Daily Rituals: Ayurvedic Oil Pulling

The tradition of dinacharya (daily routine) is one of the single most powerful Ayurvedic tools for improving overall health and wellbeing. Even if you are brand new to Ayurveda or yoga, you will often hear about the importance of creating routine or rituals in your day.

A daily routine invites health, vitality and a sense of stability. Because Ayurvedic practices are prescribed based on your dosha (an individual’s constitution), not all practices are right for everyone, but when you find something that feels right for you, you will dramatically improve your wellbeing. In this article we explore the ancient ritual of oil pulling.

Oil pulling is a 5000 year old Ayurvedic ritual used for purifying the body by pulling or drawing out toxins through the mouth and gums using oil as the medium to do so. This detoxifying process is a fantastic addition to your morning routine.

The mouth can be considered as a mirror of your general health. There is more and more awareness of the connection between oral health and our wellbeing. Research also shows there are serious health conditions that may be linked to the bacteria in our mouths, such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and even complications with pregnancy and birth.

Oil pulling is referred to in Ayurvedic texts as kavala or gundusha, and claims such health benefits as improving oral flora, preventing tooth decay, alleviating bad breath, whitening teeth and strengthening the tissues of the teeth, gums and jaw.

According to traditional methods, kavala is the oral cleansing technique now referred to as oil pulling, where a comfortable amount of oil is held in the mouth and gargled or pulled through the teeth and around the tongue and gums. Gundusha involves completely filling the mouth with oil and holding it, rather than swishing or gargling. Both methods have their benefits in terms of oral hygiene as well as the strengthening of muscles and the jaw.

Three reasons to consider oil pulling for your morning routine:

  • Support healthy gums

    Oil pulling may be an effective remedy for gum health as it can reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth. The swishing of sesame oil in particular, has been shown to have a saponification effect, which involves the conversion of fat, oil or lipid into soap and alcohol. This deters bad bacteria and plaque, allowing healthy gums to act as a barrier against bacteria making its way into your bloodstream.

  • Help reduce bad breath

    While there are many possible causes of halitosis or bad breath, it’s most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene, gum disease and an accumulation of toxins (ama). Oil pulling can help to support healthy microbes in the mouth, promoting fresher breath. While more research is needed, oil pulling may be useful as a natural alternative to reducing bad breath.

  • Support the Prevention of Tooth Decay

    Oil pulling may be an effective remedy for preventing tooth decay. A diet high in sugars, poor oral hygiene as well as buildup of plaque can lead to tooth decay and cavities. With its bacteria reducing effects, oil pulling paired with proper oral hygiene can help to keep cavities away.

What can you use for oil pulling?

Below are some of the oils you can use for this ritual:

  1. Coconut oil

    Coconut oil is one of the most popular oils used for oil pulling and most of us have it on hand too, which makes it easy to incorporate into our daily routine. Coconut oil is also known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. When combined with a good brushing routine, it will eliminate all the things you don’t want lingering around your mouth.

  2. Sesame Oil

    Sesame oil is highly regarded in the Ayurvedic world for its healing benefits. A symbol of strength and vigour, it nourishes the skin as it calms your nerves. Sesame oil is loaded with antibacterial properties that can help control oral problems like plaque. Coupled with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help in healing issues like swelling and bleeding gums, the benefits of sesame oil are hard to beat .

  3. Sunflower oil

    Sunflower oil is also used for oil pulling and is said to have the ability to dilute the plaque and tartar from the teeth surface.

Oil pulling in three easy steps

The best time for oil pulling is soon after waking and on an empty stomach. If you are in the habit of scraping your tongue, oil pulling would follow this ritual.

  1. Use one teaspoon to one tablespoon of organic cold pressed coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil and swish in your mouth (or hold it still). Start with a few minutes and work your way up to 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. When you feel tired or the oil begins to leak you are done. You’ll also know when you are “done” when the oil becomes opaque and milky in appearance.
  3. Spit it out into a bin (not the sink as it will clog your drain) and rinse out your mouth with warm water. Remember, don’t swallow the mixture as this will return the toxins back into your body!

It’s important to remember that some bacteria in the mouth is good, and you’ll want to keep it around. While traditional mouthwash destroys it, oil pulling lets it thrive.

Start with oil pulling three or four times a week, and you’ll soon see just how powerful this one simple routine really is.

For more tips and insights on yoga practice, rituals and meditation, keep up to date with the Yoga for Good Foundation Blog.

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