I started an Ayurvedic spring cleanse last week. In this cleanse, there are several routines and healthy habits such as a daily oil massage, sipping warm lemon water, and eating vibrant seasonal greens. One of the procedures I perform during this cleanse is oil pulling. I had heard of this ancient Ayurvedic practice before but had never experienced it until now. I wasn’t even sure what it was or how it worked until I started a week ago, but I dived in to discover something new.
What is it?
Basically, oil pulling is swishing oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes every day, then spitting it out and following it with a rinse. This practice is an Ayurvedic remedy for detoxification, and oral and systemic health. (Ayurveda, a holistic healing system developed 3,000-5,000 years ago, is the sister science of yoga.)
Oil pulling has been used as a traditional remedy to prevent decay and bad breath. It is also used to promote gum health, strength of the teeth, gums and jaw, as well as for a host of other benefits. Organic sesame oil is the preferred oil to use, but coconut oil and sunflower oil are also used.
How do you oil pull?
Place a tablespoon of the oil into your mouth. (My cleanse also recommends a drop of lavender or peppermint essential oil for taste if you wish.) The oil is swished around the mouth for 10-20 minutes. This is not easy to do initally: the first day, I timed out at 7 minutes and my gag reflex was tested. I extended the time every day and am now up to 20 minutes. I find it is best to swish while doing something else such as making the bed or getting my lunch prepped. As the oil mixes with saliva, the lipids in the oil begin to draw toxins from the saliva. As you circulate the oil around your tongue, teeth, and gums- the toxins continue to release into the oil and form a thick white liquid. Once it reaches this viscous state, you spit it into the trash and rinse with warm water. Voila, you are finished!
Oil pulling is said to increase the overall health of your mouth. Some of the benefits include prevention of cavities and gingivitis, reduction of inflammation and bleeding of gums, prevention of dryness of lips and mouth; and the overall strengthening of the teeth, gums and jaw.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that, besides the overall benefits to the mouth, oil pulling also aids in systemic health. Sesame oil is known for its healthy properties, high antioxidant content, and antibacterial and immunity benefits.These antioxidant properties have been known to prevent the absorption of “bad” cholesterol in the liver as well as to help in moving the lymphatic system. Some benefits include a decrease in headaches and sore throats; reduction of joint and skin inflammation; reduction of mucous, thus boosting the immune system; withdrawal of fat soluble toxins (heavy metals, pesticides, etc.) from the body; and more.
Although there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, I have seen a difference. What I have experienced with oil pulling is more moisture in my mouth, as well as cleaner, slicker teeth. Additionally, I had a sore throat last week, and by day 3 of oil pulling, it was gone. My skin is clearer and doesn’t seem as dry. I have no idea if this is due to the oil pulling, but I’m going to keep it in my morning routine. It helps me feel better and makes my teeth feel shiny; there’s nothing wrong with that. And there’s nothing left to do but smile.
For more reading on oil pulling, visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3131773