The title here reads ‘oil pulling’ but it is actually a procedure called mouth gargling using oil. Not only oil, but many types of liquids can be used for this purpose based on desired benefits. Let us look into these liquids, procedure of oil pulling, its different benefits, etc in a detailed way.
Ayurveda explains two types of similar procedures.
Gandusha – let us call this as oil pulling. (though other liquids than oils are also used). Here, there is no gargling. The liquid is filled to the maximum capacity of mouth and it is held inside the mouth for specific amount of time. Later, it is spit out.
Kavala – Here, lesser quantity of liquid is used. The liquid is retained in the mouth and swishing is done for specific amount of time. Later, it is spitted out.
Table of Contents
Types of Oil pulling
Lubricating with oils and fats – for Vata imbalance disorder. It is done by the use of oil processed with herbs of sweet, sour and salt tastes.
Palliative for Pitta imbalance disorder. It is done by herbs of bitter, astringent and sweet tastes.
Cleansing / purifying – for Kapha imbalance disorder. It is with herbs of bitter, pungent, sour, salt tastes and possessing hot property.
Healing – It is done with herbs of astringent and bitter taste.
Different liquids used
Fats – oil, ghee milk,
Honey with water
Juice of meat / meat soup
Urine of animals such as cow urine.
Dhanyamla – Fermented grain liquid
The liquids may be mixed with a kalka (herbal paste)
The liquids may be cooked or raw
The liquids should be of a comfortable temperature to touch and to hold in the mouth.
Sesame seed paste with water – A tablespoon of sesame seed is made into paste. Add this to a cup of luke warm water. Use this mix to gargle. It is useful in relieving tingling sensation in teeth, tooth weakness, disease of the mouth caused by Vata (which involves pain as a symptom).
For daily use, oil pulling with sesame oil / meat soup
Benefits of oil pulling with sesame oil, daily: Sesame oil gargling is beneficial for the strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, excellent gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One will never get dryness of throat, nor does his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never develop caries and will be deep-rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables Reference: (Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana 5)
Ghee and milk is very useful for oil pulling When there is local or general burning sensation, ulceration and wounds caused by foreign bodies, poison wounds, alkalies (Kshara) and burns by fire, it is best to hold either ghee or milk.
Honey – Holding honey in the mouth removes the sliminess of the mouth, heals the ulcers quickly, relieves burning sensation and thirst. It is also useful in quick healing of oral ulcers.
Holding Dhanyamla – fermented grain liquid in the mouth removes distaste, dirt (of teeth and tongue) and bad smell from the mouth.
Dhanyamla without salt, used cold, is best to remove dryness of the mouth.
Holding Ksharambu – water containing alkalies (like Yavakshara) in the mouth quickly breaks up the accumulation of Kapha.
Holding comfortable warm water brings about lightness and cleansing of the mouth.
How to do oil pulling methodically
The person should sit in a place devoid of breeze but in mild sunlight.
His shoulders and neck should be massaged with plain sesame oil / Maha Narayana Taila / Bala Ashwagandhadi Taila / Ksheerabala taila massage can be given for 5 – 10 minutes.
After gentle massage, fomentation is given for 2 – 3 minutes. It can be just washing face and neck with hot water, or mopping face with towel dipped in hot water or exposing the face to steam. Eyes should be covered with cold cloth, during fomentation.
After fomentation, oil pulling is done.
Keeping his face slightly lifted up, he should hold the liquid in his mouth till the mouth gets filled with Kapha (sputum / slimy liquid) or till the nose and eyes start secreting liquid.
Then the contents of the mouth are spitted out.
Following this, usually herbal smoking is done.
Kavala – mouth gargles
It is used in treating
Diseases of the neck, head, ears, mouth and eyes,
Praseka – excess salivation, diseases of the throat,
Dryness of the mouth, nausea,
Tandra – stupor,
Aruchi – anorexia and
Peenasa – rhinitis are curable by Kavala – mouth gargles
Side effects of oil pulling
Irimedadi taila is the most common herbal oil prescribed for oil pulling.
One person reported about frequent throat infections (small white or red bumps on tonsils and throat) after using it for oil pulling.
This can be due to bad quality / brand of the oil.
After oil pulling, I feel phlegm collecting in nose and throat. What to do?
After oil pulling, rinse your mouth and wash your face thoroughly with luke warm water.
If needed, brush teeth with herbal tooth powder.
After that, it is good to inhale Sai Guggul Dhoop. It is like incense stick. Just light it and keep it in your room. No need to go very near to inhale the fumes directly.
Oil pulling Vs gargling
What is the difference between oil pulling and gargling?
Dr JV Hebbar:
Oil pulling and gargling therapies are recommended for different purposes in Ayurveda.
Oil pulling: It is called Gandusha in Ayurveda. Here, the oil is taken into the mouth. Mouth is closed and the oil is retained inside the mouth till the mouth is filled with frothy, phlegm like fluid or till secretions start oozing out of nose and eyes.
