You’ve probably heard of the term ‘oil pulling’. It’s an ancient Ayurvedic health ritual that involves swishing a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. It is believed it pulls out ama (harmful toxins) and plaque. Better oral hygiene, reduced inflammation, clearer skin and improved gut health are a few of the other health and beauty benefits that come with it.
I heard about it from two of my closest friends, Amrita Rana and Cherry Nair, who have been practicing oil pulling for a while now. They spoke highly of it and the results sounded too good to be true. I was intrigued, I wanted to know more. But one of the biggest challenges about this technique – in fact, most Ayurvedic practices – is that there’s no concrete, modern science backing the theory. Also, I’m someone who prefers forming an opinion about something based on personal experience. So, I added a bottle of cold pressed sesame oil from Conscious Foods to my shopping cart and set off on a 21-day journey of oil pulling.
More than 40 days later (okay, I may have missed a day or two), here I am to share my experience with you!
The first swish
It wasn’t love at first swish. Mainly because I started out with a bunch of preconceived notions. I imagined my mouth to be greasy and gross. At the same time, I was scared I might swallow the oil and gain weight by the end of this experience. Oh, the games our mind plays! But, surprisingly, none of that happened. In fact, sesame oil was rather palatable and two minutes in, it mixed with my saliva, lost its oiliness and turned into a milky white liquid. Although, it is advised to swish oil for 15 to 20 minutes, I started with only two. In the next few days, it gradually stretched to 20 minutes. But, trust me, swishing for 20 minutes can get boring as well as tiring. When the time frame was lesser, I kept my mind occupied by documenting my experiment online to track my progress. As the time of my activity increased, I knew I had to find another distraction because how many photos can you take? Also, my jaw started hurting. I have several plants in my bedroom and love spending time with them. Soon, I started using this time to water and maintain them. If not that, I would a book to pass time.
Making a habit of it
About three weeks into this activity, I was pretty sold. I noticed a massive improvement in how my gut felt. Inflammation and bloating levels had dropped to a large degree. Also, I have had no acne for the past month and that’s predominantly because of good gut health. During the last 10 monthly cycles, I’ve had at least one break out, but since oil pulling came into the picture, I have seen none. After a month, I began noticing improvement in my oral health – not whiter teeth necessarily, but reduced bad breath.
The end results have motivated me to turn this experiment into a habit. These days, my morning routine is simple: I wake up, switch on some music, practice oil pulling and then brush my teeth with my newly discovered Earth-friendly toothpaste. My definition of a happy morning, I’d say.
For now, I’m satisfied with cold pressed sesame oil, but during warmer months, I plan on swapping it with coconut oil. This is because the former is warm by nature and I don’t want to increase the heat (pitta) in my body.
Want to try oil pulling? Follow these simple steps:
- Take a tablespoon of sesame oil in your mouth and swish it around for about five to 20 minutes. Do not swallow it.
- Spit it out in a cup or trash can since doing so directly into the washbasin might clog the drain if the oil solidifies.
- Now rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth as usual.
- Stay consistent to see the results. It will take a minimum of 21 days to notice any change.
- Avoid activities like stretching, yoga or breathing exercises during this time because it confuses the mind.
- Lastly, oil pulling is recommended as a supplementary oral hygiene practice, so don’t drop that toothbrush already.
Psst… not before you’ve noted these important points:
- Remember: the type of oil you choose for this oral hygiene technique is based on your dosha vitiation. As per Ayurveda, our body constitutes of three doshas (elements) – vata, pitta and kapha. You need to consult an expert who can guide you on these and help you choose the oil best suited for you.
- For beginners, experts suggest you start by doing it for a few minutes and gradually increase the time in the following days.
- Ensure you don’t swallow the oil.
- Do not practice oil pulling on a full stomach, it may make you feel nauseous. As mentioned earlier, it has to be performed in the morning on an empty stomach.
Oil pulling is an effective remedy for your overall health, especially oral, which is a must during this pandemic. After all, we’re all spending so much time smelling our own breath behind the masks.
Nikki Gupta is a marketing and business strategist from Mumbai. When not planning strategies to humanise brands, she’s busy creating an urban jungle in her bedroom. What started as a 21-day challenge is now a self-care activity for Nikki that she practices thrice a week.
As told to Shraddha Varma