Home About us Editorial board Ahead of print Current issue Search Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contact Us Login 
An Official Publication of the Indian Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologists

  Table of Contents    
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 503-508

Efficacy of herbal alternatives in maintaining oral health in cancer patients: A systematic review

1 Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Crown and Bridge, Thai Moogambigai Dental College and Hospital, Dr. M. G. R. Educational and Research Institute University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Prosthodontics, Crown and Bridge, Thai Moogambigai Dental College and Hospital, Dr. M. G. R. Educational and Research Institute University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Orthodontics, Crown and Bridge, Thai Moogambigai Dental College and Hospital, Dr. M. G. R. Educational and Research Institute University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission15-Dec-2020
Date of Decision14-Jul-2021
Date of Acceptance17-Nov-2021
Date of Web Publication11-Jan-2022

Correspondence Address:
L J Sai Lakshmi
Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Thaimoogambigai Dental College and Hospital, Golden George Nagar, Mogappair, Chennai - 600 107, Tamil Nadu
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jomfp.jomfp_507_20

Rights and Permissions



Herbal rinses possess different medicinal properties. Numerous studies have reported the usefulness of various herbal oral rinses. Few studies claimed that herbal rinses are superior to synthetic mouth rinses for certain purposes, but there appears to be a lack of sound scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of herbal rinses in controlling oral plaque in cancer patients. This review analyses the various clinical studies on herbal rinses and aims to find the safety and efficacy of red ginseng mouth rinses over other available mouth rinses in carcinoma patients. A thorough electronic search was conducted in various databases and 10 articles were included in the review based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The data extracted were tabulated and analyzed. The risk of bias table was drawn. Meta-analysis was not performed due to the heterogeneity of the included studies. Of the 10 clinical trials included in the review, three studies appeared to have low risk of bias. The mean follow-up period was 14 days, ranging from 7 to 21 days. The sample size in each study was reported to be between 10 and 50, except one study with 240 samples. Seven studies have reported a significant difference between the herbal mouth rinse group and the chlorhexidine group. Of all the herbal rinses, mouth rinses with ginger extracts show more efficacy over other herbal rinses and red ginseng appears to be a more safer herbal rinse. Based on the available evidence, herbal mouth rinses are comparable to synthetic mouth rinses in their anti-bacterial properties. The red ginseng with anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties may be an alternative mouth rinse in cancer patients. However, further clinical trials with more samples are required for better evidence.

Keywords: Cancer, ginseng, herbal alternatives

How to cite this article:
Jeddy N, Bettie NF, Saravanan R, Sai Lakshmi L J, Radhika T. Efficacy of herbal alternatives in maintaining oral health in cancer patients: A systematic review. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol 2021;25:503-8

How to cite this URL:
Jeddy N, Bettie NF, Saravanan R, Sai Lakshmi L J, Radhika T. Efficacy of herbal alternatives in maintaining oral health in cancer patients: A systematic review. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 12];25:503-8. Available from: https://www.jomfp.in/text.asp?2021/25/3/503/335546

   Introduction Top

Ginseng, a short slow-growing plant with fleshy roots, is native to China and Korea.

It is basically a root with stalks resembling a human body with limbs. It has long been used by ancient Chinese as traditional Chinese medicine. The first documentation of this medicinal herb is dated back to 206 BC.[1] Botanically termed as Panax, this herb derives its Chinese name Renshen which means herb resembling human.[2] Although known for its Chinese origin, a variant of ginseng has been in use in America during the same ancient period. Marcopolo's reports of medicinal properties of ginseng became very popular, but a Jesuit priest named father jortoux reported its first anti-inflammatory properties.[3]

Ginseng has been widely used as an herbal remedy for various disorders. Natural-dried ginseng is known as white ginseng, and red ginseng is prepared by steaming fresh ginseng root before drying on the purpose of enhancing efficacy, safety and preservation.[4] The medicinal properties of red ginseng are due to the presence of various compounds in it. The most identified compounds are ginsenosides. Nearly 40 ginsenosides compounds have been reported.[5] The compounds of interest with high anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties are found in red ginseng. Ginseng is treated by steaming and this process enhances the anti-inflammatory properties of red ginseng.[6] The presence of protopanaxadiol further increases the anticarcinogenic activity.[7]

