You might have heard your friends rave or rant about it, but what is oil pulling and how does it benefit your teeth?
The team at Real Foods, Scotland’s largest natural wholefoods and vegetarian online retailer, introduces you to this natural home remedy, which is steeped in ancient Indian tradition.
Where does oil pulling come from?
Oil pulling has been around for thousands of years, and it is still a common practice in India today.
Originating from India’s traditional holistic medicine system of Ayurveda, the practice was first mentioned in the ancient text, Charak Samhita, in which the mouth is filled (Kavala Gandoosha) or partially filled (Kavala Graha) with edible oil.
Oil pulling wasn’t just used for dental hygiene but also for overall wellness through purification of the body. Ayurveda believes that, with the tongue’s connection to many vital organs, oil can help excrete or ‘pull’ out toxins (ama), such as heavy metals and bacteria, through activation of salivary enzymes.
The Kavala Graha method of oil pulling was re-introduced to the modern world in the 1990s and popularised by Lt. Col. T.K.Rao, who proclaimed it had cured his chronic asthma and his wife’s varicose veins.
How do I practice oil pulling?
It’s easy to try! Simply use edible oil like a mouthwash.
First, gently warm the oil for 30 seconds so that it turns into a liquid state, and then swish it around your mouth for as long as you can. Advocates recommend up to 20 minutes.
You can start small with just a teaspoon and for a shorter duration, and then over time work your way up to a tablespoon. You don’t need to swish forcefully – it’s best to relax your facial muscles and go slow. Then, spit out the oil and brush your teeth as usual.
A word of warning: If you don’t spit, you are essentially taking in all the toxins. Always spit the used oil into your compost or rubbish bin as some oils, such as coconut oil, solidify quickly and can easily block your drains.
When is the best time to do oil pulling?
Ayurveda recommends dinacharya – a daily routine – that promotes the natural cycles. For oil pulling it is suggested you conduct the practice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, perhaps while you are reading the morning newspaper or journaling.
Oil pulling can get a bit messy, which is why some people prefer to do it in the shower, although a seated position is preferable.
Which is the best oil to use for oil pulling?
Sesame oil was originally the preferred choice by Ayurveda practitioners, and it is perfectly fine to use olive oil, sunflower oil, or almond oil, but coconut oil is today’s favourite for oil pulling. We recommend that you choose a high-quality, extra-virgin, or cold-pressed coconut oil. Do ensure that you always use a food-grade, edible oil.
Not only does coconut oil taste good, it has a great fatty acid content with high amounts of lauric acid, which has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, as outlined in a 2009 academic study.
What are the benefits of oil pulling?
Some oil pulling advocates state that this detoxification can cure up to 30 systemic diseases – and can whiten teeth, improve acne and strengthen or heal gums.
The 2008 book Oil Pulling Therapy outlined that it could help with allergies, respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma, chronic fatigue, migraines and headaches. However, as with many natural remedies, most benefits of oil pulling are anecdotal. Currently no scientific evidence proves any of these claims.
There are few studies that prove its efficacy – a 2017 review ‘Oil pulling: A traditional method on the edge of evidence’ identified a mere 21 studies about the practice, of which most had poor study design or too small a sample size. This review highlighted the need for more scientific and larger trials.
There are literally hundreds of bacteria in your mouth, some of which are harmful, such as Streptococcus mutans, which can cause plaque build-up and tooth decay.
Plaque is the thin layer – or biofilm – of bacteria that sits on your teeth, In small quantities plaque is harmless but it can cause problems if there is a build-up. By swishing the oil, you essentially sweep the bacteria into the oil and remove it from your mouth while spitting.
Bad breath, or halitosis, is caused by the chemicals and gases that bacteria produces in the mouth, and is often due to poor oral hygiene. Halitosis is also an indicator of mouth infections.
A 2009 study of 20 adolescents showed that oil pulling with sesame oil reduced all the markers or bad breath.
Gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums, is caused when your immune system attacks bacteria.
Are there any adverse effects to oil pulling?
Oil pulling should always be used with teeth brushing and in an addition to an existing good dental health routine, as outlined by the NHS.
Some individuals are allergic to oil, so always test the oil you intend to use for oil pulling in the crook of your elbow before beginning. If you don’t have a rash-like reaction, then it’s safe to have a go.
You might like to try Real Food’s recipe for making your own natural whitening fluoride free toothpaste at home.
If you experience any adverse reactions such as dizziness, nausea or vomiting then do immediately stop your oil pulling practice and consult your doctor.
Real Foods has a fabulous selection of extra-virgin, organic and cold-pressed food oils from sustainable suppliers. Why not browse our online store or pop into one of our Edinburgh shops.