Vivi Noryati Ahmad Lecturer, Centre of Preclinical Science Studies, Faculty of Dentistry, Sg. Buloh Campus, Universiti Teknologi MARA
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates.
Good oral health is essential to our general health and quality of life. It keeps us free from mouth and facial pain, tooth loss, infections and sores that can affect our ability to eat, speak and even breathe as well as our self-esteem.
During ancient times, people consumed natural plant sources such as herbs to maintain their oral health and to prevent and treat oral diseases.
Today, there is worldwide resurgence of interest in using medicinal plants for medicinal purposes. More than 40% of commonly prescribed medicines throughout the world originated directly or indirectly from plants. For the last 20 years, herbal medicine consumption has increased sharply in the US.
In Malaysia, medicinal plants have gained popularity as alternatives to modern medicine due to public awareness and increasing interest among consumers and the scientific community. This is further supported by the establishment of Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division under the Ministry of Health, as well as the presence of NKEA EPP#1 Research Grant Scheme under the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Goss on Garlic
One of the most popular ingredients among herbal medicines is garlic extract. Garlic (Allium sativum) is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks. It is a popular ingredient in cooking due to its strong smell and delicious taste. In fact, throughout ancient history the primary use of garlic was for its health and medicinal properties.
Allicin is one of the unstable sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic. It is responsible for the distinctive smell of garlic. Allicin gets activated through enzymatic reactions when raw garlic is chewed, chopped or crushed. However, it is deactivated by heat, so that is why cooking garlic lowers its healing potential. Cooking should be avoided if you want to use garlic for its medicinal benefits.
Chopping or crushing garlic releases allicin, which when dissolved in solvents such as oil, can react to give rise to another substance, called ajoene.
These compounds have multiple bioactive properties, such as anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-microbial, anti- atherosclerotic, anti-cancer, serum lipid-lowering activity, immunomodulatory agent and contain high levels of antioxidants. This same property in garlic can also help prevent and treat diseases in oral health.
- Anti-oral ulcer. According to a study done by Novianti et al (2011), topical application of garlic extract is able to treat oral ulcers. It can accelerate re-epithelialization (a vital part of wound healing) of ulcer healing process.
- Antibacteria activity. A study done by Bakri and Douglas (2005) reported that garlic extract has been scientifically proven to inhibit the growth and kill most of the bacteria living in our mouths, especially Porphyromonas gingivalis (which can cause inflammation of the gums) and Streptococcus mutans (a major contributor of tooth decay).
- Antifungal activity. According to a study done by Bakhshi et al (2012), garlic extract has inhibitory effects on Candida albicans, a fungus that can infect the mouth and cause oral thrush. The results from the study showed that the treatment by using aqueous garlic extract as a mouthwash promotes the fast recovery of lesions and has no side effect. In addition, patients experience greater satisfaction with the use of garlic compared to conventional mouthwash.
- For quick toothache pain relief. Garlic is actually a great natural home remedy for pain associated with growing wisdom teeth, abscessed teeth and tooth pain in general. Its antibacterial properties help to relieve tooth pain.
- Anticancer activity? Oral cancer ranks as the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide. While there are claims of garlic being able to protect us from it, we still lack scientific evidence to confirm this. More research is being done on this matter.
Getting the Most from Garlic
Here are great tips on how to use garlic as a home remedy for oral health:
- Cooking garlic to maintain its maximum healing benefits. Crush or finely chopped the garlic, then wait for about 10 minutes before cooking. This enhances the formation of allicin and makes it more resistant to heat. Cooking it on low heat for a shot period of time or adding it in towards the end of the cooking process helps retain garlic’s healing benefits.
- To relieve tooth pain and as an antiseptic. Cut raw garlic and rub the cut edge on the tooth and gums a couple of times a day to stop toothache. Just be aware that you may experience a mild burning sensation when rubbing garlic to the gums frequently.
- Garlic for tonsilitis. Peel a clove of garlic and cut them in half lengthwise. Then boil for 5 minutes in 1 litre of water and add in a pinch of salt and ½ teaspoon of. Drink this mixture 3-4 times per day, for four days.
- As mouthwash. Crush 2 cloves of garlic and mix it with a cup of cold water. Put aside for 2 minutes. Every morning and before sleep, gargle with the solution. You can also use it to clean dentures.
Osemene, K. P., et al. (2011). A comparative assessment of herbal and orthodox medicines in nigeria. Res J Med Sci; 5(5):280–285.
Mysak, J., et al. (2014). Porphyromonas gingivalis: major periodontopathic pathogen overview. Journal of Immunology Research; 2014:476068.
Bakri, I. M., & Douglas, C. W. (2005). Inhibitory effect of garlic extract on oral bacteria. Archives of Oral Biology; 50(7):645–651.
Kulak‐Ozkan, Y., et al. (2002). Oral hygiene habits, denture cleanliness, presence of yeasts and stomatitis in elderly people. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation; 29(3):300–304.
Nair, P. K. & Dyasanoor, S. (2015). Clinical efficacy of allicin–A novel alternative therapeutic agent in the management of minor recurrent aphthous stomatitis. Journal of Advanced Clinical & Research Insights; 2(6):231–236.
Bakhshi, M., et al. (2012). Comparison of therapeutic effect of aqueous extract of garlic and nystatin mouthwash in denture stomatitis. Gerodontology; 29(2):e680–e684.
Ahmad, V.N & Amin, I.M & Zubir, B.M (2016). Apoptosis and cytotoxic effects of Allicin and Ajoene on oral squamous cell carcinoma. Oral Presentation in 15th Malaysian Section IADR Annual Sceintific Meeting & 17th Annual General Meeting, 5th February 2016, Faculty of Dentistry, UKM, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, 50300, Kuala Lumpur. (final year dental student research project in progression at Faculty of Dentistry, supervised by Vivi Noryati Binti Ahmad and Indah Mohd Amin.
Novianti, A.R, et al.(2011). Effect of Allicin for re-epithelialization during healing in oral ulcer model. The Indonesian J Dent Res, 2011, Volume 1, No.2, 87- 93.