Offensive mouth odor is also known as halitosis.

What is Halitosis?

From Modern Western Medicine

Halitosis is the medical word for bad breath, caused most often by smoking, drinking alcohol, eating garlic or onions, or poor oral and dental hygiene. Contrary to popular belief, neither constipation nor indigestion is a cause. Rarely is halitosis a symptom of illness.

If bad breath is persistent and is not due to any of the above causes, it may be a symptom of mouth infection, sinusitis, or certain lung disorders, such as bronchiectasis.

From Traditional Medicine

Foul breath is a symptom of an internal disorder, the source of which could be the teeth, gums, sinuses, stomach, liver, and small or large intestine. Very often, the imbalance clears up by itself, which is why bad breath is frequently a temporary problem. The most common underlying cause of halitosis is constipation or generally poor elimination.

Essentially, the mouth is the beginning of the digestive tract, the anus, the end. It is a unified and interdependent system. Mouth sores, for example, are often the result of stomach or intestinal imbalances; changes in the formation of the lips reflect changes in the small and large intestine. Failure to fully eliminate waste causes food to putrefy and toxins to build up within the intestinal tract, ultimately resulting in foul breath.

But there are other factors, as well. The harmony of the stomach acids and digestive enzymes, which in turn can affect the odor of the breath, is dependent on the liver. When the liver becomes imbalanced, the stomach can be adversely affected. An example is a deficiency of hydrochloric acid or other digestive enzymes, which may result from large meals containing meats, heavy sauces, and other fatty foods. Very spicy foods and disharmonious food combinations can throw off the liver balance and result in bad breath, as well.

Finally, the absence of adequate fiber in the diet prevents full elimination from the intestines. Diets that are low in fiber also result in diverticulosis or pockets forming within the large intestine. Food matter and waste can accumulate in these pockets and cause odors to be released.


Foods to Eat

All meals should be small and taken dry. Drink soup and other liquids between meals, not less than a ½ hour before the meal and an hour after. This helps prevent digestive juices from being diluted.

  • Lemon/lime destroys putrefactive bacteria and purifies the breath
  • Millet retards bacterial growth in the mouth 
  • Parsley
  • Watercress
  • Good-quality water between meals
  • Follow the diet for constipation


The following foods are cooling and reduce heat signs such as halitosis, according to Chinese medicine:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cantaloupes
  • Watermelon
  • Citrus
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Cabbage (green or Napa)
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet corn
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Whole grains such as millet, barley, and wheat
  • Seaweed
  • Microalgae such as spirulina, blue-green, and chlorella


Foods to Avoid

In Chinese medicine, this is a heat condition and the following should be avoided:

  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Cigarettes
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Yogurt


Herbs to Treat Halitosis

Chew any of the following:

  • Anise seeds
  • Cardamom seeds
  • Fennel seeds
  • Whole cloves
  • Caraway seeds
  • Coneflower


Drink the following herbal teas:

  • Peppermint (for indigestion)
  • Goldenseal (for internal causes)


Chinese Medicine

See the sections above on Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid.


  • Beta-carotene: 15 – 30 mg per day
  • Vitamin B complex

Thiamine: 1.5 mg per day

Riboflavin: 1.8 mg per day

Vitamin B6: 2 – 10 mg per day

Vitamin B12: 2 – 10 mg per day

Niacin: 20 mg per day

  • Folic acid: 400 mcg per day
  • Pantothenic acid: 10 mg per day
  • Vitamin C: 100 – 500 mg per day
  • Vitamin E: 100 – 400 IU per day



When halitosis is chronic, physical exercise, especially walking, jogging, or running, can assist eliminating stored waste by strengthening the muscles in the stomach and the lower abdomen, thus assisting bowel elimination. All forms of aerobic exercise, especially exercises that cause you to sweat, can be a good way of eliminating stored toxins within the tissue. Aerobic exercise also increases circulation and promotes healthy bowel function.