What is Oil Pulling? Do I swallow it? Where do I spit the Oil?

Oral Health in Ayurveda

Oral health is an important branch in the tree of Ayurvedic science. For thousands of years Ayurveda has drawn a link between one’s oral health and the overall health of the individual. In Western science, the tongue is also considered an important indicator of one’s health.

Ayurveda believes that issues in the mouth can cause problems in the deeper organs and tissues of the body. In Ayurveda the tongue is believed to share an energetic connection with the body’s vital organs, like the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine, and colon. Therefore, the tongue has a greater impact on the rest of the body than we often realize.

Ayurvedic oral health practices include tongue scraping (the use of a tongue scraper to loosen and clear bacteria from the mouth) and oil pulling. These practices are encouraged in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth. They have the potential to greatly improve your overall health and can reduce or eliminate cavities, receding gums, and tooth sensitivity.

Oil Pulling 101

Oil pulling originated in India and was first mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts. Also known as “gundusha” or “kavala” in Sanskrit, oil pulling is the act of swishing oil around your teeth and gums in a similar way you would use mouthwash. Typically, sesame and coconut oils are used but they’re not the only options (more on different oils below). 

Ayurveda’s emphasis on oral health stems from the importance of digestion and the gastrointestinal tract, and the GI tract begins at the mouth.

Over 700 species of bacteria exist in the mouth, many of which are necessary for a healthy oral microbiome. But some of these bacteria can cause problems overtime, like tooth decay, bad breath, gingivitis, strep throat, and so on. In addition, bacteria in the mouth can make their way to the gut microbiome, causing issues in other areas of the body as well. That’s why it’s so important to maintain proper oral hygiene. 

Healthy Microbiome

Maintaining a healthy microbiome is important, and when it comes to the mouth we’re often led to believe that the way to achieve oral health is by making everything squeaky clean. Mouthwash exists for this very reason. While using mouthwash is similar in practice to oil pulling, they rely on very different ingredients. Many conventional mouthwashes use chlorhexidine as the primary ingredient, which actually disturbs oral flora and can hurt the microbiome.

Several studies, including the Indian Journal of Dental Research and Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, found that oil pulling worked just as well as chlorhexidine in eliminating bad breath. However, oil pulling is without the concerns that mouthwash presents, like a harmed microbiome that can cause serious side effects in the long run.

Oil pulling works in a similar way as the motor oil in your vehicle, which absorbs debris in the engine and eventually needs to be changed and discarded. When oil is swished in the mouth, microbes cling to the oil and are then removed from the mouth when the oil is spit out. 

According to Banyan Botanicals, when microbes “come in contact with oil, their cell membranes naturally adhere to the oil, which helps to detach them from the teeth and gums, supporting the removal of plaque, and odor-causing bacteria, while helping to protect against oral microbe imbalances, and the diseases these imbalances can cause.”

Benefits of Oil Pulling

The numerous benefits of oil pulling invite us to incorporate into our daily oral hygiene habits. Those benefits include but aren’t limited to:

  • Support of overall oral health and hygiene
  • Removes natural toxins from mouth
  • Moisturizes the mouth
  • Freshens the breath
  • Helps maintain normal mouth pH and normal oral flora
  • Keeps teeth and gums healthy
  • Maintains facial tissue and muscle tone (by activating muscles of cheeks and face)
  • Can reduce plaque
  • Enhanced sense of taste
  • Strengthened digestion

For anyone who values oral health and overall physical wellbeing, it’s hard to turn away from oil pulling with a list like that! Now that you’re ready to begin your oil pulling routine, let’s go over exactly how to do so.

How to Oil Pull

Oil pulling is best done in the morning on an empty stomach, before or after brushing your teeth. With an oil of your choice (see below section for suggestions), place about a tablespoon in your mouth and swish it back and forth between and through your teeth like you would with mouthwash.

Ayurveda suggests pulling for 15-20 minutes to receive the maximum benefit, but it’s probably a good idea to start with 5 minutes as your jaw muscles strengthen and you get more use to pulling. (It’s not uncommon to initially feel queasy from the texture or taste of the oil–it gets better overtime!) As you work toward pulling for a longer amount of time, it can be a great thing to do while performing other morning activities like showering, fixing your hair, or starting breakfast.

Once you’re done, dispose of the oil in the trash or the toilet. Avoid spitting it down the sink as you risk clogging it, and most importantly don’t swallow it! Doing so will move the toxins that you removed from your mouth into your digestive system, which defeats the purpose of pulling in the first place.

After, rinse your mouth with water and feel the refreshing and cleansing effects of the ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling!

What Oil Should Be Used?

Sesame oil has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic practices and has a rich nutrient value. This oil’s penetrating effects and its abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make it a great choice for swishing. Another popular option is coconut oil due to its antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. However, if neither of these options interest you it’s not uncommon to use sunflower, olive, or palm oil instead.

ZVEDA’S zWISH Full Spectrum Mouth Pulling Oil offers an especially powerful and refreshing oil pulling experience as it combines sesame oil with CBD-rich hemp extract and fennel, peppermint, and clove essential oils for a refreshing and healthy oil pulling experience. Clove and fennel oils contribute additional antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while peppermint oil leaves the breath feeling and smelling fresh. The CBD extract in zWISH might reduce your susceptibility to COVID-19, as seen in this recent study on the potential of cannabis extracts in making people more resistant to coronavirus.

Regardless which oil you decide to use, oil pulling will certainly have a positive impact on the overall health of your mouth, teeth, and gums. Oil pulling (along with tongue scraping) is an excellent way to maintain your oral health in addition to habits you likely already have, like flossing and teeth brushing. 

The importance of oral health, the benefits of oil pulling, and the simplicity of doing it make us ask “why wouldn’t I?” In Ayurveda, our health is never far from reach. In fact, experiencing optimal health is rather simple. All we have to do is return to nature and accept the great gifts she provides, like a simple tablespoon of oil.