The process of oil pulling does not entail the most likely images that the term brings to your mind. It’s not about pulling oil, but swishing oil around your mouth to rid it of harmful germs. It is a practice believed to be derived from ayurvedic traditions. Information about swilling with oil has been put on virtually every health website and blog, but there has to be a correct exchange of facts to obtain the full benefits of it.

Why and how

Your mouth is the gateway to your body and there is a direct connection between your oral and general health. Studies have shown that people with dental and gum disease are at increased risk for diabetes, psoriasis, heart diseases among others. Done correctly, oil pulling can have significant beneficial effects on your dental health as well as your overall wellbeing. However, highlighting it as a magic cure for every disease is not something I agree with.

There are two ways to do oil pulling. In Gandoosha, you hold a mouthful of oil till your eyes begin to water and there is a discharge from the nose. In Kabala, you fill three-fourth of the mouth with the oil, then swish in around the mouth thoroughly for five to six minutes before you spit it out.

Choosing the right oil

Scientific studies show that swilling with sesame oil reduces your susceptibility to dental caries, plaque and gum disorders. Sesame oil does not stain the teeth, has no lingering aftertaste and causes no allergic reactions. It is also more cost-effective than some commercially available mouthwashes. To see the heath benefits, gargle daily with a tablespoon of sesame oil after brushing your teeth. Coconut oil can also be used for oil pulling. If you have no specific health complaints, either of these two oils can be used. For health issues, you can consult a qualified ayurveda physician who will prescribe a mixture as per your doshas. These mixtures are made by mixing herb paste [either triphala or trikatu or dasamoola] with either ghee, oil, vinegar, water or honey.

The correct way of swilling

  1. Apply the oil [or mixture] on your scalp, face, neck and shoulders. Then steam your face for five minutes.
  2. Sit comfortably in a chair and hold the oil or mixture in your mouth. You can also swish it if you want.
  3. Continue doing this till mucous collects in your mouth or your eyes begin to water.
  4. Spit out the contents.
  5. Follow this with a gentle, self-massage and light fomentation on your neck, face, cheeks, shoulders and head.

The pros and cons

Oil pulling has been extensively used as a traditional Indian remedy to prevent tooth decay, bleeding gums, dryness of throat and to alleviate cracked lips. It is used to treat headache, nausea and lack of taste.

Overdoing or incorrect swilling with oil can cause dryness of the mouth, mouth ulcers, thirst, fatigue, aggravation of the disease, tastelessness, nausea and sleepiness.

This was first published in the May 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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