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This ancient remedy is making a 3000 year comeback. In a big way.

Yes, it has practically been around for forever, but thanks to social media and a few viral posts it seems to be all the rage right now. 

I guess I am no exception. It intrigued me for two reasons: 1) I enjoy trying any health hack or craze that I hear about so I can be a ‘guinea pig’ and share my experiences, and 2) I find it genuinely incredible that such a simple thing could allegedly produce so many overall health benefits. 

Among its’ long list of benefits, oil pulling has been credited to improved oral health (cavities, gingivitis, bad breath etc), relief from allergies and sinus issues, and reduction in overall pain, migraines, headache and hangover symptoms…just to name a few. Sound like a bit of a miracle remedy? Or maybe too good to be true? I thought so too, so after scouring every story and article on the subject, I bring you what you need to know about oil pulling and dish on my personal experiences: 

What is oil pulling? 

Oil pulling is a folk remedy where oil is swished around in the mouth. Ayurvedic literature states “oil pulling is capable of improving oral and systemic health, including a benefit in conditions such as headaches, migraines, diabetes, ashma, and acne, as well as whitening teeth”, according to Wikipedia. Oil pulling is known as “Kavala” in the Charaka Samhita, which is considered alternative medicine in India. 

It basically involves swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes first thing in the morning. The oil is said to ‘pull’ toxins and bacteria from your mouth, teeth, gums and throat, which you then spit out (DO NOT SWALLOW) at the end of the 20 minutes. 

A few pure, vegetable based oils can be used but the most recommended is cold pressed organic sesame oil. Other oils such as extra virgin cold pressed coconut, sunflower and olive oil can be used as well. (My personal choice was coconut oil as I enjoy the taste and coconut oil has many other benefits due to it’s antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. And it’s all I had in the house.) Feel free to alternate the oils used if you are worried about getting the full benefit. 

What are the benefits of oil pulling? 

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When you start oil pulling, the oil mixes with your saliva and the lipids in the oil start to pull out toxins from the saliva. As you swish it around, it gathers more and more toxins and by the time you spit it out, the oil is more of a viscous white texture (as opposed to clear, thin liquid that you started with). 

One study shows that oil pulling does significantly reduce the strep mutans bacteria in plaque and saliva that is known to cavities. Also, vegetable fat is an emusilfier by nature and is shown to create a cleansing environment in the mouth. While oil pulling lacks extensive studies to back it up, it has quite the list of benefits experienced by many who practice this technique:

BENEFITS IN THE MOUTH: 

  • Whitens teeth
  • Prevents cavities and gingivitis 
  • Strengthens gums/teeth/jaw (even a possible holistic treatment for TMJ sufferers)
  • Prevention for bad breath 

BENEFITS OUTSIDE THE MOUTH: 

  •  Migraine, headache and hangover relief
  •  Helps get rid of acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin issues
  •  Reduces symptoms of sinus infections and allergies
  •  Helps support normal kidney function
  •  Helps reduce insomnia and other sleep issues
  •  Corrects hormone imbalances
  •  Aids in reducing overall pain
  •  Helps detoxify the body of harmful metals and organisms

How can swishing glorified grease around in your mouth really lead to so many benefits in your whole body? These oils are believed to help the lymphatic system as harmful bacteria are removed and microflora can flourish in a healthy environment.

Also, it’s not so much about the oil as it is about the magic of the mouth. It is said to be the gateway to your overall health, and oil pulling is just one way (in addition to brushing and flossing) to keep a super duper clean mouth. When oral health is improved a lot of other things are as well, everything is connected in your body. 

Okay, so how do I start oil pulling? 

Here are a few tips and guidelines to get you started oil pulling. (Disclaimer: I am not a dentist or a licensed practitioner and the advice below is based on my personal experience and research. If you have health issues, special concerns or questions please consult your physician when attempting any holistic health remedy)

  • Upon waking up, place a tablespoon of organic, cold pressed sesame, coconut, sunflower or olive oil in your mouth. If using coconut oil, it will liquify after a few seconds in your mouth but if you wish to heat it before for texture issues you can (not ideal though). 
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes and start swishing! Don’t be too aggressive as you are going for a while and don’t want to tire out. If your saliva makes the liquid too much to keep in for the full time, just spit some out and keep going. DO NOT SWALLOW ANY OF THE OIL, during or after as it contains all the bacteria and toxins you are trying to get rid of. 
  • After the time is up, spit it out into the trash or plastic bag and throw away. Do not spit down the drain as it can solidify and clog your pipes. 
  • Rinse your mouth well with water afterwards, and then brush your teeth as you normally would. 
  • If you can’t do it for the full 20 minutes, start with less (5-10 mins) until you get used to it. Many people use this time to meditate or multitask, it’s totally up to you! 
  • If you have braces, crowns, fillings and dentures you should be cautious. Fillings are okay to do oil pulling, but if you have dentures you should remove them before oil pulling. For braces and crowns, they say it’s fine, but be aware that your teeth could whiten around the braces and there is the possibility that it can loosen a crown so check with your dentist before oil pulling!

Here’s what I think about oil pulling

So although I just heard about this recently (2995 or so years late), I started doing it right away out of sheer curiosity! What have I noticed so far? 

Almost immediately my teeth started to look much whiter. Also, after pulling, my mouth and teeth felt dentist-level clean (really smooth). I have had an easier time falling asleep and my jaw pain (from clenching while I sleep) has gotten much better. 

I’ll update once I have had more time to gauge true results, but I can say this is definitely something I will add to my morning routine. At least it makes scrolling social media feeds in the AM seem a bit more productive. Happy pulling!

If you decide to try it, I would LOVE to hear how it works for you or what changes you notice. If you have already been doing it I would love to hear your experiences as well. Hit me up below in the comments!