It is recommended daily to detoxify the accumulated Doshas (toxins) in the oral cavity and throat.
Apart from oil, various herbal teas, juice extracts, milk, buttermilk, honey, etc. are used for the purpose of Gandusha.
It is has both local effects and system effects. Meaning, the effect of oil pulling / Gandusha can be seen even on the entire head and neck region.
For example: Master Sushruta has recommended Gandusha with strong liquids to treat Kapha type of headache, which is compared with sinusitis (Reference: Sushruta Samhita, Uttara Tantra, 26/19)
In Gandusha the medicated liquid is expected to penetrate deep into the channels connected to oral cavity, melt the toxins (imbalanced Doshas) and expel them out.
In cases such as mouth ulcers with extreme burning sensation and bleeding, soothing liquids such as coconut oil or ghee is used for Gandusha. Here, the local healing effect is expected.
So, Gandusha has both local and system actions.
Mouth gargling: Mouth gargling is largely targeted towards tonsils and throat disorders. Here, the local effect of cleansing is expected. Very famous example is, using a mixture of 2 pinches of each of turmeric and salt in a cup of water. This liquid is used for gargling to relieve inflammation in throat, voice box (laryngitis) or tonsillitis.
After gargling for a few seconds, the content of the mouth is spat out and again filled with fresh liquid, whereas in Gandusha, the liquid in the mouth is not changed.
For how many days oil pulling should be done?
Oil pulling is explained as Kavala and Gandusha in Ayurveda.
Gandusha = Full of the mouth is filled with oil
Kavala = Some space is left in the mouth for swishing.
Oil pulling is explained as part of daily routine, along with oil massage, exercise, eye salve, herbal smoking, nasal drops, bathing etc.
This indicates that oil pulling can be done daily for a lifetime. Oil pulling strengthens the voice, teeth, gums, sense organs and it enhances the taste perception capacity of the tongue.
Master Vagbhata has explained –
nityaṃ tailaṃ – Ashtanga Hrudaya, Sutrasthana, 22nd chapter, 6th Sanskrit verse
it means that for daily oil pulling, sesame oil is the best.
There are many options for oil pulling given in the same chapter.
दन्तहर्षे दन्तचाले मुखरोगे च वातिके ।
सुखोष्णमथवा शीतं तिलकल्कोदकं हितम् ॥ ५ ॥
dantaharṣe dantacāle mukharoge ca vātike|
sukhoṣṇamathavā śītaṃ tila kalka udakaṃ hitam||5||
It means, for tingling and shaking teeth, for oral disorders associated with Vata, characterized by pain, degeneration of teeth, receding gums, sensitivity etc., a teaspoon of sesame seed paste is mixed with lukewarm or cold water and it is used for oil pulling.
To relieve burning sensation and mouth ulcers, after accidental exposure to burns, corrosive materials and poisons, cow milk or ghee is used.
Honey-pulling brings clarity to the mouth, relieves burning sensation and excessive thirst.
Lukewarm water pulling brings lightness to the mouth.
These are a few options. Based on specific disease, herbal teas, decoctions, infusions etc. are used.
In the above options, for daily usage, sesame oil is the best option. The other liquids can be used based on needs and for a short period of a few weeks of time.
Disease based oil pulling can be done till the symptoms are relieved. For example, in excessive dry mouth, ghee or milk is used for oil pulling till the dryness of mouth and excessive thirst are relieved (Ashtanga Hrudaya, Chikitsa Sthana 6th chapter).
Oil Pulling During Winter?
Can Oil Pulling, as Part of Daily Routine, be Done During Winter?
The purpose of oil pulling is to
a. Nourish the sense organs – eyes, tongue, ear and nasal cavities, strengthen teeth, heal gum and mouth ulcers, nourish the gum.
b. Melt and cleanse the toxins that are collected in the nasal cavity, oral cavity and throat.
For the melting and cleansing to happen, usually an oil that is slightly hot is ideal. Some amount of hotness is desired in oil pulling, because the person is advised to sit in sunlight.
Ashtanga Hrudayam, Sutrasthana 22/10
gaṇḍūṣamapiban – The person intended to take full mouth gargle,
nivāte – should be seated in a place devoid of breeze but,
sa ātape – should be seated where there is sunlight. The logic behind this is to achieve a healthy combination of oiliness and hotness.
Oiliness penetrates deep into the tissues and detoxifies.
Hotness assists in melting the toxins and expelling them out of the body.
This combination of oiliness and hotness is repeated many times in Ayurveda. Eg: Oil massage, followed by sauna / sweating therapy, drinking warm water, after taking oil or ghee rich foods etc.
What to do during winter?
Warm the oil a little so that there is some hotness
Warm the room if you have the room temperature control
Do oil pulling standing near to fireplace
Do oil pulling in front of the stove, when you are cooking something.
Afternoon is a better time as it is the warmest time of the day.