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6 Benefits of Oil Pulling, the Daily Detox Ritual to Try Next

Tomorrow morning, take a spoonful of cold-pressed coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for 5 or 10 minutes while you turn the kettle on and try to wake yourself up. Feel good? You may have just discovered the secret to a healthier you.

We're talking about oil pulling, the oral therapy technique based in traditional Ayurvedic medicine that has been said to have myriad health benefits.

In the thousands of years that oil pulling has been around, it has been said to target all manner of concerns, from headaches and migraines to acne and tooth discolouration. Just as with Ayurveda as a whole, oil pulling has been largely dismissed by modern Western medicine, and there is no scientific evidence that assures its benefits.

This simple, inexpensive technique is definitely worth trying. All you need is some coconut oil and a spoon, two things you likely already have in your kitchen.

How it works

The mouth is often referred to as a "mirror" of your overall health. The idea with oil pulling is to target toxicity and bacteria in the mouth in order to affect overall health.

According to a 2016 article in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, organic coconut, sunflower and sesame oil are all said to have antiviral properties, especially when cold-pressed, but coconut oil is the most popular choice for oil pulling due to its tolerable taste and high amounts of lauric acid, which is a fatty acid with antimicrobial properties. Here is one way to do it:

  1. First thing in the morning, before you eat or drink—even before you brush your teeth—take a tablespoon of cold-pressed organic coconut oil in your mouth and chew until it has melted. If you are also using a tongue scraper, you may choose to scrape then pull, or vice versa. If chewing the cold-pressed oil is a bit much for you, use liquified oil.
  2. Swish it around in your mouth. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20. Do not swallow. You'll just be swallowing a considerable amount of coconut oil and a bunch of toxins. (For this reason, don't do it laying down—I know someone who tried to oil pull and meditate at the same time while lying down only to wake up half an hour later having swallowed the oil.) 
  3. Spit into a bin, or on a paper towel or container that will then be placed in the rubbish. Do not spit the oil into the basin as it can cause blockages in pipes.

Benefits of oil pulling

Oil pulling can... reduce harmful bacteria: There are hundreds of types of bacteria in your mouth at any given time. Some of them can contribute to tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. By reducing bacteria build-up through oil pulling, you are able to improve oral health and avoid expensive and painful visits to the dentist.

Oil pulling can... reduce bad breath: Otherwise known as halitosis, bad breath is caused by the chemicals and gases produced by bacteria in your mouth, and is often a sign of infections and gingivitis. Oil pulling can help to remove the harmful bacteria responsible for bad breath. 

Oil pulling can... whiten teeth: There have been few studies that test the teeth whitening capabilities of oil pulling, however I can personally say that after a few weeks of daily oil pulling using the method we've described here, I received unprompted compliments on my whiter than usual teeth.

Oil pulling can... reduce inflammation: There are some experts who believe inflammation is not just a sign of poor health but one of the main culprits. Coconut oil has anti-bacterial properties to begin with, and the practice of oil pulling helps to reduce bacteria and plaque—two causes of inflammation in the mouth.

Oil pulling can... reduce jaw pain: When done correctly, the physical act of oil pulling is like a mini face workout, which can reduce jaw pain as well as the headaches and migraines that can happen as a result. As a person who suffers TMJ, I can confirm that when I am regularly oil pulling I experience less intense jaw pain less frequently.

Oil pulling can... improve skin: The theory is that by pulling toxins and bacteria out of the mouth, you prevent them from surfacing on the skin. Whatever the science of it, the very idea of detoxifying one part of your body is surely a good start to detoxifying the rest of it.

What was that about tongue scraping? Here is everything you need to know about tongue cleaning, another Ayurvedic oral technique to add to your morning routine.

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