The Health Benefits of Tongue Scraping, and How to Do It

Kripalu School of Ayurveda

Photo courtesy of Banyan Botanicals

Have you tried tongue scraping yet, or heard of it? This ancient practice has been getting a lot of attention lately; the dental care aisles are brimming with various tools to clean the gunk off your tongue.

So what’s this all about? Overnight, as the body processes everything that was ingested that day, toxins (called ama in Ayuveda) begin to form, and are visible as a coating on the tongue. If the ama is more of the kapha variety, it will appear as a thick, white coating. Pitta ama tends to be more yellow, and vata ama is brown. (Don’t know your dosha yet? Take our quiz.) Scraping the coating off first thing in the morning prevents reabsorption of the toxins that your body worked so hard to expel.

Tongue scraping, or jihwa prakshalana, is a traditional part of Ayurvedic self-care and also a great way to check in with your body each morning. Notice the color of the coating as well as the quantity. The amount can be a good indication as to whether or not your body was able to digest the food you consumed the previous day.

For example, I notice that when I eat heavier foods such as pizza, ice cream, or peanut butter, I tend to have a thicker coating on my tongue the next morning. According to Ayurveda, these toxins cause obstructions in respiration, as well as foul-smelling breath. The coating they produce can interfere with our ability to taste, clouding this sense organ and even creating unhealthy cravings.

Ayurveda considers the tongue a road map of the entire body, with each section corresponding to a different organ. When we scrape the tongue, it’s like giving our internal organs a gentle massage. The back area of the tongue corresponds with the colon, so scraping that area stimulates peristalsis.

How to Tongue Scrape

  • Scrape your tongue first thing in the morning, before drinking water.
  • Use either a stainless steel or copper tongue scraper, like Banyan Botanicals' Tongue Cleaner. There are plastic tongue scrapers out there, but I’m not a fan, as they are harder to keep sanitary.
  • Stick your tongue out and allow it to be loose and heavy.
  • Work the tongue scraper back to front five to seven times, rinsing the scraper after each round. Follow with brushing, flossing, and a large glass of warm or room temperature water. Drinking warm water first thing provides a gentle flush for the GI tract and the kidneys, and also stimulates peristalsis.

I can guarantee that, once you start a regular practice of tongue scraping, you will be hooked. After a few weeks, you will notice a significant difference. Your mouth will feel fresher and your taste buds more alive. Personally, I cannot imagine leaving the house before scraping.

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Lauren Gernady is an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, a 500-hour Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurvedic (KSA), and a former intern and Academic Coordinator of KSA.

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