The therapeutic property of red ginseng has been used in treating squamous cell carcinoma of several sites in the human body. The anticancer mechanisms include cell cycle arrest, induction of apoptosis and inhibition of angiogenesis.[8] The anti-inflammatory property of red ginseng inhibits inflammation and enhances the antioxidant property. The RGE-3 compound of ginsenoside is shown to suppress nitric oxide production and inhibits the expression of proinflammatory mediators and cytokines through necrosis factor-alpha and mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. This RGE-3 compound with high anti-inflammatory properties is found in higher concentration in Asian red ginseng. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity exhibits similar pathology and cell destruction as in the other areas of the human body. Hence, the therapeutic properties of red ginseng may be well applied to oral carcinoma as well as for oral inflammatory conditions.[9]

Gingivitis is a common inflammatory condition of gingiva. Patients with oral carcinoma often report with poor oral hygiene due to symptoms such as pain and restricted mouth opening. Poor oral hygiene in such patients leads to gingivitis or periodontitis resulting on loss of remaining teeth. The anti-inflammatory property of red ginseng has been used in mouth rinses and significant reduction in oral flora were reported.[10]

   Scientific Rationale Top

Various studies have been reported in the past claiming the effectiveness of red ginseng as mouth wash in reducing the bacterial count, but there appears to be a lack of scientific evidence to prove this result. This systematic review aims to collect the available data on ginseng mouth rinses and prove its efficacy in reducing the colony count of oral microbial flora in oral cancer patients.

   Materials and Methods Top

This systematic review was conducted according to the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines. The population, intervention, comparison, outcomes and study (PICOS) framework was used as a strategy for this review. P-patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma

I-intervention using red ginseng mouth wash, C-Colony count before and after the intervention with herbal mouth wash, O-reduction in bacterial colonial count, S-randomized trials and observational studies. Using the above PICOS strategy, the following structured question was framed.

  1. What is the efficacy of red ginseng mouthwashes in reducing microbial load in oral cavity?
  2. Can red ginseng mouthwashes be recommended for patients with oral carcinoma? Can the anti-cancerous property of red ginseng be effective in oral squamous cell carcinoma cases too?
  3. What is the safety profile of red ginseng mouthwash? Are there any significant adverse reactions?

To obtain evidence for the PICOS question, the inclusion and exclusion criteria were as follows:

Inclusion criteria

  1. Clinical trials reporting on the efficacy of ginseng mouthwashes in reducing microbial load in the oral cavity
  2. Case reports on the efficacy of ginseng mouthwashes in cancer therapy
  3. Clinical trials and case reports on the anti-inflammatory properties of red ginseng mouthwashes
  4. Articles that reported on antioxidant properties of ginseng mouthwashes
  5. Articles reported on anti-microbial properties of red ginseng mouthwashes
  6. Articles reported on various ginseng compounds (Asian and American ginseng).

Exclusion criteria

  1. Articles proving medicinal benefits of ginseng for other systemic conditions.

The parameter that was evaluated was reduction in the microbial load after the use of red ginseng mouth wash in oral cancer patients. A detailed electronic search (Boolean search) was performed in all the main databases such as PubMed, Embase, Elsevier and Ebsco using the MESH terms. The search was narrowed down using the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Articles were excluded if the abstracts did not meet the inclusion criteria. Full-text articles were obtained for the included studies, and data were extracted. Two authors performed the search related to this review. Any disagreement on including the article was resolved using discussion between the authors and the final decision to include the article was done using kappa statistics and was at 0.8 percent agreement. Finally, 10 articles met the inclusion criteria and were included for the review. The randomized trials in this review were qualitatively analyzed using the CONSORT guidelines. The case reports were analyzed using the CARE guidelines and check list by Garg et al.[11] All the observational studies were qualitatively analyzed using the new castle Ottawa guidelines.[12] The risk of bias was assessed using the guidelines by Higgins and green.[13] The data referred from the articles were tabulated for further discussion.

   Results Top

The initial search resulted in 1962 articles, of which 1291 were filtered as they did not met the inclusion criteria. The 671 articles were screened, and based on authors' agreement, 22 were selected for full-text reading, and finally, 10 articles were included in the study [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Flow chart

Click here to view

Out of the ten clinical trials, only two authors reported about red ginseng, and two authors about turmeric mouthwashes, two authors compared marigold mouthwashes and two authors reported on neem. One article discussed about homeopathic mouth wash and Ayurvedic mouth wash, respectively. All the 10 articles evaluated the gingival and plaque indices. Five articles evaluated the bacterial count. The average follow-up period in all the included studies was 21 days, except one study that had follow-up of 5 days. The sample size of the included studies was between 10 and 50, but one study by Faria et al. comparing marigold mouth wash tested 240 samples. The trials were conducted on healthy individuals in nine studies, but one trial was conducted on postsurgical patients who underwent third molar extraction. The data extracted are summarized and presented in [Table 1]. All the included studies are clinical trials, and the risk of bias is assessed and presented in [Table 2].
Table 1: Summary of data of included studies

