Using healing herbs to relieve TMJ pain.

There’s a condition called Temporomandibular Joint disorder (TMJ) and what causes it is unclear.  TMJ happens when your jaw bones are not aligned and as a result they cannot work properly1.  This disorder causes inflammation to the jaw which then leads to other conditions such as clenching and grinding of the teeth, locked jaw, ringing in the ear, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and radiating pain in the jaw, head, neck and shoulders1. Several factors have been identified as contributing to TMJ, but the challenge has been identifying what they are and how to treat it.

Stress and bad bite are identified as the main sources of TMJ disorder.1  It can also be caused by an injury, bad dental work, trauma and hypoglycemia; since these people tend to clench and grind more when their blood sugar levels drops1.  Certain actions should be avoided because it can exacerbate TMJ and increase symptoms.  Things you should try to minimize or avoid if you have TMJ are: stress, opening your mouth too wide (like yawning), sleeping in a way that adds pressure to the jaw (it’s better to sleep on your back2).  You can also give your jaw a break and reduce the pain by changing your diet and doing additional self-care.

TMJ is difficult to treat, but you can make changes to alleviate the pain and stress on the jaw.  To reduce tension on the jaw, people should avoid eating fast foods, sugar, alcohol, caffeine since this can increase tension1.  Avoid eating hard foods or meals that take a lot of chewing such as a large salad, steak or gum.  In other words, eat soft foods like soups, steamed veggies, soft proteins such as fish, chicken, eggs; and fast at least one day out of the month to give your jaw a break1.  In addition, you can add calming herbs to your foods and teas to aid with stress, anxiety, pain and inflammation.  This is a condition that is difficult to treat and can be very costly; one should consider making these changes as soon as they know they have TMJ to reduce symptoms.

Treating TMJ can be very expensive because it is difficult to figure out what is causing it.  The most common treatment is a mouth guard that protects the teeth from the clenching during sleep. Other treatments may help such as physical therapy, craniosacral therapy, and acupuncture3. The last resort would be surgery which can be very expensive and may be help eliminate pain, in some cases2. You can also take nutritional supplements and herbs that relax the muscles, help with stress and improves sleep such as: Calcium, magnesium, Vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and L-Tyrosine 1Additional treatments, I would recommend for people with TMJ are doing activities that reduce stress such as: taking a bath with relaxing herbs, yoga, exercise, getting a massage, aromatherapy with calming oils and putting ice or hot damp towel on the jaw.  Because treating TMJ can be like a guessing game it’s important to know how to live with it; and that may include implementing new foods and herbs that support TMJ.

There are several herbs that can alleviate TMJ pain by reducing anxiety, stress, inflammation, and help you get better sleep.  Most books on treating TMJ usually mention herbs that can be taken as a tea.  However, there are a lot more herbs that can also be used in teas, cooking, and topically.    Throughout the next few sections I will recommend six herbs.

Ginger has been used for over 5,000 years in cooking and other medicinal uses4. Traditionally, ginger has been used for nausea, pain and inflammation5. This can bring hope to individuals with TMJ disorder; because a lot of clenching cause structural damage to the joint and this leads to inflammation2.  Surrounding muscles are also typically affected, getting sore and leading to painful knots and spasms2.  Ginger has many properties, with many other ailments benefiting from its use.

Ginger has over 400 chemicals but only three have been considered for their medicinal effect 6. The gingerols, shogaols, and paradols are known to be the active constituents of anti-inflammation6.  According to an article from the American Botanical Council, ginger lowers inflammation by stopping certain enzymes such as the nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB)6.  High amounts of NF-kB have been found in people who have chronic joint inflammatory illnesses6.  I would recommend ginger to anyone who has any type of inflammation, including, that which is caused by TMJ clenching.  It is recommended to cook daily with ginger if you have any type of pain as mild as a headache to severe joint aches7.

The active constituents are found in both fresh and dried ginger.  The dosage recommended in leaf infusion is 2-4 oz., 2-3 times a day8.   However, ginger can be bothersome to the digestive tract, so it is recommended to take it with food or after meals7.  Ginger can be used in teas, cooking, baking and of course for healing purposes.

Turmeric is another herb that has been used in cooking and for its medicinal uses.  The main active constituent, is curcumin which gives turmeric its yellow color7.  Another, constituent is, borneol oil it helps reduce inflammation and valepotriates is an analgesic7.  The mechanism of how it works or the recommended dosage is not clear.   However, according to an article turmeric has not shown any side effects in dosages up to 1,600 mg (1 oz.) a day in a 4 week trial for anti-inflammatory activity9.  Another article mentions, it is safe to drink ½-1 tsp. of powdered turmeric in water; but does not recommend consumption if there is a history of stomach problems such as gastritis8. Dentist have also used turmeric to aid with mouth pain.  According to an article in the American Botanical Counsel, turmeric can be used to, “Massage aching teeth with roasted ground turmeric to eliminate pain and swelling”10.  The entire turmeric plant is medicinal8.  Turmeric can be used in teas, cooking, baking, topically and for gum pain.

