Bad odour in the breath (halitosis) is a common, unpleasant complaint and often makes one self-conscious.

But can also cause significant social disability in middle age, according to Professor Crispian Scully from the International Centre for Excellence in Dentistry, University College, London.

He describes some common causes of malodour as smoking, alcohol, spicy foods, garlic, onions, infection of the gums, dental decay or simply poor oral hygiene. Constipation, indigestion, acidity and colitis, lung infections, throat infec-ions, oral thrush, cancer, diabetes, poor nutrition or poor immunity can all cause bad breath.

Usually, the bad odour is caused by certain germs which can flourish in the absence of air or oxygen,and some which cause fermentation of sugars to lactic acid.

Professor Scully advises the main way to reduce malodour is to take regular meals, improve oral hygiene, eliminate infection and use appropriate mouth rinses and breath freshners.

Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines suggest bad breath is caused by a toxic state of the body and requires detoxification.

Eat a light, easily digestible diet or observe a fast for a day, drink plenty of water, herb teas such as dandelion and take digestive herbs. A frequent diet of boiled vegetables, garnished with digestive herbs such as sage, mint, ginger, coriander, clove, cardamom and cinnamon, helps to cleanse the body of toxins while giving a pleasant aroma and odour to the mouth.

Trifala is a blend of the three Indian berries said to be the best detoxifying agents for any chronic illness. One to two teaspoonfuls of the powder or two to three tablets relieve any bloating or bad breath and can be taken intermittently on a long-term basis without side effects.

Clove oil is a natural antiseptic which has been used for many years for oral hygiene but needs to be used very diluted.

One drop of clove oil in a tumbler of warm water can work wonders as a mouth rinse after each meal. If you find this too strong, try steeping some dry mint leaves in a teapot of hot water, add a touch of cinnamon and a few drops of lemon and rinse the mouth with this after each meal.

Drink a cup of ginger and mint tea after dinner rather than coffee, tea or wine for a fresh mouth.