands ten to twenty inches tall and has many downy, toothed leaves, white or pale rose flowers, and oblong fruit. Achilles is said to have been the first to use yarrow to cure wounds; hence its scientific name Achillea millefolium. The leaves and fruits are now used to treat hemorrhages, ulcers, and chicken pox, and to heal mucous membranes, ease diarrhea, and improve blood clotting. Yarrow contains potassium, tannins, and vitamin C, as well as other chemicals and nutrients.

Precautions and Recommendations

  • Yarrow interferes with absorption of iron and other minerals.

  • Use yarrow mouthwash to promote healing of cuts in mouth due to surgery, teeth cleaning, and braces. (See Using Herbs, Mouthwash Preparation, in Part Three.)

From The Complete Book of Dental Remedies by Flora Parsa Stay, DDS, ©1996. Published by Avery Publishing, New York. For personal use only; neither the digital nor printed copy may be copied or sold. Reproduced by permission.

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Written by Flora Parsa Stay DDS

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