The tongue that heals

Published: Sunday 31 August 1997

Experiments have confirmed that licking a wound promotes healing and reduces bacterial contamination. A recently published report says that it also helps reduce pain and stop bleeding. Saliva contains anti-microbial substances, including some salts and an enzyme called lysozyme that destroy cell walls of certain bacteria. Salivary glands contain concentrates of nitrate which is rapidly converted by bacteria on the tongue surface. The converted form -- nitric oxide -- is a powerful anti-microbial substance manufactured by cells in mammals ( The Lancet , Vol 349, No 9067).

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