Note: This article is for informational purposes only. This is not an attempt to suggest any kind of cure and medication. This information in this article is based on the experience and traditional medicinal knowledge of Adivasis. Please consult your doctor before consuming these medicines.
Translated from Tamil by Nisha Felicita
Before toothbrushes and toothpaste, as we know today were created, various methods were used for cleaning teeth. My Paliyar tribe also had some ingenious methods to clean their teeth and heal toothache using the resources available from the forests around them.
In the olden days, my community used soil to brush their teeth. Apart from the soil, powdered stones and coal that was meant for cooking was also used for teeth cleaning. Soon, another resource for brushing teeth became popular among the Paliyars – mustard seeds.
Mustard (Brassica campestris)
Mustard was collected from the forest and left to dry on a big rock. The well-dried mustard was then crushed and powdered. This powdered mustard powder was used to brush teeth. After using mustard for teeth cleaning proved to be beneficial for my community, there was no toothache or tooth decay, and using these seeds also didn’t have any side effects. It also left the mouth refreshed without any odor. Mustard seeds are still used to clean teeth by some of the elders in the Paliyar community.
Chaff-Flower (Achyranthes aspera)
This Chaff flower plant was one of the herbs used by my ancestors to cure toothache. This medicine was mostly used during winter when toothaches were more likely to occur. The chances of getting a toothache are higher when one has cavity-ridden teeth. For such a toothache, the good fruit pods from this Chaff-flower plant were plucked and placed where the toothache was to help reduce it.
Apart from toothache, this herb was also used to treat ear abscess by squeezing the leaves of this plant and pouring 2-3 drops of the extract into the affected ear. When its leaves are fried and eaten, this plant also removes persistent phlegm.
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
Clove is one of the most common ingredients we use for cooking. However, it was also helpful for toothaches. Due to the sweet and spicy taste of this clove, it helps reduce toothache. However, we should be careful not to swallow the saliva that is secreted when we chew on this clove. Due to its alkalinity, the saliva might kill the beneficial gut microorganisms. Clove also helps with bad breath. Due to its many uses, it is used widely in the Paliyar community.
The Paliyar tribe is known for their good health and fitness, and we believe it is due to the fact that we consume fresh produce and medicines from the forests. While sometimes chemical products help us, we should try and switch to more organic food and natural medicines to maintain our health.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.