Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Entering Ayurveda: Oil Pulling

Recently a friend of mine emailed me and asked me about oil pulling. I'd never heard of it, so I set out to do some research. This is what I've learned, sorry if my thoughts are a little scattered:

Oil pulling is the ancient Ayurvedic practice of taking a tablespoon of sunflower or sesame oil, (coconut oil is OK, but does not have as strong of an affect apparently), into your mouth every morning and swishing it around for 15-20 minutes, and then spitting it out. It was encouraged as a dental hygiene practice, but also as a way of cleansing the body of toxins. It has even been purported as curing dental rot, gum issues, cancer, allergies, and many, many other ailments. Many people claim the practice has whitened their teeth as well.

It is called pulling because of the deliberate pulling of the oil around through the mouth -- through teeth, over and under the tongue, paying special attention to make sure the oil reaches even as far back as the soft palate. There are also other obvious implications in the name as you are pulling toxins out of precious your body. The specifics: Perform the pulling first thing every morning on an empty stomach (this is an ideal time for meditation, praying, and/or reading the scriptures for those of us who practices those). You wake cleanse your mouth, including your tongue, and take the oil, performing the swishing motion for 15-20 minutes. You know it is working, or that you have swished long enough, when the oil in your mouth becomes a thin, milky white, much less viscous than it originally was. When you have spit, again cleanse your mouth, including the tongue, and drink two or three glasses of water. (The water helps flush any loosened toxins out of your body.)

Because it is a whole body cleansing practice, and the toxins are exiting your body through your mouth, people who try it commonly experience small discomforts during the first week such as swollen gums, teeth that feel a little loose, minor sore throat etc. What I've read also strongly cautions those who follow this practice to never spit spent oil in a place where others will come into contact with it, since it will contain toxins. Ideally wash it down the sink. And try your hardest not to swallow what you are swishing.

Yesterday while I was reading up on it I thought I might as well swish some coconut oil, since I had it handy. I am being completely honest when I say, my mouth felt like I'd just been to the dentist for a thorough cleaning. My teeth felt so smooth, and I did notice my throat felt a little raw for a while after. I had to fudge a little, and try it in the afternoon while my sons were napping -- I don't know how to do it in the morning with a toddler running around :) Attractive, no?

I don't know very much about Ayurvedic medicine, but what I do know appeals to me as it emphasizes a strong connection between body and spirit. The information I've read on this practice mentions repeatedly that a person who performs this practice will be strong physically and mentally, and a hard worker.

I'll have to continually alter the practice a little and do it while my babes are sleeping in the afternoon, but whose up for trying this with me?


  1. Thanks for teaching me something new, Melissa. I've never heard of this. I was really hoping that instead of 15-20 minutes, you meant 15-20 seconds, but I looked it up, and sure enough, that's what they say! Guess that's why it's called pulling. I don't like oil in my mouth, but if it is so amazing (wince), I will try it. I think I can I think I can...

  2. Thanks Melissa! I have read about oil pulling a bit recently, but haven't had the guts to try it yet. Will you please be specific as to exactly how unpleasant it is? I still would do it even if it's awful, but I like to know what I'm getting into. It's only the unknown that scares me. :)

  3. To both you and Nonie, I don't love oil in my mouth either... Having said that, it's not too bad. As the oil thins it becomes less and less like oil, until finally when it is ready to be spit out, it's really just like warm water. That's what I have found anyway. It's a nice, cheap way to feel as thought you've been to the dentist :)

  4. I'd like to try it too... Though I grimaced from beginning to end while reading this post!

  5. I love the pictures! Thanks Melissa.

    Perhaps oil in our mouths will become oil in our lamps.
    Its a novel idea to my mind as well, but it sounds true.