Toothpaste Recipe:

Don’t try this at home, or at least think twice before you do: an herbal mixture for dental health.



Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

May 17, 2015


A review in the current issue of the Natural Medicine Journal written by Kristen West, ND, now practicing in Durango, formerly at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, but actually from Denver, describes a clinical trial in which a topical salve made from a turmeric concentrate improved dental health [1] .   She described a randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial in which 25 patients, all of whom had previously been diagnose with chronic periodonitits, were split into two groups and one group received treatment with a 1% curcumin gel in half their mouth.  We wouldn’t be writing about this obviously if the experiment hadn’t worked.  The gel was associated with significant improvements that increased over time and with repeated applications.[2]


Having read an early draft of Dr. West’s review piece, this writer decided to try this at home.  Not having any 1% curcumin gel handy, he prepared a simple concoction, simply opening a capsule of Thorne Research’s Meriva ™

concentrate of liposomal curcumin and mixing it with a little Ubiquinol™. 

Fresh turmeric root and curcumin



Ubiquinol is the new form of highly absorbable coenzyme Q-10.  It comes in gel caps but if you snip open the cap you can squeeze out the contents, which have a consistency similar to toothpaste.  Coenzyme Q-10 has a reputation for improving gum health, even if taken orally.  In years past it was added to toothpaste. TL Watts in a rather negative paper published in 1995 says, “A review of the available literature does not give any ground for the claims made, and selected papers are discussed to show that there is actually some evidence that coenzyme Q10 has no place in periodontal treatment.[3]  ” While Watts didn’t see any benefit twenty years ago, Yoneda et al writing in 2013 suggests there is benefit, at least in rats and that Co Q-10, “suppresses age-related inflammatory reactions and osteoclast differentiation by inhibiting oxidative stress.” [4]


Coenzme Q-10

Yet we have heard reports often enough from patients taking oral Q-10 for cardiovascular disease that they can see changes in their gums, that I felt it worth using; that simple principle came into play, “it won’t hurt and might help.’


While I was opening and mixing capsules I also grabbed one of berberine.  A 2004 paper by Yu et al, written in Chinese, describes a clinical trial somewhat similar to the one Dr. West wrote about but using a berberine containing herb used in Chinese medicine called Coptis Root instead of the curcumin, and that it too, “can significantly improve the treatment effect of periodontitis.”[5]    A 2013 paper goes into great detail of how berberine does this, but I’ll leave it to the intellectually curious to read the details of how it impacts matrix metalloproteinases [6] . 

This writer didn’t analyze it to that depth.  Rather recalling that berberine impacts the bacterial biofilms that lead to dental plaque formation was adequate reason to add it to the mixture [7] .



There were however three aspects regarding this experiment, which this writer did not consider adequately.  The first is that at least in the curcumin experiments 1% solutions were used.  That is the topical gel only contained one part of curcumin to 99 parts gel.  The second aspect neglected from the writer’s thought process was flavor.  While curcumin is not particularly tasty, the flavor of berberine is not graded on the spectrum of tasty whatsoever; it is bitter tasting and that is perhaps the best one can say about it.  The third aspect of this homemade dental tonic though is that all three of these substance are bright yellow, very bright yellow.  If you are brave enough to do this at home, don’t be surprised.  You’ll need some sort of cleanser to clean your sink.  Your toothbrush will remain yellow for weeks if not for its functional life.  And your teeth, they will not be pearly white like in the toothpaste advertisements for long.


Still for people with chronic dental problems, it is certainly a cheap enough intervention that you might want to try.  Now after trying this mixture a half dozen times over the course of a week, he may be able to say that it is something of an acquired taste.  A person certainly won’t forget if they’ve brushed their teeth in the morning.




2.  Bhatia M, Urolagin SS, Pentyala KB, Urolagin SB, Menaka KB, Bhoi S. Novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of periodontitis by curcumin. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(12):ZC65-ZC69.


3.  Br Dent J. 1995 Mar 25;178(6):209-13. Coenzyme Q10 and periodontal treatment: is there any beneficial effect?

Watts TL.


4. Yoneda T1, Tomofuji T, Ekuni D, Azuma T, Endo Y, Kasuyama K, Machida T, Morita M. Anti-aging effects of co-enzyme Q10 on periodontal tissues. J Dent Res. 2013 Aug;92(8):735-9. doi: 10.1177/0022034513490959. Epub 2013 May 21.


5. Wu YH1, Jiang GS, Zhagn SZ, Bian HZ, Zhu SP. [The clinical study on the adjunctive effects of aqueous extract from coptis root for the treatment of chronic periodontitis]. Shanghai Kou Qiang Yi Xue. 2004 Aug;13(4):252-5.

