Bad breath, or halitosis, is something that everyone experiences from time to time. The most important factor in preventing bad breath is good oral hygiene—usually, a build-up of bacteria in the mouth is to blame for the symptom.

Other important factors include quitting smoking and drinking enough water, as dry mouth is another common cause. If these measures don't do the trick, effective home remedies to treat bad breath include many common ingredients that can be found in any pantry or grocery store.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are a traditional Indian remedy for treating bad breath. Try chewing a teaspoon of fennel seeds—the antimicrobial properties of the seeds fight odor-causing bacteria, and the chewing action stimulates the production of saliva, which is important for good oral health.

Drinking fennel tea a couple of times a day can also aid digestion while fending off bad breath.

red scoop of fennel seeds



Clove is traditionally used to relieve pain, treat digestive issues, and fight infection, all thanks to an antibacterial compound called eugenol. These anti-bacterial properties may also make clove an effective treatment for bad breath.

Try biting into a clove, moving it around the mouth, and then spitting it out for an instant freshness boost. Clove oil is also popular, but it is very potent, so take care to avoid burning the tongue. Avoid pure clove oil or powder, as it is too intense for the soft skin of the mouth.

cloves in a wooden bowl and spoon



Lemon is an effective natural remedy for bad breath. Research shows that lemon oil reduces the production of salivary bacteria and volatile sulfur compounds that cause bad breath.

As lemon is high in citric acid, however, it can also aggravate gastrointestinal symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux and cause damage to tooth enamel. The best way to enjoy the benefits of lemon without these side effects is to add freshly squeezed lemon juice to a glass of water and drink it with a meal.

lemon mouthwash on blue background


Baking Soda

Baking soda has been shown to be an effective treatment for bad breath. Because baking soda is alkaline, it helps neutralize acidity in the mouth and fights odor-causing bacteria.

Choose a toothpaste that contains baking soda, or make a mouthwash by adding 2 teaspoons of baking soda to a cup of warm water. Rinse for 30 seconds before spitting it out.

putting a spoon of baking soda into water


Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been touted as the new wonder ingredient for everything from weight loss to cancer. While it does not live up to all these claims, it is a potential treatment for bad breath, for reasons similar to baking soda: it balances the PH of the mouth and fights bacteria. Consuming apple cider vinegar can help improve digestion, which may also help eliminate bad breath by reducing the production of bad bacteria.

Try mixing one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink, gargle or rinse for 30 seconds to enjoy the benefits. Just keep in mind that vinegar can alter insulin levels and lower potassium levels, so people with diabetes or who take certain medications should be cautious about consuming too much. As with lemon juice, it’s best to dilute vinegar to protect tooth enamel and reduce the chance of gastrointestinal symptoms.

shot glass of apple cider vinegar with apples in the background



Zinc has many benefits for oral health. It can help prevent tooth demineralization and gum disease and even eliminate bad breath. Research suggests toothpastes containing zinc ions neutralize volatile sulfur compounds and reduce oral smelliness.

It's also possible to increase zinc intake by taking a supplement or eating foods rich in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and cocoa.

bowl of pumpkin seeds on a wooden table



Parsley is a popular folk remedy for bad breath due to its fresh fragrance and high levels of chlorophyll, which are believed to fight odor-causing bacteria in the body.

While chewing on a few leaves may help temporarily freshen the breath by masking unpleasant odors, there’s little scientific evidence to support its use as a lasting treatment for bad breath.

woman making a meal with parsley



Fenugreek is recommended by some as a treatment for bad breath caused by colds and sinus infections. Though it is popularly used for a variety of traditional remedies by different cultures, there’s no scientific evidence to support fenugreek as an effective treatment for bad breath. Potential side effects of excessive consumption include allergic reactions, digestive issues, dizziness, and headaches.

Consuming fenugreek in large amounts—greater than normally used in food—may cause a dangerous drop in blood sugar and is not safe during pregnancy due to the risk of uterine contractions.

fenugreek seeds in a wooden scoop


Chewing Gum

Commonly used as a treatment for bad breath, it’s not just the flavor of chewing gum that helps freshen things up. The action of chewing stimulates saliva production, which removes food debris and reduces bacteria build-up on the teeth, in turn reducing the volatile sulfur compounds that contribute to bad breath.

Chewing gum containing sugar can cause demineralization and dental caries, so choose a gum with natural alternatives to sugar. People with a history of jaw pain should avoid gum and instead opt for sugar-free mints.

close up of a woman putting a stick of gum in her mouth


Good Dental Care

While all these remedies can prove effective, the most important factor in maintaining fresh breath is good oral hygiene. Dentists recommend brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, using dental floss to clean between the teeth, and getting a check-up every six months.

It’s important to eat a balanced diet with limited sugar and to avoid smoking, as this can cause, in addition to bad breath, tooth discoloration and an increased risk of gum disease.

woman brushing her teeth in bathroom mirror


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