Clove is also used in the culinary world and as a medicine.  It has been used for many conditions and as a dental pain reliever; the main active constituent is eugenol11.  This plant has the highest amount of eugenol ingredient which can increase antioxidant levels7.  The entire herb, including the oils, dried buds, leaves, and stems can be used as medicine12. However, the most common way it has been used is as an essential oil8.  The dosage of clove varies: alcohol mixture 10-20 drops 2-3 times a day; as essential oil and lotion one can apply topically as needed8.  People who are taking blood thinning medication should avoid using cloves because it can increase the thinning process8.  According to The Healing Herbs Cookbook, a simple recipe for toothache pain is to, “Place a whole clove on the gum beside the ache, or between the teeth, nibbling at it until it has come to bits. Use no more than two cloves”7.  This clove recipe can help in reducing pain if your TMJ causes your gums to swell.  Aside from its medicinal value, cloves also add a delicious flavor when you incorporate them in your cooking, baking, and teas.

The next few herbs I will be focusing on are valerian, kava and lavender.   These herbs are known to reducing stress, anxiety and improve sleep.  Individuals who suffer from TMJ can benefit by incorporating these in their teas, foods, and baths.

Valerian is another herb that can help individuals with TMJ because of its sedative mechanisms.  Valerian has a strong smell and historically it was used as a perfume; now it is mainly used as a sedative13.  Valerian has more than 100 active constituents and their concentrations vary depending on the season14.  The most active constituents are valeric, iso-valeric acids and valepotriates and they work by inhibiting brain activity14. According to an article by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, valerian has been known as a “soother of troubled nerves and an inducer of untroubled sleep, mild in effect but safe in use”14.  In other words, valerian can help someone who cannot get enough sleep due to stress.  The dosage as a liquid extract ranges from 135-600 mg a day and the benefits may be noticeable after 2 weeks of use15.  It can also be taken as an root infusion 3-6 oz. 1-3 times a day8.  The roots of valerian are preferred since the leaves are low in its potency8.  In addition, to its medicinal uses valerian can also be used in foods to increase its effect.

Kava is a root that can help people with TMJ pain by reducing anxiety, stress and insomnia16.  Traditionally, kava was used as an intoxicating beverage but it is also popular for its therapeutic symptoms17.  The chemicals in kava are kava-lactones and one of the active constituent is kava-methysticin pyrenes which works as a muscle relaxant14.  In the book 101 Medicinal Herbs states, kava-lactones relax the muscle by interrupting the muscle contractions instead of preventing the brain cell signals16. The most common way to extract the benefits of kava is in water and alcohol for pharmaceutical remedies17.  Kava dried root may be taken up to six capsules, 400-500 mg a day (equivalent to 1 teaspoon) or in tinctures 15-30 drops in water up to 3 times a day.  Kava is safe in small amounts16.  In large amounts it can have temporary side effects such as skin and vision problems; avoid if you are pregnant, lactating or suffer from depression16.  Kava can also be added to smoothies, chocolate and baths.

Lavender can also be a valuable herb if you suffer from headaches, pain or trouble sleeping due to TMJ.  Lavender, in Germany, has been approved as a medicinal tea to treat sleeping disorders18.  Filling up a pillow or an eye pack with dried lavender flowers can stimulate sleep8.  In one study, 40 individuals were split into two groups; one group inhaled lavender for 3 minutes and the other inhaled rosemary.  The lavender group showed they had lower depressed moods, felt more relaxed and were able to solve math problems faster.  To treat headaches lavender oil can be applied topically on the temples and forehead; it can also be rubbed to soothe pain8.   The main chemicals that make lavender special are linalyl acetate, linalool, 1,8-cineole, beta-ocimene, terpinen-4-ol, and camphor19.  The mechanism is not clear on how these chemicals work since not enough research has been done19.  However, one article mentions that lavender oil showed it suppressed the central nervous system in animals studies18.  The entire plant can be used, however the flowers dried or fresh have more of the volatile oils. In regards to dosages, the recommendations are: lavender infusions, 1-2 teaspoons in 5oz. of water, and as an essential oil 1-4 drops on a sugar cube18.  Women who are pregnant should avoid using lavender since it is used to promote menstration8.  Lavender can also be used in cooking, topically and in baths.