 [Article in Chinese]


6. Tu HP1, Fu MM, Kuo PJ, Chin YT, Chiang CY, Chung CL, Fu E. Berberine's effect on periodontal tissue degradation by matrix metalloproteinases: an in vitro and in vivo experiment. Phytomedicine. 2013 Oct 15;20(13):1203-10. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Jul 16.


7. Xie Q1, Johnson BR, Wenckus CS, Fayad MI, Wu CD. Efficacy of berberine, an antimicrobial plant alkaloid, as an endodontic irrigant against a mixed-culture biofilm in an in vitro tooth model. J Endod. 2012 Aug;38(8):1114-7. doi: 10.1016/j.joen.2012.04.023. Epub 2012 Jun 7.






Toothpaste Addendum:
two herbs you might not want to add to your toothpaste
May 24, 2015

In a recent newsletter we reviewed several herbs that one might want, if a bit daring, to add to their toothpaste, namely curcumin and berberine. As I mentioned, although good for periodontal health, this mixture was something of an acquired taste.

There are two other possible herbal additions to toothpaste that should have also been mentioned in that newsletter, herbs that have been suggested for this purpose in that paste, but that we would now suggest avoiding. Not because they taste bad (trust me they do) but because they may prove to be damaging in the long run.


Sanguinaria canadensis, aka bloodroot


The first of these is Canadian bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, to use the Latin name. Back when we were students at National College of Naturopathic Medicine during the late 1980s, Sanguinaria was considered an exciting herb for oral health. I recall one of our instructors touting the efficacy of a mouthwash formula he hoped to make that included this herb. A toothpaste called Viadent was sold at that time, which contained sanguinaria extracts in it. A problem showed up in 2001, apparently using this product was associated with a high risk of developing leukoplakia in the mouth [1] .

Leukoplakia are thickened white patches that form on the gums an inside the cheeks. Unlike thrush infections, these white patches do not scrape off. Tobacco, either smoked or chewed, is the usual culprit blamed for causing leukoplakia. Leukoplakia itself isn’t dangerous but it’s common for some oral cancers to develop in close association to these patches. Bottom line, we would prefer not to find them. Using that sanguinaria containing toothpaste seemed to cause these lesions to form [2] . Often they went away once use of the Viadent was discontinued.

Although early clinical trials suggested benefit from using Viadent [3] , other trials failed to demonstrate this [4] . The toothpaste is no longer sold. We do not suggest using sanguinaria orally for dental health anymore. [5]


The other herbal extract that we no longer suggest for long-term oral health is myrrh, Commiphora molmol. Oil of myrrh was often been suggested for gum infections and for preventing gingivitis because it has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action. It looked like it was helping. The problem with myrrh is that it kills the cells in the gums. Exposing fibroblasts and epithelial cells of the gums to as little as 0.0005-0.001% solution of myrrh oil was enough to kill 30-50% of the cells in one study. Exposure to 0.0025% myrrh oil solution for 24 hours was enough to kill 10-70% of cells. As these types of cells are the sorts we want to have in the gums as they may heal and repair gum disease, myrrh oil is not a good idea either.[6]

1. Gen Dent. 2001 Nov-Dec;49(6):608-14.
Sanguinaria-related leukoplakia: epidemiologic and clinicopathologic features of a recently described entity.
Allen CL1, Loudon J, Mascarenhas AK.

2. Gen Dent. 2001 Nov-Dec;49(6):608-14.
Sanguinaria-related leukoplakia: epidemiologic and clinicopathologic features of a recently described entity.
Allen CL1, Loudon J, Mascarenhas AK.

3. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001 Jan;74(1):45-51.
Clinical effect of a Mexican sanguinaria extract (Polygonum aviculare L.) on gingivitis.
González Begné M, Yslas N, Reyes E, Quiroz V, Santana J, Jimenez G.

4. Aust Dent J. 1997 Feb;42(1):47-51.
Efficacy of a dentifrice and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract in conjunction with initial periodontal therapy.
Cullinan MP, Powell RN, Faddy MJ, Seymour GJ.

5. Phytother Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):1423-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.4606. Epub 2012 Feb 8.
Rise and fall of oral health products with Canadian bloodroot extract.
Vlachojannis C, Magora F, Chrubasik S.

6. Toxicol In Vitro. 2003 Jun;17(3):301-10.
In vitro cytotoxic and anti-inflammatory effects of myrrh oil on human gingival fibroblasts and epithelial cells.
Tipton DA, Lyle B, Babich H, Dabbous MKh.