Ayurveda believes that a healthy mind and body begins with a healthy mouth. Oil pulling is an important aspect of Ayurvedic health routines and can help support and maintain good health. From an Ayurvedic perspective, bad oral health can be the cause of many health problems. Accordingly, it is important to practice oil pulling in order to detoxify your body and stay healthy.
In this post, we describe the practice of oil pulling, discuss its history and origins, canvass the science behind oil pulling, address the best oils to use for oil pulling, discuss oil pulling benefits, particularly the health benefits of oil pulling, describe how to oil pull, and then offer a great recipe for making your own special oil to use for oil pulling.
What is Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that involves swishing oil in the mouth for about 20 minutes. This Ayurvedic regime helps remove ama (toxin) from your body, leading to better oral health as well as general health. Oil pulling has become increasingly popular, and it is believed that many people are engaging in oil pulling and benefiting from doing so. Oil pulling is also a natural way to whiten your teeth and is very beneficial for gum health.
Let's dive in and learn more about oil pulling and how beneficial it is for your health.
History of Oil Pulling
Oil pulling as a part of Ayurvedic medicine originated in India around 3000 years ago. Those ancient Ayurvedic practitioners used oil pulling for treating oral problems and for strengthening gums, teeth and jaws. Ancient Ayurvedic texts have cited oil pulling as a way to address many health problems, including diabetes, asthma and migraines. In addition, sesame oil and sunflower oil were used in traditional gargling methods like gandusha and kavala graha.
In fact, a study conducted on oil pulling has revealed that the benefits of the technique go beyond oral health. In particular, it has been determined that oil pulling reduces the risk of systemic diseases. Accordingly, traditional oil pulling has the potential to improve both oral and general health.
The Science Behind Oil Pulling
In oil pulling, you are essentially using the oil like a mouthwash. Doing so helps remove harmful bacteria from your mouth. The oil also naturally has valuable properties which help reduce inflammation and bacteria, which promotes oral health. In particular, various hidden bacteria in your mouth sticks to the oil and gets flushed out due to their fatty outer covering. In this way, oil reaches areas which your toothbrush might often miss. Your mouth will feel clean and fresh to a whole new level.
During the process of oil pulling, you will experience an incredible detergent-like effect that results in the washing away and removal of harmful bacteria and plaque from your mouth. This procedure also creates a protective barrier between your bloodstream and further bacterial exposure. In fact, a study has shown that oil pulling enhances mechanical cleansing through the saponification and emulsification processes (i.e. detergent effect).
Oil pulling also has the benefit of giving you a facial workout that releases tension around your jaw. It also helps to maintain natural flora and a healthy pH in your mouth. In fact, oil pulling is an excellent healthy alternative to using commercial mouthwashes that contain toxic chemicals.
The Best Oil to Use for Oil Pulling
Oil pulling might sound like a difficult task, but it is really not. It is just a regular mouthwash practice where you use oil instead of commercial mouthwash. Once you decide to try oil pulling, you can sample a variety of different oils to choose the one that suits you best.
Some of the more commonly recommended oils for oil pulling include sesame oil, sunflower oil, butter oil, coconut oil and olive oil. Some of the benefits of these options include the following:
- Sesame oil contains vitamin E and antioxidants, which can help prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol in the liver.
- Olive oil has anti-viral properties.
- Coconut oil can significantly reduce bacterial growth in your mouth.
Coconut Oil Pulling
Coconut oil is believed to be very effective for oil pulling, with the result that it is one of the most popular oils to use for oil pulling. Coconut oil has become popular for oil pulling because of its antimicrobial and antifungal properties and its effects on Streptococcus mutans found in saliva. In particular, coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is the antimicrobial agent present in coconut oil that kills bacteria and thereby reduces bad breath and acidic conditions in the mouth. As a result, coconut oil pulling kills bacteria, reduces gum infection, removes bad breath, boosts immunity and promotes healing.
