Home >  Blog >  Herbal Medicine for Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients after Radiation Therapy

Herbal Medicine for Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients after Radiation Therapy

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 3 July 2021
Herbal Medicine for Dry Mouth in Cancer Patients after Radiation Therapy

Xerostomia (dry mouth) causes many clinical problems, including oral infections, speech difficulties, and impaired chewing and swallowing of food. Many cancer patients have complained of xerostomia induced by cancer therapy.

Saliva, which consists of water (99%) and many electrolytes, immunoglobulins, proteins, enzymes, mucins, and nitrogenized products,serves important functions in maintaining the health of the oral cavity, speech, ingestion, and swallowing.

Xerostomia is the feeling of oral dryness, which is usually associated with insufficient saliva secretion.Because cancer therapies including radiotherapy can induce salivary hypofunction, xerostomia is one of the most common complaints in cancer patients.

Radiation therapy in the head and neck region has damaged salivary glands, resulting in altering the volume, consistency, and pH of saliva

Make Your Own Mouthwash: 

Blend 1 cup of warm water with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Swish in your mouth for a few seconds, then rinse out with water.
Repeat every three hours.Oral rinses containing added ingredients are available but unnecessary, says Dr. Yeung. "Plain old water is usually the best."

Sugarless Chews & Lozenges
If you can still make saliva, try sucking on zinc lozenges or those containng Slippery Elm to get juices flowing. The herb's jelly-like substance helps to coat the tongue, mouth, and throat and keep moisture locked in your mouth.

Edible Oils
Some people get relief by holding a few tablespoons of coconut or sesame oil in the mouth for ten to 15 minutes without swallowing. Based on an old ayurvedic medicine "oil pulling" method, this approach is "safe. The oil cleans out the mouth while coating and soothing irritated spots. There's no set time on how long to leave the oil in your mouth. 

Ginseng and Other Herbal Remedies
We recommend Echinacea, Gentian, Ginger, Prickley Ash, Cayenne and Blue Flag for increasing moisture. 

Acupuncture, the Powerhouse Remedy
To treat dry mouth, an acupuncturist inserts ten to twenty thin, disposable needles into your skin in such a way that energy flow increases to the mouth and throat. Most people feel little or no pain from the needles, which the practitioner removes after about 30 minutes. It likely works by activating the part of the brain that makes saliva. An MSK study published in the BMC Complementary Medicine Journal found this saliva-making area lit up in the brains of healthy volunteers being tested with acupuncture. Nothing happened when the volunteers received sham (fake) acupuncture.

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsCancerchemotherapy side effectsRadiation therapyHead and Neck Cancer


  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia