3500 years ago, a powerful detox practice was born in the heart of India.
Vedic folk healers discovered that swishing a tablespoon of oil around in your mouth would not only eliminate bad breath and make the teeth stronger, but seemed to speed up the body’s recovery from a number of major illnesses and also promote longevity.
This method was referred to as “kavala graha” by Hindu mystics, but seekers in the western world now know it as as oil-pulling.
In Ayurveda, one of the major schools of traditional medicine, it is believed that oil pulling is highly therapeutic for over 30 systemic diseases. The technique is touted as a panacea, or cure-all.
So, how does it work? What makes swishing oil so medicinal?
There are a number of studies on oil pulling. One such study from the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) states that: “Oil pulling activates salivary enzymes which absorb toxins such as chemical toxins, bacterial toxins and environmental toxins from the blood… Thus, oil pulling detoxifies and purifies the entire human body.”
As it is swished around your mouth, the lipids (or fatty acids) in the oil naturally extract these potentially harmful substances from your teeth, gums and saliva glands.
In Ayurvedic medicine the mouth is considered to be a “mirror” for the entire body, and when something is out of balance in the oral cavity, a Vedic healer will tell you there is most likely an illness brewing elsewhere in your system as well.
*This practice has not yet been embraced by modern medicine, but millions of people around the world use oil-pulling every day and swear by it.
If you want to give it a try, I’ve outlined a super simple exercise below.
As with everything in the world of folk-medicine, the best way to approach a technique like oil-pulling is to try it in moderation and see if you notice any positive effects. (I know my wife Michelle and I have!)
A Simple Technique for Oil Pulling:
#1 Place a tablespoon of your oil of choice (sesame, sunflower, coconut are preferred) into your mouth.
#2 Swish in mouth, forcing through all teeth and across all areas of your gums. (Really aim to get the oil into every nook and cranny of your mouth. This is very important. Billions of microorganisms dwell in the oral cavity and the mouth is the start of digestion.)
#3 Perform this for 5-20 minutes, ideally early in the morning before breakfast daily.
#4 Spit the oil out in a garbage can, not the sink. You don’t want to risk clogging your drain!
*For accelerated healing and recovery, do this before every meal or 3 times per day.
Some quick clarification. For those beginning this process, swishing for 20 minutes is daunting and nearly impossible without incident. Start off with 5 minute sessions and gradually build to 20 continuous minutes. If your jaw starts to cramp or hurt, simply stop. This isn’t a competition – do what feels right for you, at your own pace!
On a personal note, I’ve come close to having oil go up my nose because I was not going to swallow it, but I could barely keep going for 20 minutes. My breathing got labored, I felt warm, and all I wanted to do was stop. But, I’m stubborn and did the full 20 minutes.
The first time is the most difficult. After that, it’s like going to the gym and you develop muscles you never knew you had.
Our favorite oils to use for pulling:
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
To the ancients and even to us today, sesame oil is incredibly beneficial! With an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, and healthful compounds, it has proven anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-anxiety, and anti-plaque effects.
Rich in zinc, sesame oil is awesome for longevity and vitality. Tyrosine found in sesame oil is linked to serotonin and boosting mood levels as well as relieving anxiety. Sesame oil is high in copper, known to reduce inflammation and contains chlorosesamone, an antifungal agent. It’s also effective against S. mutans (strep).
You can probably tell which oil is our favorite for oil pulling (sesame!), but the other two we mentioned are great too. Sunflower oil has anti-plaque and beneficial gingival effects, and is effective against C. albicans (candida). Coconut oil has lauric acid which is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and is effective against Strep, Candida and Staph. It’s also an antiseptic and makes for a wonderful cut cleaner.
The effects of oil pulling are often noticeable in as little as 7-10 days. But like all things on the healing path, patience and discipline are key factors here.
If you’re looking for a widely embraced natural method for detoxifying the body, whitening the teeth and keeping your mouth fresh, this is certainly something to try out!