Spices and Oral Health


P. Parvathi, Mrs. R.V. Geetha.

Saveetha Dental College, 162, PH Road,Chennai-77.

*Corresponding Author E-mail: vinuparvathi94@gmail.com




It is obvious that spices have been used to enhance the flavour for centuries. sometimes a spice is used to hide other flavour. Other uses of spice includes medicinal, religious rituals, cosmetics, or perfume production. The spices may be available in several forms fresh, whole dried or preground dried. But many of the spices posses antimicrobial properties. In this article we can understand the antimicrobial properties of garlic, Ginger, cinnamon, clove and turmeric. These spices play an important role in inhibiting oral pathogens there by maintaining oral hygiene.


KEYWORDS: Spice, Allium  sativum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Curcumin, Sialogogue.



Spices are the flavour of life. These spices are mainly used in enhancing flavour and preserving perishable food. The word spice comes from the old French word espice.


Spices are defined as any dried, fragrant, or aromatic vegetable or plant substance that contribute flavour in a whole, broken or ground form. Spices include all parts of herbaceous plants except the leaf, which is considered an herb(4).


Many Spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why spices are more commonly used in warm climates, which have more infectious disease, and why use of spices is especially prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling (25).  Phytochemicals, or essential oils are the main antimicrobial agents in spices.

The over all temperature is also believed to play a role in the spices effectiveness as at different temperatures the antimicrobial activities of spices seem to show changes. The flavor of spice is derived  in part from compounds that oxidize or evaporate when exposed to air.



Ginger is more popular in south east Asia as a kitchen spice. ginger is the rhizome of plant Zingiber officinale. It belongs to the family zingiberaceae. young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with very mild taste. mature ginger rhizomes are fibrous and nearly dry.



The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent (1). Ginger act as useful food preservative(9)(2). Ginger has potential health benefits which are yet to be explored. To disguise the taste of medicines ginger was frequently employed.


The major constituents of ginger are:

·        Volatile oil

·        Shogaols

·        Diaryl heptanots

·        Gingerols



·        Ginger is used for treatment of tooth ache(5).

·        To promote salivation, Ginger is used as sialogogue.(20).


Aqueous ginger extract which was used to check antimicrobial activity found to be efficient (21).



Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years. The garlic bulb is the part of the plant most often used as flavoring agent and medicinal herb. Garlic otherwise known as Allium sativa, is a species in the onion  genius from Lilliaceae family. Allium sativum grows in the wild areas where it has become naturalized. Garlic when crushed yields allicin, an antibiotic(10) and antifungal compound.


In oral health care, the mechanisms of actions of garlic is broadly classified as strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antiseptic and immune modulator effect(6).



Allison is the active component of garlic. It is antibacterial and has immune regulatory function. The cell wall and cell membrane of root canal bacteria is destroyed by allium(26).



Garlic extract has shown to have a wide spectrum of antibacterial activity including effects on staphylococcus, streptococcus, kiebsiella, Escherichia, salmonella, proteus, a clostridium, mycobacterium and Helicobacter species (3)(11).


The inhibitory effect of garlic against C. albicans is described by Ghannoum MA(14). The specific activity of garlic against Gram negative oral pathogens, including p. gingivalis has only recently been demonstrated (17). The protease activity of P. gingivalis is completely in habited by garlic extract.


Groppo fectal demonstrated that total salivary bacterial count and the streptococcal mutant count was reduced by mouth wash containing garlic extract. garlic cloves are used as  a remedy for infections such as oral thrush (23)(7).


Thus garlic plays are effective role in inhibiting oral pathogens.



Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years and is a major part  of Ayurvedic medicine10.the components of turmeric are known as curcuminoids which consists of curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. It was first used as a dye and then later for its medicinal properties(13). Even today turmeric is used in every part of India during wedding ceremonies and religious ceremonies. Turmeric is mild digestive, being aromatic, a stimulant and a carminative. Turmeric leaves impart a distinctive flavor. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, the use of turmeric in tooth power or paste is well known. Curcumin has antifungal and antibacterial properties.  Turmeric otherwise known as Circuma longa, is a member of the ginger family, zingaberaceae.



In case of dental problems instant relief can be attained by rinsing the mouth with turmeric water. It is used as a pit and fissure sealent.(8). Pain and swelling can be treated with roasted ground turmeric(15). Due to its colour turmeric is used in dental plaque detection. Turmeric has inhibitory effect on cariogenic bacteria streptococcus mutans. Turmeric mouthwash can be effectively used as an adjunct to mechanical plaque control methods. Curcumin is used as a subgingival irrigant which resulted in significant reduction in bleeding on probing. Turmeric plays an important role in prevention of plaque and gingivitis..



Cinnamon also know as Cinnamomum zeylanicum, found in the inner bark of cinnamon tree. The name cinnamon comes from the greek word kinnamomon. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavouring material. The flavor of cinnamon is due to an aromatic essential oil that makes up 0.5 to 1 of its composition. Eugenol and cinnamaldehyde are the two major chemical components in cinnamon that are responsible for its health benefits. Cinnamon extract plays a role in inhibiting most of the food- borne microbes(18).



Cinnamon oil show maximum activity against gram positive bacteria B. subtilis and K. pneumoniae and the gram negative bacteria P. aeruginosa and E-coil (12). Cinnamaldehyde, reacts with electron transfers and reaction with nitrogen containing compounds resulting in impeded growth of micro organisms (16) .


Thus cinnamon is traditionally used to cure oral diseases. Cinnamon is used in the preparation of chocolate.



Cloves have been used for centuries as natural medicine. The scientific name of clove is Syzygium. The cloves are also said to be anthelmintic(24).  Clove has been proven to be effective against many different types of bacteria. Cloves are the dried immature flower buds of a tropical tree of the myrtaceae family (19). Clove have been shown to be effective in reducing toothache. (19).it is also applied to cavity in a decayed tooth to relief pain.



Cloves are able to kill species of bacteria and fungi such as S, auréus, L. monocytogenes and Aspergillus, thus it have strong inhibitory effect against microbes(12).


The active components of cinnamon are eugenol and phenol (12). 85 of cloves powerful taste is imparted by the chemical eugenol. The cloves antimicrobial properties proved to be most effective at killing the bacteria (24).cloves are used in dentistry where the essential oil is used aqs an anodyne for dental emergencies.



Over the years, spices has been a part of tradition, ancient, myth, and household remedies. Spices have the potential to be developed into agents that can be used as preservatives or treatment therapies for oral diseases. By looking back into the history we can apply some old world uses of spices for new ways to improve oral and overall health.



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25)    Traditional Chinese medicine used in root canal disinfection research. Pharmacy papers (Online article). http:/ /eng.hi138.com/?b106





Received on 09.12.2013       Modified on 10.01.2014

Accepted on 15.01.2014      © RJPT All right reserved

Research J. Pharm. and Tech. 7(2): Feb. 2014; Page   235-237