Oil pulling is an ancient technique that remains highly relevant and effective today. Before the invention of plastic toothbrushes, cleaning the mouth was a longer (and possibly more effective) process of using oils, herbal sticks, and medicated mouth washes. Today, oil pulling has become a popular practice amongst those studying holistic health practices, with the most commonly used oil being coconut. Oil pulling can be effective for preventing tooth decay, cleansing the digestive tract and sinuses, more deeply cleaning the mouth, strengthening the gums and teeth and providing a gentle daily detox. Although swishing coconut oil around the mouth is indeed beneficial, there are actually many different oils and techniques that can be utilised depending upon each person’s unique needs, the season, their age, and any imbalances they may currently be experiencing.
The classical Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita describes the benefits of oil pulling:
“It is beneficial for strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One used to this practice never gets dryness of throat, nor do his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never be carious and will be deep rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables.”
– Charaka Samhita Ch V. 78 to 80.
Before oil pulling, use a tongue-scraper (I use Urban Veda’s – get yours HERE.) to gently remove any white coating from the tongue. This white coating is a sign of ‘ama’ (loosely referring to ‘toxins’), and is a sign that the digestive system is a little sluggish, that you have a build-up of ‘toxins’ in your body, or that last night’s dinner was unsuitable for you. It’s quite normal to have a small amount of white coating on the tongue each morning – especially if your evening meal was consumed late – but a thick coating of yellowish or green can indicate deep-seated ama, and needs to be addressed.
After tongue scraping, fill the mouth with 1 tbsp of oil, and gently swish it around your teeth and gums. Depending upon the type of oil used (indicated below), the practice can last for two to twenty minutes. The shorter oil pulling method is known as Kavala, and is beneficial for removing excess saliva, bacteria and helps more deeply clean the mouth. A longer oil-pulling method known as Gandusha, involves filling the mouth with a slightly larger amount of oil, and holding it in the mouth without swishing at all. Gandusha can help detoxify the digestive system, prevent tooth decay, strengthen the gums and teeth, as well as clearing the sinuses, remedy vertigo, and calm excessive Vata energy from the systems. Throughout this practice, hold the oil in the mouth for up to twenty minutes, or until the eyes begin to water, saliva fills the mouth, or the nose begins to run (these are all signs that the cavities of the head are becoming decongested). When you have finished the practice, spit the oil into the trash, so as not to clog the drains.
Kavala (the shorter duration of swishing oil around the mouth) has become the more popular modern-day choice, and is still very beneficial for oral health and the digestive tract. This method can be done as a daily practice. For sinus issues and overcoming illness however, Gandusha is recommended.
Which is the best oil for me?
As with pretty much everything in the world of Ayurveda & holistic health: it depends.
It depends upon your dosha, any imbalances you may have, and the season, as well as anything else you may have personally going on for you in your body or mind. A practitioner or wellbeing coach can help guide you towards which oil may be the best for you, but as your own healer, it’s great to be able to empower yourself to make these decisions.
Coconut oil. This type of oil is cooling, moisturising, and helps remove excess hot Pitta energy from the body. Coconut oil also contains anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities and is gentle enough to use daily. For easy-to-use Coconut Oil Pulling Pops recipe, click HERE.
For Pitta Imbalances:
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- General feeling of ‘heat’ in your body
- Cold sores
- Knowing you’ve consumed way too many hot, spicy and acidic foods recently
- Use castor oil for all of the above, especially if you feel a sudden onset of heat in your system. Castor oil can help remove heat from the body, and whereas you may need to ‘pull’ oils like sesame or coconut for 10-15 minutes for optimum results, castor oil can do the job in just a couple of minutes.
- If castor oil is not available, coconut oil can still help remove excess burning and irritation of the mouth
Sesame Oil. Sesame oil is naturally nourishing and warming, (helping to balance Vata’s cold qualities), and is thought of as the most traditional oil to use for oil pulling. Sesame oil is cleansing for the mouth and helps strengthen the teeth and gums.
- Chipped or weak teeth
- Eroding enamel
- Dry mouth
- Receding gums
- Dryness of the body and skin
- Use warm sesame oil if you feel generally cold asnd dry.
- Use castor oil for just a couple of days if you’re suffering with incredibly dry, flaky skin. Do not use for longer, as the cooling properties of this oil can be too cold for Vata issues.
- Steep 5 cloves in your sesame oil for a week, as this can help reduce oral pain and is warming
Sesame Oil. Sesame oil is naturally nourishing and warming, (helping to balance Kapha’s cool qualities), and is thought of as the most traditional oil to use for oil pulling. Sesame oil is cleansing for the mouth and helps strengthen the teeth and gums. Gandusha is very beneficial for clearing lethargy and mucus associated with excessive Kapha energy. Gargling with warm salty water is also a beneficial way to clear and cleanse the Kapha mouth.
- Excess ‘ama’ on the tongue
- Sluggish digestion
- Lethargy and general heaviness
- Mucus and phlegm
- Steep cloves in your sesame oil for a week, to promote more warming properties to the oil.
- You can also add essential oils like myrrh and cinnamon, although it’s important to ensure the oils are edible and high-quality.
- Medicated Triphala oil is a good choice for excessive phlegm and mucus.
After your oil pulling session, be sure to rinse out your mouth and brush your teeth.