Below you will find healthy recipes I would recommend to someone who suffers from TMJ disorder.  All of the recipes contain healing herbs and are gentle on the jaw.  Rotating between hot and cold meals can be comforting when your body is feeling stressed and your jaw needs extra self-care.  Most of the meals offer several servings so you can freeze and enjoy on days you just need a break.





Servings: 6-8


1 Tbs of oil (I prefer avocado oil)

8 large eggs (9” pie 9 for 10 cupcake)

¼ cup Coconut Milk

½ cup onion chopped

1 cup Fresh green leafy vegetables: Spinach or kale

1 cup mushroom or mini bell peppers

½ tsp of salt

½ tsp Pepper

½ tsp Turmeric powder

½ Ginger powder


Set oven to 375F and grease a 9-inch pie plate, with oil, including the sides.If you have a food processor you can toss all the vegetables and save time.  Otherwise diced them to desire.In a separate bowl whisk eggs, once they are mixed add coconut milk and seasonings.Mix all ingredients and pour into the baking dish. 

Bake for 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees.

This frittata has Turmeric and Ginger which both have anti-inflammatory properties.


Lavender Blueberry Smoothie

Servings: 1


1 cup of frozen blueberries

½ banana

½ avocado

1 tsp of lavender

1 cup of coconut milk

1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

½ cup of ice


Put everything in the blender and blend all ingredients until smooth.

Enjoy this lavender blueberry smoothie during the week-day to help you feel more at easy and reduce the stress.



Anti-inflammatory Bone Broth

Servings: 6-8


1 lb of grass beef bones

2 Tbs apple cider vinegar to get the minerals out of the bones

½ Tbs dried oregano, natural antibiotic

4-6 whole garlic cloves

1 Tbs of turmeric

1 tsp of cracked pepper

6 dried cloves

1 gallon of water


Optional Toppings:



Avocado (my favorite)


Salt to taste


Put everything in a big pot or a crockpot and fill it up with water.


Cover and bring to a boil then lower the temperature and let it cook for 24-48 hours.



When you feel the inside of your jaw is inflamed; give it a break with this nourishing anti-inflammatory broth.


Chia Chocolate Pudding

Servings: 4


8 Tbs Chia

1 tsp Lavender

3 Tbs raw cacao

½ tsp vanilla

8 soaked dates

2 cups of regular coconut milk


Blend dates with a ½ cup of the coconut milk.


Then combine the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate 30 minutes.

This chia chocolate pudding has a hint of my favorite calming herb to help your mind, jaw, and body unwind.


Boosting Tea

Servings: 2


2 cups of water

½ tsp powdered turmeric

½ tsp powdered ginger

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of pepper

½ cup of milk of your choice


Bring water to boil in a small pot for about 5 minutes.


Turn off heat and add all ingredients including the milk and let it steep for about 5 minutes.


Honey to taste once tea has cooled down.

When you need boost of energy but you can’t have coffee; enjoy this tea with anti-inflammatory herbs.



Calming Tea

Servings: 1


1 tsp of valerian

1 cup of water


Boil water to boil in a small pot and add valerian.  Boil for about 5 minutes then turn off.


Honey to taste once tea has cooled down.

At the end of a busy day enjoy this valerian tea; it will help you calm your worries.


Lavender Tea

Servings: 2


1 ½ Tbs of dried lavender

2 cups of boiling water

½ cup of milk of your choice


Boil water with lavender then turn off.


Add milk and allow it steep for about 5 minutes.


Pour into cup with a strainer to discard lavender.


Honey to taste once tea has cooled down

Lavender tea has a soothing fragrant and calming effect. It will bring a sense of peace and help you relax.


Main meals:

Savory Egg Salad

Servings: 2

5 hard boiled eggs chopped
½ tsp Turmeric
1 ½ tsp dried lavender flowers
1 scallion chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise, or to taste1 tsp Dijon mustard
Combine all of the ingredients.Salt and pepper to taste.Enjoy with cucumber slices.
This high protein salad is soft on your teeth with anti-inflammatory and calming results.


Ginger Shrimp Bisque

Servings: 6-8


24 (14 oz) large raw shrimp with shells on

3 Tbs avocado oil

2 cup chopped carrots

2 cup chopped celery

1 Tbs of chopped garlic

2 cup chopped onions

4 oz (1 inch) chopped ginger

1 can (6 oz) of tomato paste

1 can (13.5 oz) of coconut cream

4 cups of chicken broth


Heat avocado oil in pot, and sauté onions until translucent on medium heat.


