It’s a hot new holistic health trend according to social media, and you may even have friends who have tried and swear by it, but the practice of oil pulling (swishing plant-based oils in the mouth for lengths of time to produce health benefits) is hardly new. Found in Indian Ayurvedic texts dating back to 700 B.C., oil pulling, also known as Kavala Graha or Gandusha, is an ancient alternative health method for reducing bacteria in the mouth, and improving overall health.

A quick Google search will bring up a host of additional health benefits, ranging from whitening teeth to curing hangovers to diabetes, with little research to back them up. However, the research that has been done indicates that a regular practice of oil pulling can reduce bad breath, gingivitis, and streptococcus mutans in the mouth. The benefits are basically equal to a daily swish of chemical-filled mouthwash. The scientific research may be minimal, but the empirical evidence is aplenty!

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So here is all you need to know about oil pulling:

How It Works

The theory behind the effectiveness of oil pulling has to do with the single cell nature of the bacteria in your mouth. These bacterial cells are covered with a fatty membrane that adheres to the oil while it’s being swished around; essentially, the oil acts as a sort of soap to sweep up and break down the plaque and bacteria that are then expectorated along with the oil. Since oral health can be the first indicator of overall health in the body, making sure your mouth is healthy and happy is key!

The Methods

Oil Pulling is a pretty simple process though it does take time and getting accustomed to. There are essentially two methods, Kavala Graha and Gandusha. Kavala Graha tends to be the most popular because it requires a small spoonful of oil that is then swished through the mouth and teeth for a length of time. Gandusha requires the mouth to be filled completely with oil that is then held still for the length of time. Both methods are equally effective and really a matter of personal preference.

The Oil

Choosing the oil you use can make or break your practice as the taste and texture will factor in greatly over the length of time the oil is in your mouth. Any plant-based, cold pressed, organic oil can be used, but the most popular options are sunflower, coconut, sesame, and olive.

The Process

For Kavala Graha, begin with a comfortable spoonful of oil. I prefer coconut oil, not only for its pleasant flavor but also for it’s beneficial lipids and lauric acid. Note that some oils, like coconut, will be solid at room temperature, but will quickly melt from your body heat. Swish gently (not too vigorously or your jaw will tire quickly) for a length of 20 minutes. If this time period is just too long (and it very well may be as you are getting used to the odd sensation) you can split the session into two 10 minute doses.

When the time is up, spit the oil into the trash (it will clog the pipes in your sink or toilet), then rinse mouth with warm salt water, or brush and floss your teeth. Continue this process first thing in the morning every day for a month to see results.

Keep in Mind…

As you can imagine, 20 minutes a day is a hearty chunk of time to keep a glug of oil swishing through your teeth every day, so oil pulling may take some discipline at first. But the longer you do it, the easier and less bothersome it becomes, so stick with it!

Additionally, oil pulling should never be used in lieu of proper dental care! Use the practice as a supplement to daily brushing and flossing and regular dental exams.

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Do you have experience with oil pulling? Share in the comments below!

Lead image source: Flickr