Other benefits of coconut oil pulling include the following:
- Hormonal balance
- Improved digestion
- Helps reduce cellulite
- Can help balance blood sugar
- Moisturizes skin
- Helps burn fat
Coconut oil pulling is a common Ayurvedic therapy used to treat tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums, heart disease and inflammation. Make sure you use pure natural coconut oil that does not have any harmful additives, preservatives, impurities or other negative substances.
How to Oil Pull
Oil pulling is performed in a few simple steps. It is best done in the morning before eating or drinking:
- Place 1 tablespoon of your chosen oil into your mouth. Traditionally, sesame oil is used, but coconut oil has proven to be very beneficial.
- Swish the oil in your mouth for 5 to 10 minutes to begin with, but, once you have become more familiar with oil pulling and done it a few times, extend it to 20 minutes. It is important to allow enough time to permit the oil to break through the plaque and bacteria in your mouth. However, be careful to not hold the oil in your mouth for too long at the risk that your body may start reabsorbing the toxins.
- Spit the oil out in the trash and, in doing so, try not to swallow any oil as it contains toxins and bacteria.
- Avoid spitting the oil in a sink or drain, as doing so risks clogging the pipes.
- Rinse your mouth well with warm water and brush well.
- Repeat 3 to 4 times per week.
The Benefits of Oil Pulling
Although oil pulling has not yet been the subject of many extensive scientific studies, many researchers have agreed that oil pulling is completely safe. In fact, oil pulling has helped people overcome various health problems including asthma, arthritis, migraine headaches, hormonal imbalances, infections, skin problems and many others. The process of oil pulling removes toxins and bacteria from the mouth as well as from your lymphatic system. It also removes congestion and mucus from the throat and loosens the sinuses.
The following are the top health benefits of oil pulling:
1. Kills Harmful Bacteria in Your Mouth
The harmful bacteria present in your mouth can lead to cavities, gum disease and bad breath. By killing these harmful bacteria, oil pulling helps support good oral hygiene and prevents certain negative oral conditions.
A recent study conducted in respect of coconut oil pulling revealed that it significantly reduced the number of bacteria found in saliva.
2. Reduces Bad Breath
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is the most common oral health problem and generally affects approximately 50% of the population. Oil pulling is an excellent and more natural way to get rid of bad breath.
Some of the causes of bad breath include the following:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Gum diseases
- Tongue coating
Although chlorhexidine mouthwash can be used for treating bad breath, it is only a temporary solution and does not resolve the underlying problems which cause bad breath in the first place. In addition, with long term use, the alcohol content in the mouthwash can lead to other oral health problems.
According to a recent study, oil pulling works equally well with chlorhexidine mouthwash and is an effective remedy for halitosis.
3. Helps Prevent Cavities and Whitens Your Teeth
Food particles, plaque and bacteria all contribute to tooth decay. Because oil pulling reduces the growth of bacteria, it helps prevent tooth decay. Oil pulling also enhances the luster of your teeth by removing plaque build up. Flushing out toxins and microorganisms also results in naturally white teeth.
4. Supports Detoxification of the Body
Oral health is directly connected to your general well being. The harmful bacteria in your mouth can be the reason for poor health conditions. Oil pulling helps removes toxins from your body, thereby supporting your overall health.
5. Improves Skin Complexion
The wonderful benefits of oil pulling are reflected in your skin, too. Oil pulling is a kind of facial exercise that helps reduce wrinkles and the appearance of aging while also improving the elasticity of the skin. Oil pulling can also help reduce acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin problems.
6. Restores Hormonal Balance
By eliminating the body’s toxins, oil pulling also allows hormones to function more naturally. Accordingly, oil pulling therapy can help with thyroid disorders and with regularizing the menstrual cycle.