Add carrots, celery, ginger, garlic and sauté until the vegetables are cooked (5 minutes).


Removed the shells on the shrimp then add the shrimp in the pot.


Add tomato paste, coconut cream and chicken broth.


Simmer on medium heat stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.


Puree with a hand blender until smooth.


Salt & Pepper to taste


Spice it up with a little bit of cayenne powder and enjoy with a piece of gluten free toast (lightly toasted).


Freeze leftovers.

This soup not only does it have anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic healing properties, but it is also soothing on your jaw.


Bean-less Chili

Servings: 4-6


1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium onions, diced

2 bell peppers (any color), chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 lb ground turkey or beef

2 cups water, more as needed

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

1 Tbs ground cumin

1 Tbs of oregano

1 Tbs paprika

6 whole cloves

Salt and pepper to taste


Optional Toppings:

Fresh cilantro leaves

Sliced avocado

Sliced scallions

jalapeño pepper, finely chopped or cayenne


Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Sautee onions until translucent then add garlic bell peppers, carrots, celery and sauté for 5-7 minutes until soft.


Add the meat and cook until meat is browned, 5-7 minutes, stirring often to break up the chunks.


Once the meat is browned, add the water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt, and spices. Mix well to combine.


Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chili is nice and thick, about 45 minutes. Add additional water during cooking if you want your chili to be more soup-like. Toward the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Add more cayenne pepper for an extra kick and more salt and pepper as needed.

The cloves in this chili will help reduce pain and inflammation and satisfy your tummy.


Tomato Soup

Servings: 2


4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

1 chopped onion

4 whole cloves

2 cups chicken or bone broth

2 Tbs butter

1 Tbs corn starch (optional to thicken it)

Salt and pepper to taste



In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and broth. Bring to a boil, and let it boil for about 20 minutes to blend all of the flavors.


Turn off and blend with an immersion blender.


In a different stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the corn starch and cook until it turns medium brown.


Gradually whisk the tomato mixture, so that no lumps form, then stir in the rest.

Puree soups give individuals with TMJ a break from chewing; and cloves provide you with anti-oxidants and aid in reducing pain.


Basil Soup

Servings: 4


3 garlic cloves

½ cup of chopped onions

½ cup of valerian leaves

1 cup of fresh basil leaves

2 Tbs. of butter

4 cups of any vegetable or bone broth

½ cup of quinoa

Salt and pepper to taste



Bring the broth to boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add valerian and basil leaves to the broth. Let it boil for 3 minutes then turn it off. Blend with an immersion blender.In a different saucepan melt the butter over a medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent then add the garlic.Then add the quinoa, pureed mix and cover saucepan.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until quinoa is soft. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.Before serving garnish with extra basil leaves.
This flavorful soup with valerian will aid in decreasing your tension and the use of your teeth.



Ginger Soup                                     Servings: 2-4
4 cups chicken broth or bone broth
4 thick slices fresh ginger root (1inch)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
¼ cup of chopped onions                                Salt and pepper to tasteOptional Toppings:Fresh cilantro leavesSliced scallionsjalapeño pepper, finely chopped or cayenne
In medium saucepan, bring chicken stock to a low simmer. Add ginger and onions and let simmer at least 15 minutes or longer.Add mushrooms then turn off heat. Garnish with your favorite toppings and enjoy.
This soup will help reduce joint inflammation, headaches and support your jaw with these soft ingredients.



Kava Shake

Serving: 1


1 bananas

1 cup of your choice of milk

2 Tbs of nut or seed butter

1 tsp. of kava powder

¼ tsp. cinnamon powder

1 tsp. raw cacao

Put everything in the blender and blend all ingredients until smooth.Honey to taste
Give your jaw muscles a break by indulging this calming kava shake.


Kavalicious Chocolates

Servings: 6


1 cup organic dark chocolate chips

2 Tbs nut butter (almond or cashew, etc)

1 Tbs maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup toasted nuts, chopped (hazelnut, almond, cashew, pecan)

½ – 2 tsp kava powder (depending on desired strength)

¼ cup coconut flakes




Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over gently simmering water. Remove from heat when chocolate chips have melted.


Stir in the nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the nuts and kava and mix well.

You can use a chocolate mold or line a tray with waxed or parchment paper. Drop tablespoon sized portions of the chocolate mixture onto the tray.


Then sprinkle the chocolates with the coconut flakes and put in the fridge for 15 minutes or until firm.

If you have a sweet-tooth you can still indulge a little.  These kava chocolates will satisfy you sweet-tooth and help you relax. Enjoy these Kavalicious chocolates.







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