A few nights ago, while enjoying my before-bed-ritual of looking over various health and food-related blogs and magazines, I came across the term “oil pulling.” Intrigued, I googled it and spent the next hour or more sifting through the hundred plus search results. Here’s what I discovered:
Oil pulling is an ancient ayurvedic detoxification method in which you use oil in the same way you would normally use mouthwash, but for a much longer period of time. The theory is that the oil works on two fronts; the bacteria-fighting properties of certain oils can help reduce plaque, fight gum disease and tooth decay, and prevent cavities, while at the same time pull toxins from the blood and soothe various organs in the body via the tongue. While you’re gently rolling the oil around your mouth and “pushing” and “pulling” it through your teeth, the oil is picking up harmful bacteria and actually dissolving it, which is why you have to take care not to get the oil in your throat or accidentally swallow some. Nothing terrible will happen if you do, it’s just better to keep all that newly loosened bacteria from being reintroduced into your system. Results of oil pulling seem to take a few weeks to be noticeable and include healthier gums, stronger and whiter teeth, reduced inflammation in the body, glowing skin, less headaches and a stronger immune system. Perhaps this goes without saying, but I was sold on giving it a whirl; being someone who is perpetually curious when it comes to any sort of alternative healing methods and health practices, I didn’t even hesitate at the thought of swishing oil around my mouth and decided to try it the next morning.
After doing a bit of research, I decided to use coconut oil for my daily routine. Coconut oil is high in vitamins, K and E specifically, contains lauric acid which is proven to be antimicrobial and is high in enzymes. I also enjoy the flavor and figured it would be the most palatable. It did feel a bit strange at first, to have the smooth, slippery oil rolling around my mouth, but that feeling left quickly and was replaced by the meditative act of truly feeling the oil, tasting the soft nutty coconut, gently pulling if through my teeth and noticing how soothing it was. The part that I struggled with at first was holding the oil in my mouth for so long- I started at five minutes although it’s recommended that you do it for up to twenty minutes for maximum effectiveness. The first go-around I was very
uncomfortable with not being able to swallow and my jaw got a bit tired, but I quickly figured out that the more relaxed you are and the more gently you swish the oil, the longer you can do it. By the second day, I was officially enjoying the process and had even made it to seven minutes. After each oil pulling session, my mouth felt completely cleaned and soothed and my body and mind were relaxed and ready to meet the day.
Certainly, the very act of taking a few minutes each morning to do something that requires a calm presence is invaluable in itself so couple that with a process that has long-term health benefits and I’d say it’s a pretty wonderful way to begin your day. I will be doing this each morning for the next month and will report back to you on the results.
Who’s with me?
Oil Pulling How To:
1. Put a tablespoon of oil in your mouth and begin to gently roll it around, using your tongue, so that it covers all areas of your mouth. If using coconut oil, you can warm it by holding it in your mouth until it liquifies or, as I prefer to do, put the oil in a small bowl and sit the small bowl in some warm water until it’s liquid enough.
2. Swish the oil around and “push” and “pull” it between your teeth and gums. Do this slowly and gently. Set a timer and see if you can do it for five minutes, eventually working your way up to twenty minutes- but not longer or your body will start to reabsorb the toxins and bacteria. I use the time as an opportunity to sit with my eyes closed and breathe deeply through my nose, centering myself as I prepare for another busy day.
3. Spit the oil out and have a cup of warm salted water nearby to immediately rinse your mouth with and before swallowing any water. The salted water will really draw out the oil and bacteria and cleanse your mouth. Follow that with another two or three changes of water to rinse out any leftovers. Make sure that these rinses are quite vigorous so as to get rid of any residual oil. Brush your teeth and then you’re all set to eat breakfast and go about your day.
A few pointers before you get started:
– Make sure to use a cold-pressed, unrefined, organic oil that is of the highest quality. Recommended oils include: coconut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil and olive oil.
– Be sure to do the oil pulling first thing in the morning- before you brush your teeth- and on an empty stomach.
– DO NOT spit the oil into the sink because it can solidify (especially coconut oil) and clog your drain. Instead, spit it into a trashcan or the toilet.
– If your jaw gets tired, you’re working too hard. Use your tongue to help move the oil around and don’t do it too vigorously. Be gentle, calm and present. Half the benefits, I believe, come from allowing yourself to really enjoy the experience.