Click here to view
Table 2: Risk of bias in the included studies

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

Natural products are known to be safe than synthetically manufactured ones, and mouth rinses are no exceptions. Each herbal mouth rinses discussed in the table possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial property and other benefits. Synthetic mouthwashes became popular during the past few decades. The long-term side effects such as discoloration, have made the natural mouth rinses gain popularity again. Neem is native to India, and the medicinal benefits of neem are known since ancient days. Neem when used as a mouth wash has been reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The study included in this review reports that neem can be effective such as chlorhexidine mouth wash, but no significant difference or superiority of neem over the synthetic mouthwashes are reported. Due to its bitterness, Neem mouthwashes are manufactured using artificial flavors and sweeteners to enhance patient compliance.[17] These additions to the original neem extract could reduce the actual antimicrobial property, thereby making neem comparable to chlorhexidine, but not significantly better than the synthetic chlorhexidine. Turmeric from another Indian-origin medicinal plant has been used as a mouth wash.[19] Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and this can be attributed to the reduced gingival and plaque index. The efficacy of turmeric in reducing the bacterial count is comparable to chlorhexidine.[20] It is recommended as an adjuvant to routine mechanical hygiene procedures. The homeopathic mouth rinse prepared with all the essential oils has been reported to show significantly effective as mouthwash, but more studies are needed to understand the properties of the new mouth rinse.[16] Triphala (ginger extract) mouthwash was found to be effective in reducing the bacterial count and improving hygiene.[23]

Freshol (homeopathic rinse) is a combination of essential oils, unlike turmeric and neem not a single composition product, and hence, more studies are required to study and reveal the properties of each ingredient.[16] One study compared the marigold (Calendula officinalis) and tea tree extract (Camellia sinensis Kuntze) with chlorhexidine and reported a reduction in bacterial count in all three groups, but the efficacy of chlorhexidine was reported to be superior compared to marigold and tea tree extract mouthwashes.[22] However, statistically significant differences in plaque and gingival indicies were observed when marigold was tested against a placebo group.[21] Reduction in bacterial and oral microbial count leads to improved healthy gingival which is reflected as reduced plaque and gingival indices. Hence, reduced plaque and gingival index is a gold standard method to test the efficacy of mouthwashes, all the trials have used this method. The risk of bias is given in [Table 2]. Only two studies have reported the method of randomization. The risk of bias appears to be low in all the studies. The method of randomization is unclear in eight of the included studies. From the evidence available, herbal mouth rinses can be compared to synthetic mouth rinses in reducing the bacterial count and improving oral hygiene in healthy individuals. Of all the herbal mouth rinses, mouth rinses containing ginger extracts (red ginseng and triphala) appear to be superior to other herbal mouth rinses. However, further studies are required for this evidence.

Looking for evidence to our second structured question, red ginseng appears to be more promising herbal rinse compared to other available herbal rinses. Red ginseng has been reported to have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer property.[5],[7] The various ginsenoside compound in red ginseng exhibits several properties that make it a superior herbal rinse. Two clinical trials included in the study evaluated the efficacy in terms of anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The clinical trial by Subramaniam S et al. showed that red ginseng has a comparable anti-inflammatory effects as chlorhexidine with no reported side effects. However, the sample size included in this trial is low and more studies with increased sample size could provide better evidence. The red ginseng is consumed as a dietary supplement in western countries as it is known to reduce the risk of cancer.[6] Extracts of red ginseng have been reported to be used for cancer chemotherapy.[24] It has been recommended as an adjuvant to chemotherapy to reduce the symptoms of carcinoma, to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents and to reduce the risk of recurrence in such patients. The disease progress of carcinoma in any site of the body follows the same histological pattern, and hence, the red ginseng could be recommended for oral carcinoma. When used as a mouth rinse, significant changes have been observed in a week, hence long-term use of red ginseng could prevent oral carcinoma, especially in patients with premalignant conditions and this can be attributed to the high antioxidant property unlike in other herbal mouth rinses. Aich et al. reported the antioxidant property of combination of herbal mouth rinse containing triphala, turmeric, and honey in the treatment of oral submucous fibrosis. The anti-oxidant property of these mouth rinses improved the mouth opening in submucous fibrosis patients.[25] This antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties could reduce the symptoms of oral carcinoma, prevent recurrence in such patients at the same time providing anti-microbial effect in reducing the oral bacterial count.

