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The Benefits of Oil Pulling

Apr/09/2023 / by Sweta Vikram

Ayurveda and a host of people who have tried this method swear by its ability to improve health

Jaggery and its oil, used in oil pulling
Jaggery and its oil, used in oil pulling. Shutterstock

The other day a friend reached out to me and asked if she should be doing 30-minutes of oil pulling every morning based on the suggestion of some “expert” on the internet. She then asked what was oil pulling exactly?

Unqualified Google doctors and WhatsApp University information-sharers lack any real regard for people’s safety and will share nonsensical and harmful information. So, be mindful of who you listen to.

Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice that involves placing an edible oil in the mouth and swishing it through the teeth on an empty stomach. This is for oral and systemic health benefits. You eventually spit the oil out. Done first thing in the morning, oil pulling is referred to in the Ayurvedic texts like “Caraka Samhita” as kawal dhāraṇa or ganḍuṣa. This is part of my daily dinacharya, and I notice a difference when I skip it, because my body isn’t getting detoxed first thing in the morning.

What Does It Do?

Ancient Ayurvedic book, “Caraka Samhita,” tells us that the swishing of oil in the mouth activates enzymes and draws out toxins from the blood. This process improves gut flora, which in turn, helps prevent tooth decay, alleviates bad breath, and strengthens tissues and gums. Oil pulling has been used extensively for years to prevent dental decay, halitosis, bleeding gums, and cracked lips.

One of the most common culprits of tooth decay is Streptococcus mutans, a microorganism in your mouth. Daily oil pulling for 10-15 minutes can help reduce S. mutans count in your mouth and prevent tooth problems. It is also supposed to help prevent headaches, asthma, and diabetes. Western science that oil pulling may be another way to bring your mouth’s pH back to neutral or basic levels.

While limited scientific data is available on the topic, personal testimonies point to the advantages to oil pulling. Lindsey W., a fellow Ayurvedic practitioner, had cystic acne on parts of her face.

She says, “I used to oil pull with sesame oil daily, part of dinacharya, but I had randomly stopped for about a year. Then after meditating one day, I felt the need to start doing it again. So, I started the next morning, (totally unrelated to acne) and after 2-3 days I noticed an unexpected change in the acne around my jaw. It didn’t completely go away, but it was enough of a change to make me connect the acne to my teeth – and call a dentist.”

Lindsey will tell you that the root cause of her acne was a tooth-related problem, which was releasing toxins in the body. But the fact that oil pulling lessened the toxins, it made her think about the dental connection.

How to Do It

You take one tablespoon of oil and swish: push, pull, draw it from side-to-side, front, and back. Let your facial muscles do the work. You spit out the oil in a trash can (you don’t want your sink clogged). Towards the end, the oil you spit will look milky white, frothy, and thinner consistency. You mustn’t swallow the oil as it is considered to be toxic and filled with bacteria. Rinse your mouth with warm water after spitting out the oil. It helps make the mouth less greasy and kills any lingering bacteria. I also like to brush, so no bacteria linger.

The Kind of Oil to Use

Ayurveda is all about customized healing and making recommendations based on a person’s health condition, imbalances, prakruti (Ayurvedic dosha), season, and other factors. But sesame seed oil is most recommended often for oil pulling because of its nutrient value. It has several medicinal properties and health benefits. Sesame oil also has antioxidants like sesamin, sesamolin and sesaminol. Sesamin promotes the destruction of microorganisms. Sesame oil has chlorosesamone, which has antifungal properties, making it a good choice of oil for oil pulling. At the Maharishi International College in Fairfield, Iowa, students rinsed their mouths with sesame oil. They saw an 85% reduction in the bacteria that cause gingivitis.

Some people prefer coconut oil (especially during hot summer months). That’s great, too, because coconut oil contains lauric acid, which reacts with saliva to form a soap-like substance with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Summing up

Oil pulling is a simple, Ayurvedic, detox measure. It’s not a substitute for brushing, tongue-scraping, or flossing. But it is a great preventative practice for maintaining oral health.

While some Ayurvedic practitioners recommend oil pulling every day, I would say if you are new to it, go slow. We want to build good and healthy habits but in a sustainable way. Do it twice a week but stick to it. It is always helpful to consult with an Ayurvedic expert before starting any new practice.

The great thing about Ayurveda is that its treatments always yield side benefits, not side effects ~ Shubhra Krishan

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta Vikram here.


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