Have you ever wondered where tongue scraping came from? If you’ve never tried tongue scraping before, the habit can seem a little odd. But you might be delighted to find out that it’s an ancient art that’s been around for thousands of years across many different cultures.
From thin strips of wood to precious metals to mother-of-pear, tongue scrapers have taken on many different forms over the years. But one thing has remained true: tongue scraping is still a cornerstone of oral care...transcending cultures, fads, and skeptics for millennia.
There’s a reason for that, so let’s scrape the surface of the long history of tongue scraping.
tongue scraping in ancient Ayurveda
You might have heard us mention Ayurveda before. It’s an incredible system of natural medicine that originated in India over 3,000 years ago. Formed by combining two Sanskrit words, the term Ayurveda translates to “knowledge of life.” It takes a completely holistic approach to health and wellness, understanding that all systems of the mind, body, and spirit are intertwined. Ayurveda also contextualizes health using laws of nature and energy, affirming that humans are intimately connected to the universe. Ayurveda says that true health works in harmony with nature, an ethos that we can truly get behind at Davids.
Now, onto tongue scraping. For thousands of years, tongue scraping (previously with metals like silver, gold, and copper) has played an important role in Ayurvedic medicine, as the tongue is viewed as a window to your overall health. Different areas on your tongue are said to be connected to different internal organs. Because tongue scraping detoxifies, massages, and stimulates the tissue, Ayurveda says that it does the same for the connected organs. Tongue scraping removes a harmful film called “ama,” which often manifests as bad breath or an unpleasant film on the tongue. When you remove this film with a tongue scraper, it can protect your dental and digestive health, improve taste, stimulate your organs, and beyond.
Perhaps most importantly, Ayurveda believes that tongue scraping (and examining your tongue in general) is a foundational daily wellness check. We do too! There’s a reason this habit has persisted over thousands of years.
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s take on tongue scraping
Originating 20+ centuries ago, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a bit younger than Ayurveda. Like Ayurveda, TCM is a holistic well-being system centered around life-force-enhancing practices (such as yoga), whole food nourishment, herbal healing, breathwork, and intention.
TCM also believes that characteristics of the tongue (color, shape, smell, texture, etc.) reflect the health of certain internal organs such as the heart, spleen, liver, and lungs. To no surprise, TCM values tongue scraping to keep internal systems healthy and thriving.
As a side note, TCM also uses acupuncture as an essential well-being tool, and most acupuncturists will want to take a look at your tongue to assess your wellness before a session. To ensure an accurate assessment, many acupuncturists will ask you not to use a tongue scraper in the 24 hours leading up to your session.
tongue scraping in Arabic and African cultures
Many Arabic and African cultures have been tongue scraping for centuries. Instead of a metal tongue scraper, they utilize wooden sticks and twigs from native trees. They soak the stick in water overnight, chew the end of it to create frayed bristles, and use the bristle end as a toothbrush.
Then, they finish the routine by using the smooth end as a tongue scraper (sometimes formed into an inverted V-shape similar to many tongue scrapers on the market today). After each use, the stick gets shorter (because of the repeated fraying), so they typically replace the stick once it gets too short to use.
European cultures adopt tongue scraping
European cultures were a little bit later to the party, picking up tongue scraping between the 15th and 19th centuries. They crafted metal tongue scrapers that look a lot like the ones we use today. Some were an inverted U-shape, and some had a single-handed design similar to the Davids stainless steel tongue scraper you see below.
However, tongue scraping was typically limited to the upper class back then. Of course today, we believe everyone deserves to feel the unparalleled freshness you can get after using a tongue scraper (trust us, it’ll hook you).
today, you can use the best tongue scraper
Thousands of years later, tongue scraping is alive and well (arguably gaining more popularity as we speak). We believe this is because once you try it, you’ll never want to stop. After all, you can truly feel the benefits of tongue scraping after every use.
On that note, our stainless steel tongue scraper is preferred by dental professionals because of its unique single-handed design and smooth rounded edges. This design allows you to reach all those areas of your tongue that are associated with essential organs (according to Ayurveda and TCM) without aggravating your gag reflex. Although copper tongue scrapers are popular in Ayurveda, copper requires extra care after each use to ensure it doesn’t tarnish. Our stainless steel tongue scraper doesn’t require as much diligence, since it won’t tarnish and its edges will remain smooth even after long-term use. Not to mention, you can put it in the dishwasher for a deep cleaning without having to worry about it!
Especially if you’re new to tongue scraping, ours is designed to give you the best experience. For our favorite tongue scraping routine, visit our previous article, “should I scrape my tongue before or after brushing? our top tips for you.”