Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Herbal Mouthwash for Tooth Repair

I am currently experimenting with Black Walnut (Juglans nigra; Deitsch: die Schwatzwalnuss or die Schwarzwalnuss) which is an herb used fairly commonly among the Deitsch to strengthen tooth enamel (es Zaahbee). Since Black Walnut is a dye, I had some hesitation about putting the black powder on my teeth, so I decided to do some more research and to expand the formula. I learned that Black Walnut, whether in tincture or powder, does not stain the teeth; instead, it also whitens them!

I first stumbled upon the recipe of a Mennonite herbalist named Rachel Weaver, M.H., in her book, Be Your Own "Doctor" (Reinholds, PA: Share-A-Care Publications, 2010). Some of the other constituents of her formula include other herbs that are also traditional Deitsch cures for Wehmaul ("sore mouth"), such as White Oak (Quercus alba; Deitsch: der Weisseeche) bark (see also Brendle, Thomas R. and Claude W. Unger. Folk medicine of the pennsylvania germans: the non-occult cures. Norristown, PA: Pennsylvania German Society, 1935, pp. 112-121).

Now I must say that many of the Deitsch traditional cures for mouth ailments are rather unappealing to me personally, particularly those that involve things such as the tongue of a woodcock or a white dog feces. Perhaps I'll report on those in a future blog entry.

Back to Black Walnut... Christopher Sauer (Weaver, William Woys. Sauer's herbal cures: america's first book of botanic healing, pp. 339-341. New York: Routledge, 2001.) describes Colonial Era uses of Black Walnut that include mouth ailments. Sauer describes the process for creating a syrup by grinding the hulls in a mortar to express the juice. He states that one should take a half-pound of the juice and combine it with a quarter-pound of fine honey. The instructions state to boil the combination until it makes a thick syrup that should be gargled with the water or the juice of Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris; Deitsch: es Brunellegraut or die Blohehummelsblumme) and a small amount of vinegar (der Essich) and saltpeter (der Salpeeder).

The hulls or the young nuts are used for several purposes in Deitsch lore. As mentioned earlier, it is an herb for strengthening the teeth. It is also can be steeped in whiskey to create der Walnissdramm, which is a rather strong bitter (es Bitters) for stomach issues. A tincture can be purchased from most natural foods stores or easily made by gathering Black Walnuts while they are still green and taking the hulls from them. Note: it is not the unshelled nut but the hull (die Schaal) that you want. Break the hulls and place loosely into a quart-sized mason jar. The tincture may be made using either 100% grain alcohol (Everclear) or 50% glycerin and 50% grain alcohol to cover the hulls in the jar. Then the jar should be covered and stored in a dark area for about a month. Then strain the hulls out with a cheesecloth, bottle the tincture, and it is ready to go.

A typical use of this tincture would be for toothache, but Rachel Weaver also states that it can be used to fill in a cavity (die Hehl). Dosage is two eyedroppers of the tincture to a small amount of water, swish around, and spit or swallow. Dosage is to be repeated 3-4 times per day. I would also add the caveat of not taking it constantly for too long of a period of time, particularly if ingesting the tincture rather than spitting it out. For instance, unless a physician were to tell me otherwise, I would probably not use it for longer than two weeks at a time. Then I would take a month away from it. Then I would return to it again for two weeks, but I would not follow that cycle for more than four months, and then I would take several months away from it.

My use The reason for this hesitation is in the nature of the tree. Black Walnut trees produce juglone, which is toxic to many plants, so often you will not see many other plants growing around the tree. You may want to check the Livestrong article on Walnut Hull Side Effects. There is some controversy regarding extended exposure to juglone, so I keep my use of it limited. Pregnant women or individuals who are allergic to nuts should avoid it altogether. Andrew Chevallier (Encyclopedia of herbal medicine, p. 224. New York: Dorling Kidersley, 2000.) mentions Juglans nigra in an entry of related trees that also produce juglone, but he does not mention any contraindications. Most Deitsch sources that I have come across do not regard Black Walnut as dangerous, but please do some research before consuming Black Walnut long-term. Some balanced information may be found on the National Toxicity Program site.

Now then, keeping the long-term use cautions in mind, I was quite impressed with Rachel Weaver's various tooth remedies. I have changed a few things in some of my experiments, but her original formula I found to be quite effective. I tested her combined Tooth Powder and Tooth Oil recipe, which appears on page 28 of her book.

Tooth Powder

I mixed together the following ingredients:

1/2 cup of Sea Salt (es Seesalz)

3 tablespoons of White Oak Powder

3 tablespoons of Black Walnut Hull Powder

2 tablespoons of Marshmallow (Althea officinalis; Deitsch: die Weisswatzel) Root Powder

2 tablespoons of Comfrey (Symphytum officinale; Deitsch: die Schwatzwatzel) Root Powder.

Then I placed the mixed powder in a bottle and prepared the Tooth Oil.

Tooth Oil

1 part essential oil of Thyme (Thymus vulgaris: Deitsch: der Gwendel) or Pennsylvania Dutch Tea (Deitsch: Deitscher Tee; tax: Thymus pulegioides)

1 part essential oil of Oregano (Origanum vulgare; Deitsch: der Oregaan or der Dooscht)

4 parts essential oil of Peppermint (Mentha piperita; Deitsch: der Balsem or der Peffermins)

4 parts essential oil of Wintergreen/Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens; Deitsch: der Buchs)

I placed all of the oils together in a bottle with a eyedropper lid.

How I Use It

I place 1/2 teaspoon of the Tooth Powder in a glass and add no more than 3-4 drops of the Tooth Oil. The I add just enough water to dissolve the powder, and then I use it as a mouthwash. I swish vigorously for about one minute, and then I spit the mouthwash out. I do not ingest this mixture, and NO ONE SHOULD SWALLOW THIS MOUTHWASH.

In one variation of the remedy, I replaced Wintergreen with Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba; Deitsch: der Bruschttee) essential oil. It had a very pleasant taste! Just a word of caution: the Deitsch name of Bruschttee means "jujube" in the northern parts of Lehigh County, in Schuylkill County, and in Carbon County, but it means "wintergreen" in the southern parts of Lehigh County, in Berks County, and in Lancaster County.

Again, the same cautions apply to this mixture as to the tincture and Sauer's syrup. Please do your research. I would even extend the same cautions to the consumption of Black Walnut as an infusion (tea), which many people also use for strengthening tooth enamel. For my personal use, however, I am comfortable using Black Walnut in staggered cycles as mentioned above.

I'd be interested to read others' thoughts on these remedies.


  1. After testing this out for two weeks, I must say that I have had a pleasant experience overall. It is messy to use the black walnut powder, but it seemed to help with the overall health of my teeth. The teeth do appear slightly whiter, so the fact tat black walnut is a dye does not seem to be a factor in my case. :)

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