Oil pulling is quite an old tradition that developed from Ayurvedic principles (traditional Indian medicine). It’s a very simple practice that only takes 20 minutes out of your daily routine, but the benefits are many.
What is it?
Oil pulling is considered to be helpful for an enormous range of conditions – ranging from issues such as general dental health, arthritis, inflammation, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Traditionally it was considered to work by drawing out toxins from the salivary glands, however as it has become increasingly popular in the last few years, researchers have looked into the practice and found that it provides its benefits by addressing the ‘bad’ bacteria in your mouth – you could say that it PULLS the bad bacteria out. This action has a huge flow on effect to the rest of the digestive system, and therefore the rest of the body. Oil pulling also acts as a form of tongue massage, which acts on pressure points to support healthy energy flow along the meridians that flow all throughout your body, in a style similar to reflexology and acupressure.
By reducing the bad bacteria in your teeth and mouth you can not only improve your dental health (by reducing the bacteria that cause plaque), whiten teeth and nourish gum health, but also improve the balance in the rest of your digestive system (remember the mouth is the entrance to the digestive system, so removing bad guys here will help further on down the line). The good bacteria in your gut have an enormous amount of roles in the body – digestive bacteria affects inflammation, immune health, mood, hormone balance, and even contributes towards cardiovascular health (amazingly, an analysis of cardiovascular plaque has found that it contains a large amount of ‘bad’ bacteria which originate in the mouth and stomach!).
Which Oil do I use?
Traditionally oil pulling was performed with sunflower or canola oil, and sesame oil is also a popular choice. You could use any form of oil as long as it is organic and cold pressed. Cold-pressed sesame oil won’t have as strong a taste as the type that you cook your stir-fries with. Coconut oil is my personal preference due its taste, and is the most common recommendation amongst oil pulling advocates. At the moment it’s probably one of the easiest to find in large quantities as well. (Some people don’t like the consistency of coconut oil when it’s set which happens in colder months, so you can melt it before putting it in your mouth. Personally, I like it! It’s like a coco nutty treat, also like I’ve bitten into a Bounty.) You can add a 3-4 of drops of oregano oil for its anti-microbial properties, however you might want to start with only 1 drop as this can be quite strong for some.
How to do it:
Take 1 tbsp coconut oil in your mouth, and swish around for 20 minutes. You want to ensure that the oil is getting between your teeth and over and under your tongue. Then spit it out! Couldn’t be simpler.
During this time you can get creative about what else to do. Read a book? Take a shower? Make the bed? Clean the house? Prepare your lunch? Water the garden? Chill under a tree? You can do anything as long as your don’t have to open your mouth.
After the 20 minutes are up, SPIT the oil out (not into the sink or toilet as it can clog the pipes). Then rinse your mouth thoroughly with water, and brush your teeth (consider keeping a separate toothbrush just for this purpose, and wash it with 3% hydrogen peroxide to kill the bacteria).
It is very important not to swallow this oil, as it contains bacteria that you want to get rid of. While you’re getting used to oil pulling you may accidentally swallow some of it, but keep working on it.
If you are new to oil pulling, you may find it a bit challenging and need to spit the oil out earlier as the sensation can be a little strange. (I only lasted 5 minutes the first time I did it!) Try starting with a tsp instead of a tbsp. After a few minutes of oil pulling you’ll feel like the oil has increased in quantity, it’s your saliva joining the coconut oil. You’ll get used to this. Try not to swish too vigorously as your jaw may get tired after 20 minutes – gently does it.
Oil pulling is a simple technique that you can incorporate into your daily routine. If you have poor dental health or a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia, you may want to oil pull a few times a day, and then as your dental and general health improves you can get away with doing this just once or twice a week.