Oil pulling is something that is still pretty uncommon in Western health practices. Tejal has done it for years and years and still thinks I am strange that until I met her, I had never heard of it. But, most of my friends haven’t either. So what is it and why should you be doing it?
According to the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, oil pulling is an Ayurvedic ritual that has been around for thousands of years and it is increasingly believed that swishing an oil such as sesame or coconut around your mouth in the morning as part of your routine (alongside daily tongue scraping and tooth brushing) is said to have incredible benefits. Read on for the facts and the myths…
Ancient Ayurvedic Wisdom: Oil pulling is mentioned in the ayurvedic texts as ‘Kavala Graha’ or ‘Kavala Gandoosha’. In Gandoosha, your mouth is completely filled with oil such whereas in Kavala Graha, smaller quantities of oil are used so that gargling is possible. Interestingly, most articles that I have read around oil-pulling do not suggest to try gargling at all, just to swish.
Oral health is key in Ayurveda: Ayurveda sees the digestive system as the key to health and it all starts with your mouth. As the entry point for the entire digestive tract, the health of the mouth directly impacts the gut, and therefore the strength of agni. If we have good oral health, it helps us to sustain a strong digestive tract and supports agni, the performance of which impacts our entire body
A Morning Ritual: oil pulling is part of your morning routine and is said to nourish gums and exercise the jaw and cheek muscles, but mainly it is done to draw out impurities from the teeth and mouth which helps the body’s natural detoxification process. Sounds great- what any other benefits?
3 Key benefits of oil pulling
- Improves oral health which could prevent cavities: Decreasing the number of bacteria (did you know you can have up to 700 types in your mouth alone?!) in the mouth can help support proper oral hygiene and prevent some medical conditions, including tooth decay. One study, using sesame oil, saw a significant reduction in oral bacteria after just 2 weeks of daily oil pulling.
- Reduces inflammation and improves gum health: If you don’t know what it is, Gingivitis is a type of gum disease where your gums become red and swollen and bleed easily, often triggered by a build-up of plaque. Clinical trials have been conducted to analyse the short-term effect of oil pulling on the plaque known to cause gingivitis and show that oil-pulling may be be an effective remedy
- Gets Rid of Bad Breath: it turns out that oil pulling may be better than your traditional mouthwash at eliminating bad breath. Mouthwash contains alcohol which dries out the mouth which reduces the production of saliva, We need saliva to help stop certain bacteria and to maintain a healthy PH level, so whilst it temporarily freshens your breath, you may have been doing more harm than good reaching for that mouthwash .
So there clearly are some major benefits to oil pulling but there are also some myths that have built up around the practice as well.
Here’s what Oil Pulling does not do:
- Oil pulling can’t replace regular brushing and flossing. It can help reduce plaque and oral bacteria, but as part of a daily oral routine, as this article in the British Dental Journal suggests
- Oil pulling does not loosen crowns or filings unless issues are already there
- Oil pulling does not whiten teeth. It can help improve the appearance of our teeth by reducing the stains caused by bacteria, but doesn’t actually whiten them, according to studies done by the American Dental Association
- Oil pulling does not cure all diseases. While there is evidence to support that is helps eliminate oral bacteria, there is none to suggest it cures others that you read about – asthma, diabetes, arthritis.
Does it matter which oil you use? Traditionally, oil pulling was done with sesame oil for its nutrient value but coconut oil is becoming popular because it contains the richest source of lauric acid known to man, which has antimicrobial benefits. Your body breaks lauric acid down into a compound called monolaurin and both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses in the body. According to research, lauric acid is more effective at killing these pathogens than any other saturated fatty acid. So it looks like coconut wins but you can also buy oils blended with ayurvedic herbs and minty oils for an extra blast of natural health.
How to Oil Pull: You put about 1-3 tablespoons of oil in your mouth and swish it around. This sensation is definitely acquired, so start with 5 minutes and build up to the ideal of 15-20 minutes. You might think, as I did, that you just don’t have 20 spare minutes in the morning but put it to use – this isn’t as vigorous as using a mouthwash so you can do things along the way- take a shower, check Instagram and get dressed (carefully..) while swishing away.
One thing though – don’t swallow! As oil pulling helps with the natural detoxification processes, make sure you spit out the oil onto a tissue or into the bin (you also don’t want your pipes to get clogged up with oil over time) and rinse your mouth out with warm water.
Happy pulling! (but don’t forget to brush, floss and tongue scrape too!)