Ever cut your finger, and then found yourself sticking that same finger in your mouth? And you felt guilty because everyone always said that your mouth has so much bacteria in it, it could use a full-time housekeeper?
Well, it turns out, both ideas are right. The human mouth is home to about 500-1000 different types of bacteria, but it has also been proven to have some pretty significant healing powers.
Here are 5 amazing reasons your saliva is your friend:
1) Even Cows Do It
Many animals, including cows, will lick their body if they are cut. The reason for this, according to a recent article on bbc.com, isn’t that they like steak tartare, but that saliva in the animal kingdom has been found to have antimicrobial properties.
Notably, the powerful stuff can also stop further bacteria from entering a cut.
2) Scientists in the Netherlands Believe in it
Adding to cows, in 2008, a group of scientists in the Netherlands released a report that identified a compound in human saliva that is said to greatly speed up healing.
Time to bring on Saliva Man.
To find their results, the Dutch researchers grew skin cells from the inner cheek in a dish until they completely covered the dish’s surface. They then made an artificial wound in the cultured skin cells.
In one dish, the skin cells were bathed in an isotonic fluid without additions, and in another the cells got to bask in the joy of human saliva.
According to the study results, amazingly, within 16 hours, the saliva treated wound had completely closed, while the untreated wound remained open.
By separating the different components of saliva, researchers found the effective component to be histatin, a small protein.
The great thing about isolating the powers of human saliva is that, as the study results state, the acting components can be replicated and then applied to a host of wounds, particularly helping people suffering from chronic wounds related to diabetes, and traumatic injuries like burns to heal faster.
So, no need to go licking your neighbor- they can get it in a bottle- but it seems like someone should actually thank you, if you do.
3) It Can Help Your Blood Clot
Saliva is also fantastic because it contains tissue factors shed from the cells in your mouth that actually promote healing by helping your blood clot faster. Kind of like a natural, spitty super-tonic.
4) It Contains Anti-Virals
Saliva is an all-round powerhouse. Containing thrombospondin, one of a family of glycoproteins that are made in cells and secreted by them, saliva can also work to ward off viruses.
Perhaps one of the reason you can catch a cold through your eyes or nose, but not by kissing an infected person.
So, having a wet mouth is great, and licking a cut could help you to heal. But obviously there are also definite potential health hazards in developing a wound licking habit due to the infection risk, no matter how powerful your spit is. It’s not all rosy. Human saliva does contain a wide variety of bacteria that are harmless in the mouth, but that can cause significant infection if introduced into an open gash.
A diabetic man who licked his bleeding thumb once, following a minor bicycle accident, subsequently had to have the thumb amputated after it became infected with Eikenella corrodens. It did happen.
But it’s good to remember that that was a pretty rare case. Use your judgement. The potential bonuses of a little saliva are pretty impressive, enough to sometimes make you think twice about sticking your foot in your mouth-literally.