Red ginseng with high antioxidant property can be beneficial in oral squamous cell carcinoma in reducing the bacterial count as well as prevent the progress of carcinoma. Saponin compound is found in very high concentrations in red ginseng. This saponin content was very effective in the treatment of cancer in other sites of the body.[26] The anticancer property of red ginseng can be increased by the steaming process. Ginsinosides and ginseng polysacharides are the main compounds responsible for antioxidant and anticancerous properties of the red ginseng.[24] The major anticancer properties of red ginseng include cell cycle arrest, induction of apoptosis and inhibition of angiogenesis. Red ginseng was effective in all the above histopathological stages. A meta-analysis conducted to find the incidence of cancer in population who consumed red ginseng regularly revealed that the relative risk of cancer occurrence is low.[27] However, the chemical compounds of red ginseng from Asian origin have been included in the meta-analysis.

Unlike other synthetic compounds, red ginseng has been proved to be nontoxic and showed no side effects on long-term use.[28] Although the anticancerous property of red ginseng in the oral cavity could be cautiously claimed, future clinical trials can add evidence to this claim.

Although all the studies included under this review are clinical trials, the sample size, follow-up duration and randomization techniques of the included articles could be stated as the limitations of this review.

   Conclusion Top

Evidence suggest that anti-inflammatory and antibacterial property of red ginseng has made this a safer herbal mouth rinse. Owing to its antioxidant property, this could be recommended for patients with oral carcinoma, but further studies on this aspect are required for lasting evidence.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Lee SM, Bae BS, Park HW, Ahn NG, Cho BG, Cho YL, et al. Characterization of Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng Meyer): History, preparation method, and chemical composition. J Ginseng Res 2015;39:384-91.  Back to cited text no. 1
Shi J, Tian J, Zhang X, Zeng C, Wei M, Wang P, et al. A combination extract of Renshen (Panax ginseng), Yinyanghuo (Herba Epimedii Brevicornus), Yuanzhi (Radix Palygalae) and Jianghuang (Rhizoma Curcumae Longae) decreases glycogen synthase kinase 3beta expression in brain cortex of APPV7171 transgenic mice. J Tradit Chin Med 2013;33:211-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
Taylor DA. Ginseng, the divine root. In: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 1st ed. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 2006.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kang S, Min H. Ginseng, the 'Immunity Boost': The effects of panax ginseng on immune system. J Ginseng Res 2012;36:354-68.  Back to cited text no. 4
Lü JM, Yao Q, Chen C. Ginseng compounds: An update on their molecular mechanisms and medical applications. Curr Vasc Pharmacol 2009;7:293-302.  Back to cited text no. 5
Wee JJ, Mee Park K, Chung AS. Biological activities of ginseng and its application to human health. In: Benzie IF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd ed. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 6
Chen XJ, Zhang XJ, Shui YM, Wan JB, Gao JL. Anticancer activities of protopanaxadiol- and protopanaxatriol-type ginsenosides and their metabolites. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2016;2016:5738694.  Back to cited text no. 7
Yun TK, Lee YS, Lee YH, Kim SI, Yun HY. Anticarcinogenic effect of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer and identification of active compounds. J Korean Med Sci 2001;16 (Suppl):S6-18.  Back to cited text no. 8
Saba E, Jeong D, Irfan M, Lee YY, Park SJ, Park CK, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of Rg3-enriched Korean red ginseng extract in murine model of sepsis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2018;2018:6874692.  Back to cited text no. 9
Subramaniam S, Abirami T, Prakash PS, Dhayanand JV, Devibala RT. Comparison of clinical effectiveness of red ginseng mouthwash with chlorhexidine in generalized chronic periodontitis patients – A randomised controlled clinical trial. J Pharm Sci Res 2019;11:2570-3.  Back to cited text no. 10
Garg R, Lakhan SE, Dhanasekaran AK. How to review a case report. J Med Case Rep 2016;10:88.  Back to cited text no. 11
Stang A. Critical evaluation of the Newcastle-Ottawa scale for the assessment of the quality of nonrandomized studies in meta-analyses. Eur J Epidemiol 2010;25:603-5.  Back to cited text no. 12
Higgins JP, Altman DG, Gøtzsche PC, Jüni P, Moher D, Oxman AD, et al. The cochrane collaboration's tool for assessing risk of bias in randomised trials. BMJ 2011;343:d5928.  Back to cited text no. 13
