Megan Sheppard: MRSA and natural mouthwash

Can you please recommend a good natural mouthwash?

The main reason many health-conscious individuals avoid conventional anti-bacterial mouthwashes from the supermarket or pharmacy in favour of herbal alternatives is not just because of the chemical ingredients, most have an anti-bacterial action, which wipes out the beneficial oral bacteria along with the pathogenic bacteria responsible for gum disease.

It is important that any natural mouthwash you choose will help to kill off and prevent further growth of the gum disease-causing bacteria Prevotella intermedia and Porphyromonas gingivalis. If these bacteria are allowed to build up, they cause gingivitis and periodontal disease. Not only does this contribute to gum pocket issues, tooth decay, and enamel erosion, these bacteria also create waste that can enter the blood stream and lead to heart disease.

Herbs have been used for good oral health for thousands of years. Turmeric is used in the ancient Indian medicine system of Ayurveda for almost every ailment under the sun — and yes, it has also been shown to help with gum disease and plaque.

According to a study published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, turmeric mouthwash was deemed to be effective in the prevention of plaque and gingivitis. The turmeric mouthwash used in the study was a combination of 10mg of curcumin extract and 100ml of water. Curcumin is one of the active ingredients in turmeric, and widely available in health stores.

A double-blind randomised clinical trial published earlier this year in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Sciences found aloe vera to be as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing plaque over a four-day period. The product used was 100% pure aloe vera juice.

If the taste of aloe vera or turmeric (not to mention the staining capacity of the latter) doesn’t appeal, then you will be please to know that good old green tea has also tested well in the lab against conventional chlorhexidene mouthwash when it comes to plaque reduction. The catechins in green tea act as powerful antioxidants, which also helps with inflammation in the mouth.

I have read that black cumin seeds can help against MRSA. Is this actually the case, and if so, where can I buy some?

Nigella (Nigella sativa) is also known as black seed, black caraway, fennel flower, Roman coriander, nutmeg flower, and sometimes black cumin, onion seed, or black sesame seed (all of which are different seeds). To avoid confusion, you need to ensure that any seeds you buy have the botanical name on the packet.

Nigella has indeed been shown to have anti-bacterial activity against clinical isolates of methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A 2008 study showed Nigella sativa to have an inhibitory effect on all tested strains of MRSA. The study used an ethanolic extract of the black seeds, which would be akin to taking a tincture preparation.

The typical method for taking Nigella is as an oil, with one teaspoon taken 1- 3 times daily with meals. Black seed oil has a strong flavour, so it’s often suggested that you chase it with a teaspoon of raw honey or a cup of freshly pressed juice. You can also use the oil topically on affected areas.

Viridian’s Nigella seed oil is available from health stores or online from BodyKind ( where 200ml costs €28.67.

If you want to purchase the Nigella sativa seeds you can get them from health stores or from the Organic Supermarket ( ; 01-278 1111) where 40g costs €2.39.

There has been a lot of research on the use of Nigella sativa for a range of health conditions. Along with MRSA, it has been shown to treat Helicobacter pylori infection, acute tonsillopharyngitis, high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy, Type II diabetes, colon cancer, and even as an effective therapy for opiate withdrawal.


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