Another Beneficial Botanical: Galla Chinensis

Plants and botanical remedies can play a big role in oral health – and have for centuries. Some of the most common include clove, garlic, cinnamon, and neem.

Newer to the conversation is Galla Chinesnsis, or Chinese sumac. Traditionally, this herb has been used to treat things like chronic coughing, excessive sweating, and diarrhea. It has antibacterial qualities, as well.


Now, new research in the Open Dentistry Journal suggests it may even help prevent cavities.

Tooth decay happens when conditions in the mouth become acidic – one result of bacteria feasting on the sugars and refined carbs a person eats. But Galla Chinensis, the authors write,

has been demonstrated to inhibit dental caries by favorably shifting the demineralization/remineralization balance of enamel and inhibiting the biomass and acid formation of dental biofilm.

So they set out to find out the source of the plant’s power. One possibility that emerged was its tannic acid content.

Galla chinensis extracts with higher tannin content were suggested to have higher potential to prevent dental caries.

Tannins are water-soluble

compounds found in many plants, including pomegranates, berries, cocoa, and tea. They’re what makes such foods taste a bit bitter, dry, or tart, making your lips pucker slightly. A broad body of research suggests that they may have a role to play in preventing gum disease and tooth decay alike. Over the years, studies have found them to have both antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, inhibiting the growth not just of bacteria but fungi, yeasts, and viruses.

Of course, Galla Chinesis is just one of many medicinal plants new to oral health in the West. And it’s safe to assume that more will be incorporated as interest in holistic approaches to health take us away from pharmaceutical dependency and back to our roots – literally.

As the authors of a recent review of botanical dental remedies put it,

As our lifestyle is completely getting dependent on technology, we are moving away from nature but we cannot escape nature because we are part of nature….

The blind dependence on synthetics is over and people are returning to [plant-based medicine] with hope of safety and security. We stand in the 21st century; we must challenge ourselves to critically examine the ingrained beliefs, habits and old institutions of health care. What has worked should be kept and what has not should be discarded or improved and optimal health care that is effective, safe, accessible and affordable should become the priority of every country’s health care system.


Image by harum koh, via Wikimedia Commons