Jeddy N, Ravi S, Radhika T, Sai Lakshmi LJ. Comparison of the efficacy of herbal mouth rinse with commercially available mouth rinses: A clinical trial. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol 2018;22:332-4.  Back to cited text no. 14
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Khobragade VR, Vishwakarma PY, Dodamani AS, Jain VM, Mali GV, Kshirsagar MM. Comparative evaluation of indigenous herbal mouthwash with 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash in prevention of plaque and gingivitis: A clinico-microbiological study. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2020;18:111-7.  Back to cited text no. 15
  [Full text]  
Mehta S, Pesapathy S, Joseph M, Tiwari PK, Chawla S. Comparative evaluation of a herbal mouthwash (Freshol) with chlorhexidine on plaque accumulation, gingival inflammation, and salivary Streptococcus mutans growth. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent 2013;3:25-8.  Back to cited text no. 16
Chatterjee A, Saluja M, Singh N, Kandwal A. To evaluate the antigingivitis and antipalque effect of an Azadirachta indica (neem) mouthrinse on plaque induced gingivitis: A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. J Indian Soc Periodontol 2011;15:398-401.  Back to cited text no. 17
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Sabyasachi S, Jagannath GV, Minti K, Shafaat M, Paramjeet S. Effect of indigenous neem mouthwash on common microbial flora of mouth. Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2011;9:193-7.  Back to cited text no. 18
Mali AM, Behal R, Gilda SS. Comparative evaluation of 0.1% turmeric mouthwash with 0.2% chlorhexidine gluconate in prevention of plaque and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study. J Indian Soc Periodontol 2012;16:386-91.  Back to cited text no. 19
Waghmare PF, Chaudhari AU, Karhadkar VM, Jamkhande AS. Comparative evaluation of turmeric and chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash in prevention of plaque formation and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study. J Contemp Dent Pract 2011;12:221-4.  Back to cited text no. 20
Khairnar MS, Pawar B, Marawar PP, Mani A. Evaluation of Calendula officinalis as an anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis agent. J Indian Soc Periodontol 2013;17:741-7.  Back to cited text no. 21
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Faria RL, Cardoso Lincoln ML, Akisue G, Pereira CA, Junqueira JC, Jorge Antonio Olavo Cardoso, et al. Antimicrobial activity of Calendula officinalis, Camellia sinensis and chlorhexidine against the adherence of microorganisms to sutures after extraction of unerupted third molars. J Appl Oral Sci 2011;19:476-82.  Back to cited text no. 22
Bhattacharjee R, Nekkanti S, Kumar NG, Kapuria K, Acharya S, Pentapati KC. Efficacy of triphala mouth rinse (aqueous extracts) on dental plaque and gingivitis in children. J Investig Clin Dent 2015;6:206-10.  Back to cited text no. 23
Chen S, Wang Z, Huang Y, O'Barr SA, Wong RA, Yeung S, et al. Ginseng and anticancer drug combination to improve cancer chemotherapy: A critical review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2014;2014:168940.  Back to cited text no. 24
Aich R, Ghanta S, Das A, Giri D, Majumdar M, Bhattacharjee S. Evaluation of the role a mouth rinse containing turmeric, triphala and honey in the treatment of oral submucous fibrosis: An open label clinical study. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2018;30:376-9.  Back to cited text no. 25
  [Full text]  
Chung SI, Kang MY, Lee SC. In vitro and in vivo antioxidant activity of aged ginseng (Panax ginseng). Prev Nutr Food Sci 2016;21:24-30.  Back to cited text no. 26
Jin X, Che DB, Zhang ZH, Yan HM, Jia ZY, Jia XB. Ginseng consumption and risk of cancer: A meta-analysis. J Ginseng Res 2016;40:269-77.  Back to cited text no. 27
Wong AS, Che CM, Leung KW. Recent advances in ginseng as cancer therapeutics: A functional and mechanistic overview. Nat Prod Rep 2015;32:256-72.  Back to cited text no. 28


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


Print this article  Email this article


    Similar in PUBMED
    Search Pubmed for
    Search in Google Scholar for
  Related articles
    Article in PDF (719 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Scientific Rationale
    Materials and Me...
    Article Figures
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded169    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal

Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology | Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow
Online since 15th Aug, 2007