Keeping oil in your mouth and swirling it around might not sound like the most attractive practice. But google “oil pulling” and you will find that it is hailed as a bit of a health miracle.
It has been attributed to whiter teeth, healthier gums, kill bad breath, cavity and gingivitis prevention, strengthen the gums and jaw, soothe throat dryness, relieve sinusitis and headaches as well as boosting the immune system. Although we are not claiming any of this there have been several studies (we found 21 research studies) and certainly anecdotical evidence from people who benefitted from oil pulling. Studies suggest that it oil pulling compares well with mouthwash for instance.
Reflexology of the mouth
In Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) it is thought that each part of the tongue is connected to our whole body - much like reflexology. Oil pulling will therefore benefit our wellbeing simply by the exercise of the action and using oils in the oral cavity.
oil pulling is said to whiten teeth
So what does it involve?
Basically you take 1-2 tablespoons of oil into your mouth. Swirl it around and “pull” it through your teeth for about 10-20 minutes. Have a gargle if you can. Spit out into a bin (do not clog up your drains but spitting it into the sink). You can rinse afterwards with water or salt water if needed.
It is generally recommended to practise oil pulling first thing in the morning. On an empty stomach and as part of your daily hygiene.
The Ayurvedic connection
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, there are two similar practises. One is called Gandusha where a substance is held within the oral cavity after a head and neck massage. In Gandusha you may use oil according to your constitution or the ailment you are aiming to heal. But it could also be other herbal or salty substances.
The other practice is Kavala where you gargle with a liquid such as herbal oils or other liquids. This is often used in the traditional Western culture where we gargle with salt water to clear infections or sore throats.
In Ayurveda Gandusha and Kavala are commonly used for complaints of the throat, neck, mouth, teeth, gums, sinuses and head. It is especially useful for excess Kapha Dosha and Ama. Ama is sometimes translated as toxins or undigested material - something of no use. When we spit out the oil or substance after our oil pulling, Kavala or Gandusha we also let go of some of that accumulated Dosha or toxic material.
What oils to use
It is now so popular in the West that there are specifically marketed oils for oil pulling. But regular high quality oils for the health food shop or super marked works just as well. We like using coconut oil. Coconut has a pleasant taste, it's easy to scoop onto a spoon and it melts quickly in the mouth. Coconut also has the Ayurvedic properties of being cooling and nourishing. So for any inflammation or irritation coconut oil works wonders. Sesame oil is another favourite. It is recommended to nourish and nurture. (for those who know their Ayruveda: It balances all three Doshas but has a special affinity with Vata Dosha). For everyone else - it's enough to know that it's calming to an anxious mind and dry nature.
However, the best oil is the one you use. It can whatever high quality oil you have in your kitchen such as olive oil, sunflower seed or almond oil. Make sure it is good quality and it is a vegetable oil. If you choose sesame oil make sure it is not toasted sesame oil!
Although essential oils are generally not taking internally you may benefit using them in your oil pulling as you spit out the oil after the practise. Adding a drop of pure high quality essential oil can add additional qualities to your practise. We love clove, citrus oils, frankincense or myrrh. These are just some of the aromatic oils you find in body oils and roll-ons
Oil pulling works by cleaning the mouth in a similar way that soap cleans dirty dishes. It sucks the dirt out of your mouth and creates a clean, antiseptic environment that contributes to the proper flow of oral liquid that’s needed to prevent cavities and disease.
As you start to include oil pulling into your daily routine observe how it affects you. This is also the perfect time for a bit of mindfulness and awareness practise. You can even multitask by oil pulling whilst having a shower, doing your pranayama or getting ready for the day.