Magnolia bark extract – a traditional Chinese medicine – may be the newest weapon in the war on bad breath.
Wrigley said that it has added the germ-killing compound to their gum and mints.
The hope is to not simply mask bad breath, as most strongly flavoured mints and gums do, but to kill odour-causing bacteria.
Magnolia bark extract has long been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine.
It is used to treat fever, headache and stress – and has proven effective against germs that cause ulcers.
Recent studies have shown it has low toxicity and few side-effects.
Most bad breath occurs when bacteria in the mouth break down proteins, producing foul-smelling sulphur compounds.
But many anti-microbial agents cause nasty side-effects like tooth staining, making them impractical for oral care.
Researchers from Wrigley tested magnolia bark extract on cultures of three types of oral micro-organisms.
The extract killed 99.9% of the micro-organisms within five minutes, the researchers said.
In a study of nine volunteers who chewed the mints after lunch, they killed off more than 61% of the germs that cause bad breath within 30 minutes – which is comparable to some commercial mouthwashes, the company study found.
Mints without the extract were only 3.6% effective.
Gum with the extract took a bit longer to kill oral bacteria.
The extract also helped kill a group of bacteria that causes tooth decay.
Wrigley tree-bark gum will be available in the US later this summer.
Eclipse mints with the tree-bark extract will be available in autumn.