Oil Pulling (by Davina Shah)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Oil Pulling (by Davina Shah)

Oil pulling - to swish or not to swish that is the question!

Oil pulling
Oil pulling
If you type 'oil pulling' into any search engine, you will find vast amounts of information relating to the subject. Some people claim to know the exact science behind oil pulling, however there is insufficient scientific data and evidence to make this claim.

As a massage therapist and sceptic, I am always weary about using the words heal and cure… so now I have those two words out of the way, let's continue with the blog!

What is oil pulling?


Oil pulling or Kavala Graha is the ancient Ayurvedic practice of placing oil into your mouth and swishing it around before spitting it out. Pulling refers to the toxins or bacteria being pulled away from inside of your mouth.

Benefits of oil pulling


Family and friends practicing oil pulling have noted the following results:

  • whiter teeth
  • loss of morning breath 
  • lustrous or shiny hair
  • softer lips

Other benefits include improved asthma, diabetes, migraines, sinuses, TMJ, menstrual cycles, PMS, hangovers, aches and pains, insomnia and general sleep, allergies, acne, wrinkles, energy levels, health of gums and teeth and gingivitis.

There have been recent claims that swishing water in your mouth can produce similar results, and it is in fact the swishing motion that provides the benefits. Due to a lack of controlled trials, the only way to find out is to try it out for yourself.

Precautions with oils


Whilst studying at Middlesex School of Complementary Medicine, I learnt about many oils and their properties. It was suggested we take care with coconut oil if dealing with hypersensitive skin. Although rarely reported, skin rashes could occur. In the same way, you would not use almond oil on a person with a known nut allergy.

So before you reach for the oils, you may wish to perform a 24 hour skin test in the crease of your elbow for your own peace of mind.

Which oil should you choose?


You can use any vegetable-based oil, and results may vary from oil to oil.

DO ensure the oil is COLD PRESSED and ORGANIC.

Coconut, sesame and olive oil appear to be the most widely used. All claim to have similar results, so feel free to experiment with an oil that suits you.

I chose coconut oil. It starts off as a butter-like consistency and melts once it warms up with a pleasant taste in the mouth. I have fond memories of oiling my grandmother's hair with coconut oil, it has a distinct and exotic aroma.

Things you will need

  • oil 
  • table spoon 
  • container to spit into 
  • tongue scrapper or dental floss will do the trick
  • toothbrush and toothpaste

When do you perform oil pulling?


First thing in the morning on an empty stomach, before eating, drinking and brushing your teeth.


DONT'S when oil pulling


  • DON'T Swallow - this is a terrible idea, all that bad stuff in your mouth is better off in the bin!
  • DON'T Gargle. Here me out, I know common sense should prevail, but a few articles have taken translations from Sanskrit texts literally and mention gargling (Gandusha).
  • DON'T Swish or swirl too hard, you have 20 minutes so take your time ensuring you move the oil around at a nice steady rhythm.
  • DON'T Spit into the sink or toilet, it may clog pipes.
  • DON'T Swish for more than 20 minutes or more than once a day. It is not a good idea to have all that bad stuff swishing around for too long!

Step-by-step guide to oil pulling


  1. Place one table spoon of chosen oil into your mouth and slowly swish the oil around your mouth. The optimum time is 20 minutes. You may need to build up to this time so don't be disheartened. Find what works best for you, and use a smaller amount to start with if that helps. I usually read to occupy the time. This will help fit the practice into your routine.
  2. After 20 minutes spit into a container. Some people spit directly into the bin, but I prefer to spit first and scrape into the bin later.
  3. Scrape your tongue to ensure all the bad stuff is off and away.
  4. Rinse with warm water.
  5. Brush your teeth as normal, thoroughly rinsing your toothbrush afterwards.
Keep it up for at least 4 weeks and try to do it every morning.

I have been swishing for one week now and it has become part of my daily routine. I will be reporting back in 6 weeks to share any changes with you all.

Why have I decided to try oil pulling?


I suffered from acne as a teenager. It eventually stopped and I had lovely clear skin throughout my 20s.  At 30 I was taken back to yesteryear when acne returned and three years on, it is yet to clear up.
So what are you waiting for? Give it a swish! I would love to hear about your results.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Davina Shah is a massage therapist, charity worker and writer. Her autobiographical short story 'The truth is out there' for anthology Rites of Passage; Rights of Womanhood is due for publication in July 2014.
Proceeds from the anthology will be donated to Hope for Justice charity


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