On a recent trip to Austria, I encountered a “brand new” detox technique called oil pulling, which actually borrows heavily from ancient Indian texts and can be easily done at home – no spa required! No wonder most of Hollywood’s leading ladies – including Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley – are great fans.
What is oil pulling?
Also known as ‘oil gargling’, oil pulling is simply the process of taking an unrefined vegetable oil (such as coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil or sunflower oil) and using it as a mouthwash that “pulls” out toxins from the teeth and mouth. It first finds mention in the Charaka Samhita, one of the three great classics of Ayurveda, written in 400-200 BCE.
As simple as it sounds, oil pulling has a very powerful cleansing and healing effect not only on the mouth but the entire body. Our mouths are home to billions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other parasites. The World Health Organisation reports that toxins released by these micro-organisms find a way into the blood stream and cause several health and skincare problems. So, basically, the vegetable oil’s natural antibacterial properties lead to a full-body detoxification, which helps to:
- Banish under-eye circles
- Give glowing skin
- Cure mouth, blood and skin infections
- Prevent bad breath
- Reduce headaches
- Treat bronchitis
- Cure ulcers
- Strengthen memory
- Treat insomnia
- Tackle lack of energy and chronic fatigue
- Cure kidney diseases
- Keep the heart healthy
- Relieve toothache
- Prevent cavities
- Help cure gum problems
- etc etc etc etc…!
The science behind oil pulling
There are several scientifically proven explanations behind the powers of oil pulling:
- Most oils – sesame oil and sunflower seed oil – have antibacterial properties. Plus, some oils (such as sesame) also have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Unlike toothpaste, which only goes where it’s brushed, oil can seep into the nooks and crannies of your gums, where the harmful bacteria live.
- In the morning, on an empty stomach (before breakfast) pour half to one tablespoon of oil into your mouth.
- Swish this oil around your mouth – move it around and through your teeth as if it was a mouthwash (don’t gargle though!) for 15-20 minutes.
- If it becomes uncomfortable, spit out and try again. With practise, it will become as easy as brushing your teeth.
- The oil will start turning watery and white as it gets saturated with toxins. If the oil is still yellow, it has not been “pulled” long enough.
- Once you are done, spit out the oil and rinse the mouth with warm salt water (table salt is fine). Try not to swallow any oil or leave traces in the mouth as its become toxic after the pulling.
You can do this every morning if you like, or several times a week. There is no rule about the frequency!
Which oil to use?
Traditionally, Ayurvedic texts advocate using sunflower or sesame oils. However, if these are not available, you can try coconut oil or olive oil. And although people have used all different grades of oil, I would recommend using organic, unrefined, cold pressed oil.