Bad Breath - Causes and Treatments

Bad Breath

What is bad breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is characterized by an unpleasant odor that originates from the mouth. It can be an embarrassing and socially uncomfortable condition.
The primary causes of bad breath include:

Poor Oral Hygiene: One of the most common causes of bad breath is inadequate oral hygiene. Bacteria in the mouth feed on food particles and release sulfur compounds, leading to a foul odor. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash regularly can help reduce bad breath associated with poor oral hygiene.

Diet: Certain foods and beverages can contribute to bad breath. Foods like garlic, onions, spices, and strong-smelling cheeses contain compounds that can be carried into the bloodstream and released in the breath after digestion.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia): Saliva plays a crucial role in cleansing the mouth and neutralizing acids produced by bacteria. A dry mouth can occur due to various factors, such as medications, medical conditions, or mouth breathing, and can lead to bad breath.

Tobacco Use: Smoking and chewing tobacco can leave a lingering odor in the mouth, leading to chronic bad breath.

Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can contribute to bad breath. These may include respiratory infections, sinus problems, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, liver or kidney disease, and more. It's essential to address the underlying medical condition to improve breath odor.

Gum Disease (Periodontitis): Gum disease can lead to pockets of bacteria in the gums, which can produce foul-smelling gases. Treating gum disease can help eliminate this cause of bad breath.

Dental Issues: Dental problems like cavities, abscesses, or poorly fitting dental appliances (dentures or braces) can trap food particles and bacteria, leading to bad breath.

Tonsil Stones: Small, hard masses that form in the tonsil crypts can emit an unpleasant odor when they break down.

Stress: Stress and anxiety can lead to dry mouth and changes in saliva composition, which can contribute to bad breath.

Certain Medications: Some medications can cause dry mouth or alter the composition of saliva, increasing the risk of bad breath.

What Steps To Initiate To Address Bad Breath:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene practices, including regular brushing, flossing, and tongue cleaning.
  • Stay hydrated to prevent dry mouth.
  • Avoid or limit foods and beverages known to cause bad breath.
  • Quit smoking and limit tobacco use.
  • Address any underlying medical or dental conditions contributing to the problem.
  • Use sugar-free gum or mints to temporarily mask bad breath.
  • Make sure you are brushing and flossing your teeth several times daily. Don't forget to brush your tongue along with your teeth! A lot of bacteria that cause bad breath live on the tongue.


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) offers various herbs and remedies that can be used to help with bad breath (halitosis). These herbs are often used to address the underlying causes of bad breath, such as digestive issues, dry mouth, and imbalances in the body's energy (Qi). It's important to consult with a licensed TCM practitioner before using these herbs to ensure they are appropriate for your specific condition. Here are some Chinese herbs that may be considered:

Huang Lian (Coptis chinensis):

Huang Lian is known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
It may help combat the bacteria responsible for bad breath and soothe oral inflammation.

Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon japonicus):

Mai Men Dong is used to promote saliva production and alleviate dry mouth, which can contribute to bad breath.

Huai Hua Mi (Sophora japonica flower bud):

Huai Hua Mi has astringent properties and is sometimes used to address gum bleeding and inflammation, which can contribute to bad breath.

Shan Zha (Hawthorn Berry):

Shan Zha is traditionally used to aid digestion and improve the overall health of the digestive system. Digestive issues can contribute to bad breath.

Lian Qiao (Forsythia suspensa):

Lian Qiao may help reduce oral bacteria that cause bad breath.

Mint Leaves (Bo He):

Mint leaves are commonly used to freshen breath and provide a pleasant taste.

Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel):

Chen Pi is used to promote digestion and alleviate symptoms of indigestion, which can lead to bad breath.

Bai Dou Kou (White Cardamom Seed):

Bai Dou Kou may help alleviate digestive issues, which can contribute to bad breath.

It's important to note that TCM practitioners typically create customized herbal formulas based on an individual's specific pattern of imbalance, rather than using single herbs in isolation. The choice of herbs and their combinations will depend on your TCM diagnosis and the underlying causes of your bad breath.

Consult with a dentist or healthcare provider if bad breath persists despite efforts to address the potential causes. 
If bad breath persists or worsens despite home care and lifestyle changes, it's essential to seek professional advice to identify and address any underlying issues.



Holmes, Peter. Jade Remedies. a Chinese Herbal Reference for the West. Boulder (Colo.): Snow Lotus, 1996. Print.

Lu, Henry C. Chinese Natural Cures. New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1999. Print.

Rector-Page, Linda G. Healthy Healing: An Alternative Healing Reference. United States: Healthy Healing Publications, 1994. Print.[/expand],hygiene%20and%20a%20coated%20tongue.

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