“Scrape that Dirty tongue!”, or, Why a morning Jivha-Nirlekhan is so important

The Ayurvedic daily routine (Dinacharyaa) highly recommends that you scrape your tongue after brushing the teeth every morning. It is called as Jivha-Nirlekhan in Sanskrit language. So what is this Jivha Nirlekhan thing, and why is it so important? Let us see.

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Tongue scraping in Ayurveda is an intregral part of dinacharya, the daily regimen.

Tongue-scraping gives 4 major health benefits –
1. Rids the plaques accumulated on the tongue.
2. Helps in better sense of taste.
3. Helps improve digestion (“Really? How?” Read on.)
4. Helps eliminate bad breath in some.

Why tongue-scraping is necessary?
If you have already read our previous article about drinking water in the morning, you would remember the name ‘Aam‘. This is a generic term for the improperly digested metabolites that clog up your systems, leading to a wide range of diseases from acne to diabetes, depending on their location, distribution and chemical composition. So, the plaques that accumulate on your tongue through the night are also one result of the Aam in your digestive system. They cause multiple troubles if not eliminated.

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A heavily plaqued tongue.

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A clean, healthy, well scraped tongue

How Jivha Prakshaalan helps taste
The plaques cover up the nerve receptors on the tongue’s surface that convey the taste signals to the brain, thus dampening the taste sensitivity of the tongue. Scraping the tongue ensures that you get the best and truest taste of the food you eat.

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Our tongue's surface is made up of numerous papillae containing taste receptors.

How it improves digestion
Scraping the posterior part of the tongue invariably induces a vomit reflex in anyone, but you are meant only to simulate it. (That is also the reason why it is to be done only on an empty stomach in the morning, immediately after brushing the teeth). What actually happens here is that, the stomach, which is practically a big j-shaped muscular bag in our abdomen, gets its muscular walls flexed to push the contents up the throat (vomitus) and purges itself. In Ayurveda, this is a great way of purging the Kapha (‘Water’ bio-element) accumulated in the form of mucus in the stomach, and bringing its overflowing levels to normal. So when you do this exercise in Jivha Nirlekhan, it simply acts as a reset button for the stomach that has been lying lazy all night while you sleep, accumulating excess Kapha. It pushes the stomach’s muscular layer in action, and stimulates the inner glands to start secreting fresh gastric juice. Also, it purges the excess residual mucus left in the stomach, if any. This is especially helpful for people with hyperacidity or indigestion.

However, a word of caution – don’t do this too vigorously, lest you could injure your Oesophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach), or you could earn the title of ‘Professor Vomititus’, like my highly-educated over-zealous neighbor, whose soundblasts of vomit reflex rock the whole neighborhood like an earthquake every morning, when he scrapes his tongue. πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€
(Also, don’t forget to read the contraindications at the bottom of the article.)

How Jivha Nirlekhan removes bad-breath
Though bad breath is generally attributed to long-standing gum infections, many people suffer from it merely because of the plaques on their tongues. Just like their counterparts on the teeth, the tongue plaques are also great harbours for bacteria that cause halitosis (foul smelling breath). So scraping the tongue is an imperative for a clean smelling mouth.
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Still want more reasons?
Oh well, did I forget to mention that it stimulates the sub-lingual salivary glands and the tongue muscles as well? Some Ayurvedic texts even claim that it improves the voice – directly relatable for the letters pronounced primarily using the tongue, like ‘d’ in ‘hard’ or ‘t’ in ‘tall’. An elaborate generalised proof would make a separate article, but personally, I totally believe this theory. So what’s better if you can become a canary without spending a dime, with just consistency and daily discipline?

What to scrape the tongue with?
Ayurveda recommends a clean chewed-out twig of any one of several common trees having astringent taste property (Kashaay Ras) for brushing as well as tongue-scraping. The most popular favorites are Neem, Babool and Banyan, for their added antibacterial and gum-strengthening properties. Still, if you are not much of a herbal enthusiast, a ribbed-back toothbrush too, can make do.

… But before you start, there are some conditions when you should avoid Jivha Nirlekhan, the major ones being –
1. A gastric ulcer (it may worsen, consult the doctor first)
2. A bad lung infection (which is liable to cause a haemoptysis – bleeding in respiratory tract)
3. A lung abscess/tumour (it may rupture during the vomit reflex, consult the doctors first)
4. History of tongue/oesophagus/laryngeal cancer (it may recur if you cause injury in over-enthusiasm)
5. Cases of esophageal sphincter incompetence (need to do it under medical supervision)

…Otherwise, you are all set to start!

So, scrape that dirty tongue, won’t you?

About the Author
Dr. Harshad Rajandekar
is a practising physician specializing in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine and holistic health; based out of Nasik, India. He believes in combining the best of old and new to provide optimum health and wellness to his patients. You can know more about his credentials here and consultation practice here.

More by Dr. Harshad –

Drinking water in the morning, Good or Bad, and the Right Way

The Two-minute stressbuster exercise that cleans your head physically too

The Science behind Basti karma, or “How can a colon wash cure my joint pains?”

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