Oil pulling is having a moment. Thrust into the limelight by celebrity devotee Gwyneth Paltrow, this ancient Ayurvedic ritual involves swishing cold-pressed oil around the mouth to “pull out” toxins. In the process, it can soften lips, whiten teeth, clear the mind and more. But with gagging, salivating and dribbling, it isn’t pretty. Beauticate talks to an Ayurvedic expert about why you should be doing it. Here, our gag-proof guide to oil pulling, so you can get beautiful from the inside out.
How oil pulling works
The mouth is home to a plethora of toxins that can enter the body via ingestion or absorption into the bloodstream. Most toxins in the mouth are fat-soluble. The theory is that swishing fats such as coconut or sesame oil will bind toxins including plaque bacteria so they can be “pulled” from the body. In other words, spat out. It might not be Insta-worthy, but it’s the detox every health nut is talking about.
What the expert says
Rita Sagrani is the Founder and Director of the Ayurvedic Wellness Centre in Bondi. She was raised in India by her grandmother, an Ayurvedic doctor, and later studied Ayurveda with Deepak Chopra. She says health-conscious people are turning to oil pulling as a natural way of maintaining health that has been tried and tested over 5000 years. “No matter how sceptical you are, try it for a month or even a week and you feel the difference.” Rita’s clients attest to softer lips, healthier gums, clarity of mind and even a firmer jawline. Win.
What we found
While broader claims include hormone balance, clearer skin and relief from headaches, we’ve been swishing for just a week and have noticed teeth are whiter, breath is fresher and mouth ulcers heal faster. Our guide to the unpretty-but-rewarding oil pulling ritual:
1. Wake up, oil pull (on an empty stomach)
The ancient Vedic texts consider oral care as part of full body cleansing. Therefore, Rita says, oil pulling must be done before anything else, even meditation. Ayurvedic people would have used sesame oil which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. But unless you love a stir-fry first thing in the morning, coconut oil might be more palatable. Coconut oil is rich in antioxidant vitamin E and contains Lauric Acid that has antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
2. Get past the gag
First-timers should begin with a teaspoon and gradually work up to a tablespoon of oil. Once you start to swish, salivary glands go into overdrive and the mouth soon feels twice as full. Avoid gargling the oil or passing it near the throat as this is guaranteed gag territory. Pull between teeth and swish all around gums and tongue. Go gently or you’ll be mopping up the globules you dribbled on the floor (this happened). Set your timer for twenty minutes - the optimum time for breaking down plaque and other toxins. Now get productive: shower, iron, make a superfood smoothie, etc.
3. Spit don’t swallow
Swallowing is a no-no. The idea is for toxins to be expelled not ingested. It is not recommended to spit into the basin as the oil can congeal in the pipes (nice). Use the bin. The liquid will likely appear opaque and a milky colour from the binding of saliva and toxins. If your swishing is really fruitful, it might reveal dislodged food particles missed by last night’s brushing and flossing.
4. Rinse the residue
Add a pinch of sea salt to warm water to rinse the residue from the teeth and gums (more swishing, but you’re a pro by now). Then brush as normal, preferably with a natural toothpaste such as Optima Aloe Dent. Inspect your smile. You might notice cleaner gums and less latte staining. This, we found, improves after every session. Whiter teeth = incentive alone.
For information on Ayurvedic full body detoxification (Panchakarma) click here.
Story by Sarina Zoe.