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To gargle or not to gargle? That is the question

Japanese people have a little ritual upon coming home. No, I’m not talking about removing footwear here. When I came to Japan, my husband taught me that gargling washes out the microbes and viruses we  picked up on the streets, trains etc. As Japan is twelve times more populated than the United States, it seems reasonable, especially if you are using a gargle (ugai gusuri, うがい薬). But what about gargling with plain tap water? Some of my Japanese friends do that. Sounds more like a superstition. Does it really help? Not sure.

Gargling is so deeply ingrained into Japanese culture that no locals really think about its efficiency. For a foreigner it might be a bit weird, but you get used to it. I have tried gargling with several different types of gargles, iodine, colorless ones, and even with green tea. Colorless gargles are the best. They don’t stain your teeth and you can choose one that does not taste sweet. This one costs about 1000 yen and lasts a couple of months.Gargle

Back at home I dreaded getting a sore throat because my mom would make me gargle literally all day to make it go away. Sometimes it would be just warm water with salt. Now I’ve gotten used to gargling and think that it is more of a physcological ritual than real virus protection. A study by Japanese researchers actually proved that people who don’t gargle at all are more prone to catching a cold. It does not prevent flu, though. So you will still need to go to the drugstore.

GargleMy dentist actually advised me to gargle with baking soda. Well, of course she never mentioned that it would help to prevent a cold. From her point of view, it is good for lowering the saliva pH after eating and protect my teeth after eating.

Article by Olga Kaneda

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