Chronic Bad Breath (A Case Study)

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is a condition that affects everyone at some point or another. Usually it can be maintained by regular, healthy dental hygiene habits.  When simple self-care does not resolve the issue, it may require taking further steps.


Food – As food particles break down in your mouth (particularly in and around your teeth), bacteria can increase and cause a foul odor.  Many foods such as onions and garlic also can cause halitosis.  After ingestion, these foods enter the bloodstream, are carried to your lungs, and continue to cause bad breath.
Tobacco – Tobacco products cause their own unpleasant mouth odor.  Tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease which can contribute to the problem.
Poor Dental Hygiene – When one does not brush and floss daily, food particles remain in the mouth and cause bad breath.  Plaque (a colorless, sticky film of bacteria) builds on teeth if it isn’t brushed away.  Plaque irritates the gums and eventually for plaque-filled pockets between your teeth and gums.  The tongue’s uneven surface can also trap odor-producing bacteria.  Poor-fitting dentures and dentures that aren’t cleaned regular can host these same bacteria.
Dry Mouth – Saliva helps cleanse the mouth, washing away the bacteria and food particles often left behind.  Dry mouth (also known as xerostomia) is a condition which leads to a decreases in saliva production.  This can be made worse when sleeping with your mouth open causing morning breath.
Infections in the Mouth – Wounds in the mouth caused by things such as surgery or tooth removal can result in bad breath.
Mouth, Nose and Throat Conditions – Small stones can form in the tonsils which end up covered in bacteria that have foul odor.  Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat that contribute to a postnasal drip can cause bad breath.
Medication – Some medications have the undesirable side effect of bad breath by causing dry mouth, or releasing chemicals into the body that can affect your breath.
Other Causes – Diseases like some cancers, or conditions like metabolic disorders cause distinctive breath odor as a result of the chemicals they produce.  Acid reflux is also associated with bad breath.

A Case Study in TCM

A 55-year-old woman complained of chronic bad breath, belching, loose stools, a metallic (bitter) taste in her mouth and work-related stress.  The patient was 10 pounds overweight.  A traditional Chinese diagnosis revealed that her pulse was wiry and her tongue was red with a yellow coating.  To begin her treatment, she was prescribed one mixture which contained the following:

  • Lotus seed
  • Ophiopogon tuber
  • Poria sclerotium
  • White Ginseng root
  • Plantago seed
  • Scute root
  • Six other herbs

After a month, there were no changes her conditions so Bovine Colostrum Complex (IgG 25% Lactoferrin 7.1mg/gm IGF) was added to her treatment protocol.

This combination improved the patients stools become more formed.

To address her belching, she was given the following mixture:

  • Bupleurum root
  • Tang Kuei root
  • White Peony root
  • Salvia root
  • Poria sclerotium
  • Seven other herbs

After two months, the belching was relieved.  However, the chronic bad breath and the metallic taste in the mouth remained.  The patient typically responded to herbal treatments for her symptoms within one month.  Considering this and that she had been on penicillin from the age of 13 to 19 due to rheumatic fever, I began to suspect she might have undiagnosed candidiasis and thus recommended anti-Candida therapy.  She was recommended to eliminate all sugars, including fruit, for two weeks, as well as foods containing yeast.  She was not an alcohol drinker but alcohol would have been restricted as well.  She was prescribed the following combination:

  • Phellodendron cortex
  • Codonopsis root
  • White Atractylodes rhizome
  • Anemarrhena root
  • Plantago seed
  • Pulsatilla root
  • Seven other herbs

Mixture 1 was stopped.

Although this protocol is very involved, it seemed to be the only treatment that improved her breath.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>