Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma recently created quite a stir on social media, when she revealed her morning ritual of oil pulling, which involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in the mouth for 20 minutes. To some, it seemed like a new trend, others remembered it as a beauty trend popularised by Hollywood biggies Gwyneth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr and Kylie Jenner, and still others heard about it from a friend or family member. Regardless of how you learnt about it, let us inform you that oil pulling isn’t a recent trend but an Ayurvedic health ritual that dates back almost 3000 years.
Oil pulling and its benefitsResearch shows that over 700 different strains of bacteria can be found in your mouth and almost half of them are in oral cavities. Swishing and gargling with mouthwash to avoid cavities and gum disease is common, but what about doing the same with oil every morning?
Oil pulling might sound a bit strange, but it has been an age-old remedy to prevent bad breath, reduce cavity risk, tooth sensitivity, oral ulcers, and improve gum health, says Dr. Ankit Agarwal, an Ayurveda and Panchkarma consultant and the director of Dehradun-based Tulsi Ayurveda Clinic. “It draws out toxins from your body, not only to improve oral health, but also improve overall health and well-being,” he adds.
There are two main types of oil pulling techniques mentioned in Ayurvedic text: kavala graha (mentioned in the Charaka Samhita) and kavala gandusha (mentioned in Sushruta Samhita). Kavala graha, which involves keeping a small amount of oil in your mouth and swirling it around for about five to 20 minutes, is the one practiced by Sharma and many other Ayurveda practitioners. Kavala gandusha involves filling your mouth with so much oil that it’s impossible to gargle or swish. You just hold the oil for three to five minutes, then spit it out and rinse your mouth with warm water.
Choosing the right oilSesame and coconut oil are used for oil pulling — the latter being the most commonly used oil today. It’s loaded with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. However, Dubai-based Dr Rekha Radhamony, a fourth-gen Ayurveda doctor, says that oil pulling with coconut oil — preferred by Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Jenner — is not recommended for all.
“According to the Charaka Samhita, water or sesame oil must be used for kavala gandusha. Coconut oil is recommended only for people with kapha vitiated conditions. We do not recommend coconut oil because it is very heavy and causes drying,” she explains. For instance, if you have pitta vitiation, you must practice oil pulling with a cold oil. But, if you have vatta vitiation, you should choose warm sesame oil. Using the wrong oil can cause complications and lead to upset stomach or diarrhoea.
Oil pulling for immunityAyurveda says that for a strong immune system, your agni (digestive fire) must be balanced, ama (toxins) must be eradicated and ojas (a vital energy that rules one’s immunity) should be available in abundance. Unlike western medicine, this ancient medicine focuses on preventive healthcare that is achieved through dinacharya (daily regime) and ritucharya (seasonal regime).
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of AYUSH shared a list of daily self-care and hygiene practices as precautionary measures to boost immunity and respiratory health and reduce the risk of being infected. Oil pulling is one of the recommended basic hygiene measures because it is believed to decrease the bacterial load in the mouth and indirectly aid the immune system. However, there is no scientific research that shows a direct link between this oral hygiene technique and boosting immunity.
How does it work?Oil pulling is a simple procedure that can be easily incorporated in your daily routine. Here’s a step-by-step guide to practicing oil pulling (kavala gandusha):
1. Take a tablespoon of sesame oil in your mouth and swish it for about five to 20 minutes. Try not to swallow it.
2. Then, spit out the oil into a cup or trash can.
3. Follow this up with a warm water rinse.
Additional tips to keep in mind
1. Oil pulling should ideally be performed every morning on an empty stomach before brushing your teeth.
2. If you are new to oil pulling, it is suggested you begin by doing it for a few minutes and gradually increase the time to 20 minutes over a few days.
3. Do not swallow the oil.
4. Spit it out in a cup or a trash can instead of the washbasin, as the oil can clog the drain if it solidifies.
Oil pulling is a safe and effective remedy for your oral health, but there’s relatively limited research that suggests it can be practiced in place of brushing your teeth. So, don’t drop your toothbrush already!
Embed: Instagram/Anushka Sharma