What is Oil Pulling?
Recently there has been lots of hype about the health benefits of oil pulling – a process of swishing oil in the mouth for a period of time and spitting it out to pull out toxins from the mouth. This technique, which claims to originate from Ayurvedic medicine is a modern adaptation of some of the traditional Ayurvedic methods of daily self care known as gandusa and kavala. These therapies are not only prescribed to detoxify the oral cavity, but are also used to strengthen muscle tone in the neck, throat, jaw, and face in addition to treating systemic conditions such as arthritis and migraines. Substances such as ghee, oil, milk or herbal decoctions are gargled, swished or retained in the mouth for a specific duration and a specific time of the day. The type of treatment and the kind of oil used is always customized to your constitution for maximum benefit.
The term oil pulling is a modern term that was likely adapted by modern practitioners and spread into more mainstream in the last decade to the point where even dentists are starting to advocate the technique as part of a daily health routine.
How does Oil Pulling work?
There is no doubt that your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria and toxins. The oral cavity is constantly exposed to food which feed bacteria that reside on the teeth, gums and tongue. While bacteria naturally reside in the oral cavity, when an overgrowth of non-beneficial bacteria flourish, they produce unwanted toxins. This leads to cavities, bad breath and other health concerns.
In Ayurveda, oils are used therapeutically topically and internally. Oil has a lubricating and grounding quality and is beneficial for imbalances related to vata (air and ether element). Externally, specific oils are used for massages and therapies, and internally, they are beneficial for lubricating the digestive tract and tissues.
If you have ever tried oil pulling, you will know that your cheeks and mouth muscles get tired. The technique involves active use of muscles in the oral cavity which helps strengthen muscle tone in addition to increasing blood flow which bring nutrients to the tissues and carries away waste products. From a TCM perspective, stimulation of the oral and facial muscles can activate acupuncture points and reduce stagnation in the area to increase flow of qi or energy.
What are the Benefits? Oil pulling can:
- Strengthen teeth & gums
- Maintain healthy oral pH
- Promote flora balance
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent plaque build up
- Increase circulation to oral tissues
- Draw toxins out of mouth
How and When Should I do it?
Your naturopathic doctor can advise you if oil pulling would be good for you. While it is generally a safe practice (unless you have mercury fillings), the technique can benefit you manifold if it is customized to your constitution and your specific oral health concerns. While the common oil used for oil pulling is coconut oil, other oils such as sesame or herbal oils can be individually tailored to you. Coconut oil has excellent anti-viral and cooling properties, and can suit a person with a Pitta constitution while sesame oil may suit individuals who have a Vata constitution.
Since oil pulling is a detoxification therapy, it is always best to do it under guidance of your naturopathic doctor so that the duration of treatment can be customized, along with any additional natural therapies that will support the detoxification and healing.
Dr. Leena Athparia is one of the few licensed naturopathic doctors in Toronto with extensive training in Ayurvedic Medicine. Blending modern diagnostic tools with traditional systems, she treats the person as whole, and uses Ayurvedic assessments to identify their unique constitution. With a strong focus in preventative medicine, Dr. Athparia emphasizes nutrition & lifestyle according to Ayurvedic dosha types and integrates Ayurvedic therapies into her naturopathic practice. A graduate of the Canadian College of Medicine, Dr. Athparia pursued further training in Ayurveda & meditation in India. She practices in Markham with a focus in digestion, travel health and musculoskeletal conditions. To contact Dr. Athparia, visit www.doctorleena.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org