What is oil pulling? Sounds exotic, right? Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual designed to naturally eliminate ama (toxicity) from the blood, tongue and teeth. It's been used for thousands of years and is an effective way to detox your body daily. Ama is a Sanskrit word used in Ayurveda and translates to “un-cooked,” “un-digested” and “raw.” In simpler terms, it refers to anything that has not been fully metabolized by the body and dampens our inner agni (energy). In Ayurveda, a buildup of ama in the body is believed to be the root cause of illness, which leads to disease. One of the ways Ayurveda prescribes clearing out excess toxicity is by practicing daily oil pulling. Built up ama on the mouth walls, teeth and tongue is literally pulled out and the toxins eliminated.
Here are the top five health benefits you’ll get from practicing this daily cleanse.
Naturally Whiter Teeth
We all love a bright white smile and pulling oil can naturally improve the luster and health of your teeth by reducing the amount of plaque buildup. It is a natural and much safer alternative to teeth bleaching strips. Choose cold pressed organic coconut oil for pulling because it contains high levels of lauric acid. Lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid that is strongly anti-microbial. It's a safe and healthy way to fight bacterial growth and neutralize harmful bacteria. For extra white teeth, try adding a pinch of turmeric to your oil beforehand. (Learn more in Why Yogis Love Turmeric.) Another perk? By eliminating harmful microorganisms and flushing out excess mucus you’re also eliminating bad breath!
Better Oral Hygiene
Your mouth is one of the first places toxins and bacteria enter the body. By pulling oil, bacteria and toxins are literally pulled out between teeth, tongue, tonsils and the surrounding gum tissue. A major culprit in tooth decay and gingivitis is the bacteria, Streptococcus mutans. Gingivitis, a common form of gum disease, is responsible for inflammation of the gums. Routinely pulling oil has the benefit of reducing inflammation and preventing future periodontal disease.
Another benefit of oil pulling is that it's especially effective against the bacteria, P. acnes. Yep, you guessed it, the type of bacteria responsible for acne and breakouts. Oil pulling works to clear your skin by removing toxins in your blood stream. This naturally reduces the toxic load in your mouth and all the surrounding tissue, including the skin on your face. Oil pulling is even said to heal skin issues on the rest of your body too, such as rashes and eczema.
Headaches are a sure sign that there is a buildup of toxins in your body. As weird as this sounds, oil pulling can actually help reduce headaches in progress and prevent future headaches by eliminating the toxins responsible for them in the first place. Headaches are often triggered by exposure to chemical or toxic particles; oil pulling reduces this by decreasing exposure amounts.
Coincidentally, Streptococcus mutans is known to release a type of toxin into the bloodstream that can lead to several cardiovascular diseases. The culprit is Increased inflammation from the toxins that Streptococcus mutans releases. So, keep your heart healthy and pull some oil! (Learn about how to create your own morning ritual with oil pulling in Sadhana Revisited.)
Now that you know some of the amazing health benefits of Ayurvedic oil pulling you’re probably wanting to try it yourself.
How to Pull
Purchase an organic cold-pressed oil like coconut, sesame, sunflower or olive oil. Coconut oil has the added benefit of containing lauric acid, a natural anti-microbial agent that bacteria hate. Right after you wake up and before you've had anything to drink or brushed your teeth, take a spoonful of the oil and put it in your mouth. If you're using coconut oil it may take a few seconds for the oil to fully dissolve, once it does, gently begin swishing it back and forth in your mouth. Play with sucking the oil between your teeth and along the walls of your mouth. Start with five minutes each morning, building up to the optimal 20 minutes over the course of a few weeks. This will give your body a chance to adjust to your new routine, and your taste buds to the new texture. After your timer goes off, spit the oil out into a trash can or paper cup. Avoid spitting the used oil into your sink as it will clog your pipes over time. Above all, do not swallow the oil in your mouth! It will be full of the toxins you are trying to eliminate. When you’ve spit the oil out, rinse your mouth with warm water, then floss and brush your teeth with a natural non-fluoridated toothpaste. If you have a tongue scrapper, use it now. Your mouth will thank you and feel oh so fresh!
Adding this simple Ayurvedic ritual to your morning is an easy way to incorporate a daily detox to your lifestyle. Along with a plant-based sattvic diet, regular meditation and yoga practice, you'll be well on your way to healthy living. (Read more in A Morning Routine for Conscious Living.)