7. Preventive Measure for Oral Diseases
Oil pulling can be a great practice to help avoid oral health problems like gingivitis, bleeding gums, cavities, bad breath and bacterial build-up in your mouth. As described above, oil pulling achieves this by pulling out toxins and bacteria from your teeth, gums and tongue. Engaging in oil pulling regularly can help prevent the occurrence of oral diseases. In fact, a study conducted to measure the effects of oil pulling has revealed that it considerably reduces plaque and helps in preventing gingivitis.
8. Relieves Respiratory Problems
Oil pulling can also help reduce symptoms of respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and congestion. Oil pulling can relieve congestion quickly and help clear your airways.
9. Reduces Migraines and Headaches
Headaches commonly result from toxins present in your body. Oil pulling removes harmful microorganisms and toxins which helps reduce episodes of headaches and migraines.
10. Supports the Immune System
Oil pulling keeps bacteria, toxins and infections away from your body, which contributes to stronger immunity and greater resilience in the face of viruses.
11. Boosts Metabolism
This ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling along with cleaning the tongue and mouth positively affects internal organs like the liver, kidney and heart. When the liver works at an optimal level, it can regulate metabolism and help remove body fat. It is also believed that oil pulling reduces fluid retention and bloating, thus enhancing metabolism.
12. Helps to Treat Insomnia
Insomnia is generally caused by toxins accumulated from stress and hormonal imbalance. Oil pulling clears out all these toxins from your body and creates a fresh environment for better sleep.
Safety and Side Effects
As described above, oil pulling is safe. It is a completely natural therapy, and anybody can engage in the therapy without risk of harm.
Oil pulling therapy can be done by:
- Children old enough not to swallow the oil
- People facing dental issues
- Women who are pregnant or nursing
Although oil pulling is a natural therapy, some people may experience the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Jaw soreness (this can be reduced by swishing gently for less time)
- Discomfort (caused by the gag reflex)
- Indigestion and heartburn
If you are allergic to any particular oil, then you should obviously refrain from engaging in oil pulling with that particular oil.
Never swallow the oil after swishing it, as it contains toxins and bacteria. Swallowing this oil can lead to indigestion. If oil pulling triggers your gag reflex, try to lean forward while swishing and use slightly less oil. Jaw soreness can result from vigorous swishing, so if that happens try to swish gently for less time. Generally, jaw soreness disappears after a few days of practicing oil pulling.
Always use natural oil without any artificial additives. If you experience any negative side effects, you should consult an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner and seek their guidance.
Oil Pulling Melts
If you wish to try to make oil pulling more enjoyable and avoid some of the potential discomfort caused by the gag reflex, you might consider making your own oil pulling "melts", which are essentially refrigerated servings of oil which melt in your mouth as you chew them. Here is a very easy recipe you can use to make your own oil pull melts at home.
- Coconut oil (natural, unrefined)
- Essential oil of your choice (try mint or cinnamon)
- A silicone candy mold
- Take a small pan and gently melt the coconut oil on low heat.
- Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil into the melted coconut oil.
- Pour the oil into the mold, using a measuring cup.
- Cool it in the refrigerator.
- Store them in a glass jar and keep them in the refrigerator.
These excellent oil melts may help make oil pulling more accessible and enjoyable to you, as well as reducing the mess. Chew the solid melts and swish them around your mouth for the same effect as standard oil pulling.
For the reasons discussed above, a healthy mind and body begins with a healthy mouth. Oil pulling is an important aspect of Ayurvedic health routines and can help support and maintain good health. Consider incorporating this simple and inexpensive practice into your daily routine and making it a permanent habit.
A copper water bottle can also make a great addition to your Ayurvedic health routine alongside oil pulling. Because copper is naturally anti-bacterial, copper bottles are naturally self-sterilizing and therefore do not require as much cleaning as other water bottles. Kick bacteria to the curb by regularly oil pulling and staying hydrated with a copper bottle.
About the Authors: This article was collaboratively written by our team of researchers and writers with the benefit of all available scientific studies and other relevant literature. Our team of researchers and writers include experienced health researchers including a qualified medical professional. Please note that information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.