March 2011
The Herb Farm

Herbs for Toothache Pain

A few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time miserably sitting in front of the computer researching herbal remedies for toothaches. I called some of my favorite herbalists for advice on where to start looking for information leading to the relief of the pain in my mouth.

They all suggested oil of clove and, of course, I had it on hand. However, the use of this product can be lethal if you swallowed enough. It can also burn your gums and other tender parts of your mouth. In addition, one must have a steady hand when applying oil of clove to oneself. In reality, depending on which tooth is ailing, it takes two; one to be in pain and the other with a dropper and good vision.


Take two and call me in the morning.

Sure, that worked for a little while, but soon I was back in front of the computer. Here’s all I found and tried.

Dried cloves can be crushed and used to numb the area around the ailing tooth, but they scatter and can be difficult to pick or floss away from sensitive areas. Wrapped in a gauze pad is better. The cloves stimulate saliva, thereby allowing the flow of the natural anesthetic properties to the affected area. Just don’t leave them in your mouth too long. Eugenol, the naturally occurring acid-like substance in cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, the reason these herbs have such a pleasing aroma, can irritate sensitive areas of the mouth. You can also make a mouth rinse by steeping cloves (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, too) in alcohol. It will give you, at the very least, "happy breath!" Do not swallow this rinse or any other.

Speaking of rinses; a warm saltwater rinse should be used at least four times daily for different reasons to a number of dental ailments. It’s just good medicine. Mix two teaspoons of salt to one cup of warm water. Stir until dissolved, then swish around in your mouth.

Another rinse I use on a regular basis is a hydrogen-peroxide solution consisting of one part warm water to one part 3% hydrogen peroxide. About a half ounce of each is more than enough to fill my mouth because of its effervesce. Rinse for about one minute and then expel the foam. I usually do this once per day, nearly every day.

Echinacea root steeped in alcohol makes a good tincture for toothaches. Apply a few drops to the affected area.

Toothache plant (Spilanthes acmella) is used to make an infusion with the flowers and leaves. It has a peppery flavor and a numbing effect.

I found inconclusive information about the use of a particular species of Piper twigs to relieve toothache pain with certain natives in Panama and Columbia, but couldn’t pin down the exact species. As I am sure you know, Piper nigrum is the genus for black pepper and can have a numbing effect when chewed whole.

Willow (Genus Salix) has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. The chemical, salicylic acid, in the stems and branches is extracted to make a tincture. It is also the main ingredient for aspirin.

I used all of the ones listed that were available to me. And then I had a root canal with penicillin and ibuprofen.

Thanks for all the e-mails. I will answer them all soon.

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As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.