Scientists have determined that many seaweed extracts inhibit bacteria known to cause gingivitis and gum disease.
Seaweed is one of the most plentiful and sustainable forms of medicinal plants because it grows from the nutrients in the sea without harming the environment,. It is also sustainable because it will grow back easily as long as it isn’t over-harvested.
57 seaweeds tested against gum disease bacteria
The researchers, from Korea’s Silla University, tested 57 different species of seaweeds harvested from the coast of South Korea. The research screened each of the extract of these seaweeds against the gum disease-causing bacteria Prevotella intermedia and Porphyromonas gingivalis. They found that nearly a third of the seaweed extracts – 17 different species – inhibited the growth and colonization of these pathogenic bacteria.
Extracts from two forms of Sea Lettuce, Enteromorpha linza and Ulva pertusa, along with Sargassum (Sargassum sagamianum) were found to significantly block the growth of both P. intermedia and P. gingivalis.
They determined that one of the major mechanisms of this inhibitory effect against oral bacteria was their ability to block collagenase enzymes that allow these bacteria to expand and grow.
The researchers determined that the phenolic content of these seaweeds was the primary component inducing their antibacterial effects. Isolated phenols were then tested directly against the oral bacteria and these proved lethal to the bacteria.
Oral bacteria are the cause of gum disease
Gingivitis and periodontal disease take place as these bacteria build up in the gumline. As their populations increase, pockets form in the gums. The waste products of these bacteria are also extremely acidic, and they erode the enamel and produce tooth decay.
Worse, these bacteria also produce waste streams that can leak through the gums and pollute our blood vessels. This can produce artery disease and significant damage to the heart.
Seaweed mouthwash is effective
This study confirms 2011 research from Korea’s CHA University in Kyonggi. In this study, Enteromorpha linza was found to significantly inhibit plaque, gingivitis and bleeding on probing. A mouthwash using the seaweed extract was found to significantly reduce the P. intermedia and P. gingivalis bacteria as well.
The effects of the seaweed mouthwash were similar to those found in commercial mouthwashes.
The reason why commercial antibacterial mouthwashes are not suggested by many natural health experts is that most act almost like antibiotics, wiping out all the mouth’s probiotic bacteria along with pathogenic bacteria. This “clean slate” allows the pathogenic bacteria to grow back again, often in stronger and more resistant populations.
Natural antibacterial agents like seaweeds produce a more selective antibacterial effect by stopping many pathogenic bacteria while leaving intact the beneficial oral bacteria. This is because most of these seaweeds also contain long-chain polysaccharides that provide prebiotics – food for probiotics. These prebiotics are important because they encourage the growth of the bacteria that control the growth of pathogenic gingivitis bacteria on an ongoing basis.
Discover: a toothpaste containing seaweed.
Choi JS, Ha YM, Joo CU, Cho KK, Kim SJ, Choi IS. Inhibition of oral pathogens and collagenase activity by seaweed extracts. J Environ Biol. 2012 Jan;33(1):115-21.
Cho HB, Lee HH, Lee OH, Choi HS, Choi JS, Lee BY. Clinical and microbial evaluation of the effects on gingivitis of a mouth rinse containing an Enteromorpha linza extract. J Med Food. 2011 Dec;14(12):1670-6.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.