Originally published in Mind Body Green on May 15, 2018.
Oil pulling, called gundusha in Sanskrit, stems from ayurvedic tradition. Ayurveda is the world’s oldest health system, originating in ancient India over 5,000 years ago. It is the sister science of yoga, based on mind-body balance. And oil pulling is essentially ayurvedic mouthwash. It consists of swishing oil in your mouth for anywhere from three to 20 minutes. The oil you are “pulling” lives between your teeth.
What kind of oil works best for oil pulling?
Now you might be wondering, will any ol’ oil do? Olive oil like for salad dressings? Not quite. For many people, coconut oil is a perfect starter oil for oral care since it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial. Essentially, when combined with a good brushing routine, it will nix all the things you don’t want lingering around your mouth.
It’s important to remember that some bacteria in the mouth is good, and you’ll want to keep it around. While traditional mouthwash destroys it, oil pulling lets it thrive. (That’s why once we start using antibacterial mouthwash, our breath smells horrible without it; we’ve killed the good bacteria, and we’ve become dependent on it.)
Beyond deep-cleaning our mouths and boosting gum health, coconut oil pulling simultaneously whitens our teeth to bring on our biggest, sparkliest smile yet. It also amps up digestion. You see, digestion begins the moment food touches our lips. As we eat food, our tongues detect its micro- and macronutrients and tell our bodies what enzymes are necessary for digestion. If the surface of your tongue isn’t clean, it isn’t going to know what’s what in that 20-ingredient salad! If the tongue is unable to accurately dictate what we are consuming, as a result our digestive system will not appropriately break down nutrients. That goes to show that our oral health is important for our health, too, since everything in the body is connected.
How and when to pull with coconut oil.
I feel morning time is the best time to start your coconut oil pulling routine, as it helps shake up and pull out all those dormant germs that sit in the mouth as we sleep. That being said, if your schedule is more conducive to oil pull before bed, go for it! Don’t let any rigidity of “should be” schedules hold you back from optimal health.
Here’s a simple, three-step plan for effective oil pulling:
- Place 1 tablespoon coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for as long as possible. Start with just 2 or 3 minutes (or as little as 10 seconds), working your way up to 20 minutes.
- Spit out the oil into the trash. Do not swallow the oil because it’s now full of your toxins, bacteria, and plaque. Do not spit the oil in the sink if you have a septic system because it can clog your drain.
- Rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth afterward.
Try coconut oil pulling three or four times a week, and you’ll start to see very quickly just how powerful this one simple routine really is. You’ll WANT to do it every day!
What to look for when shopping for coconut oil.
Not all coconut oil is created equal. Look for oil that is organic, extra-virgin, and unfiltered or unrefined. It should say so right on the label!