I used to have this coworker, an older woman from the hippie generation, who shared my passion for alternative medicine. We’d always discuss the latest healing practices we’d tried or read about. It was she who, nearly 5 years ago, introduced me to oil pulling. She brought in a book for me to read and told me to try it. I started the book and was immediately unsure about this strange practice, so I put it down. Finally after a few months I picked it back up and decided to try it out. I couldn’t get past the feeling and taste of straight oil in my mouth. Note that this was before, or at least at the very beginning of, the coconut oil craze. So I wrote it off as a “tried it but not for me” healing practice — that is until about a year ago when I discovered Banyan Botanicals. When I started to crave a more nurturing mourning routine I turned to the Ayurveda daily routine, dinacharya. Oil pulling is just one part of this routine and so I decided to return to the practice. Fast forward to now, oil pulling has gained some popularity in the United States.
Oil pulling cleans and detoxifies the oral cavity by sucking the dirt and toxins out of your mouth and into the oil, creating a clean mouth. This method has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy to treat an array of illnesses. It goes beyond killing bad breath, healing gums, minimizing tooth decay, preventing cavities, whitening teeth and having a clean mouth. Studies have shown that the practice of oil pulling can help prevent heart disease, reduce overall inflammation of the body, boost the immune system, improve acne, clear out your sinuses and improve sleep. Did you know that people with poor oral hygiene have a higher incidence for heart attack, strokes and pneumonia? The mouth is the gateway to the entire gastrointestinal system so it only makes sense that removing the bacteria in the mouth, which keeps it from entering the body, would lead to healthier bodies.
The best part is that oil pulling is easy to do! Oil pulling is best done in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. You simply swish a tablespoon of oil (typically coconut oil or sesame oil) in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Gently push and suck the oil through your teeth. If your jaw starts to ache, slow down and swish even more gently. It is important you do not swallow the oil! If you find it hard not to swallow some of the oil while swishing, you likely have too much oil in your mouth. Spit it out and try a smaller amount. The oil will get thicker, sort of milky, as time passes and will be creamy-white when you spit it out. Be sure to discard the used oil into the nearest trash can. Don’t spit it down the sink! Over time the oil could clog your pipes. To finish, rinse your mouth with warm water.
Twenty minutes may seem like a lot but with its many benefits, you may just find it worth the time. I’ve found that the time passes much more easily if I couple the practice with another part of my morning routine. Depending on the day I might do my swishing while in the shower, getting dressed, making the bed, preparing my tea or breakfast or simply relaxing in bed reading the news or browsing the internet. If 20 minutes feels way too daunting, start with just 5 minutes. The longer you pull, the more bacteria you’ll remove. So once you can do 5 minutes, increase time to 10 and eventually to 20 minutes. I’ve read that 20 minutes is the ideal because it maximizes the time pulling toxins out of your mouth but isn’t so long that they could be re-absorbed by the body.
The other thing that I’ve found makes the practice of oil pulling much easier is Daily Swish from Banyan Botanicals. They’ve specially formulated the product for oil pulling. It’s a combination of sesame oil and coconut oil with a mixture of herbs that are particularly healing for the mouth, including guduchi, fennel, amalaki, haritaki and bibhitaki. The addition of peppermint and spearmint essential oils makes it more pleasant tasting and more reminiscent of mouth wash. Plus everything in it is certified organic! Finding this was truly the game changer for me. I know that using coconut oil is more cost effective but I’m willing to pay a bit more for something that makes me far more likely to do my oil pulling daily.