Oil pulling has been around for thousands of years, but it’s only recently that is has been moving into wider awareness, particularly in the West. A rather simple activity, it can have a wide range of health benefits. This article answers a few questions about the practice – what is it, how it is performed, what are its benefits, and are there any problems associated with it?
What is Pulling with Oil?
Oil pulling is an ancient Indian Ayurvedic remedy, that involves slowly rinsing your mouth with oil (but not consuming it). As an alternative cure, it has a long history, originating thousands of years ago in the ancient Ayurvedic text of Charaka Samhita. Today, it is widely practiced and is noted to improve oral and cardiovascular health, and even reduces the occurrence of serious diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.
How Is Oil Pulling Performed?
Think of it as an organic mouthwash. Just as you swish and rinse your mouth with a mouthwash, in oil pulling, you take a large spoonful of oil in your mouth, move it around slowly for a full 15-20 minutes, swirling it into every nook and cranny of the mouth until the oil gets thinner and mixes completely with saliva. Afterwards, you can spit out the oil and clean your teeth with water and a toothbrush.
It is usually performed on an empty stomach, early in the morning before eating or drinking anything (including water). You should keep your chin up and imbibe the oil slowly, making sure that you swirl and swoosh it around your mouth completely before spitting it out. It is advised that you refrain from any other activity whilst practicing and concentrate on the swirling movement of oil inside your mouth.
Typically sunflower or sesame seed oil is used, although many swear by coconut oil. Buy the purest, organic oil you can afford. It’s called pulling because the oil pulls toxins from the mouth, teeth and gums.
(I love this ad from India selling oil sachets – “very simple, very effective!”)
What are the Benefits of Oil Pulling?
According to the ancient Indian medicinal science of Ayurveda, oil pulling keeps your mouth clean and healthy. There have been several clinical studies that indicate a direct correlation between oral health and the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, pneumonia. The better your oral health, the less the chances of being afflicted by a serious disease. A clean, healthy mouth, therefore, is like a gateway to a clean, healthy body.
More than a few clinical trials have been carried out to study the health effects, and they show that it can significantly improve oral health, which, as mentioned above, can have a lot of influence on your general health. It can reduce plaque formation, decrease the bacteria count in the mouth, and also help get rid of bad breath.
Additional benefits include healthier gums, stronger, white teeth, and a reduction in the gum sensitivity.
It is believed that the low viscosity of oil prevents bacteria from ‘sticking’ to the teeth and gums, reducing plaque formation. Further, oil acts as a cleaning agent, very much like soap, in the mouth, decreasing bacteria count.
Oil pulling has become popular of late because of its simplicity. It does not demand any strict physical regimen, nor does it compel you to make expensive concoctions. A spoonful of sunflower or sesame oil and 15-20 minutes a day is all you need to see remarkable improvements in your oral and general health.
Are There Any Problems Associated With The Practice Of Oil Pulling?
Typically it’s completely safe and harmless. After all, you are only swirling oil around your mouth, which isn’t really too radical an activity. Whatever problems people experience with oil pulling have to do with keeping your mouth closed for 15-20 minutes straight. These problems can include a buildup of mucus (especially if you have a cold or a running nose) in the nose, sneezing or coughing, etc.
Sometimes, the oil may not become watery or thin even after 20 minutes. This typically happens when the mouth is too dry right after you wake up. However, this isn’t any cause for alarm and you should continue with the procedure as it is.
Moving oil around the mouth can cause irritation of the tongue and mouth in some people, leading to sneezing or coughing. To counter this, make sure that you move the oil around very slowly through your mouth. Don’t do any work during this time and just relax your body, focusing on the movement of oil around your mouth.
Further Reading: Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing by Dr. Bruce Fife gives a comprehensive overview of this practice. You can get if from amazon.com