Natural Beauty Series: Oil Pulling with Neem

oilpulling1 Most of you have probably heard of oil pulling by now. In fact, I was in the grocery store the other day when I overheard these two women talking, “Yeah after about 10 minutes you just spit the oil into the trash and your mouth feels amazing!”  It seems like this little health practice has gone mainstream now! So this week I want to share with you a little trick I learned to boost your oil pulling practice and upgrade your mouth care routine.

What Is Oil Pulling?
If you haven’t heard of oil pulling yet, it’s an Ayurvedic practice that promotes daily detoxification and purification by swishing untoasted sesame oil or coconut oil through the mouth to bind with bacteria and toxins in the mouth. Oil pulling has been used as a traditional Indian folk remedy for many years to prevent decay, bleeding gums, dryness of throat, cracked lips and for strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw. Ayurveda recommends oil pulling to purify the entire system, as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to a different organ such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similar to reflexology.  It is mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita where it is called Kavala or Gandusha, to cure about 30 systemic diseases ranging from headache and migraine, to diabetes and asthma. The NIH recently published a review that shows oil pulling therapy has been effective in a reduction in the plaque index, modified gingival scores, and total colony count of aerobic microorganisms in the plaque of adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis.

Benefits of Neem
Okay, we’ve got the oil pulling down, now let’s add some healing plants to the practice! In India and Southeast Asia, the Neem tree (Azadirachta Indica) has been used in many ways for its cooling, soothing and astringent properties.  Internally, neem has traditionally been used to purify the blood, stimulate the digestive system, cleanse the liver and support the immune system. It is also commonly used to support healthy skin and to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. When it comes to mouth care, you’ll find neem most popularly used as a toothbrush, that’s right, just a twig off the tree straight to your mouth! According to this 2009 study, chewing on fresh neem stems is believed to cause attrition and leveling of biting surfaces, facilitate salivary secretion and help in bacterial and plaque control. But for most of us who don’t have access to a big neem tree, you’ll also find the leaf and bark ground down into a fine powder that can be used to make healing homemade tooth and gum powders.  I use Premier Research Labs and Banyan Botanicals fine ground neem powder.

oilpulling How to Gum Massage & Oil Pull with Neem Powder

  1. After scraping your tongue, but before brushing your teeth, take about ¼ teaspoon neem powder on your clean finger and rub it into your top and bottom gums. Gently massage around each tooth, taking about a minute or two to work over the gums.
  2. Next, take a tablespoon of oil in your mouth.  Cold-pressed coconut oil or untoasted sesame oil is recommended.  Coconut oil is also a particularly good oil to use because of an antimicrobial substance it contains called lauric acid, effective at killing bacteria, viruses and fungi.  I alternate between these oils every few weeks.
  3. Swish (not gargle!) the oil and neem powder around the mouth for 3-5 minutes. As you swish, the oil will mix with the saliva and turn into a thin white liquid.  When the oil become thick again, spit it out.  Note: The first few times you oil pull, your mouth might feel tired after a few minutes. Be gentle and take a few weeks to build up your practice, working your way up to 10-20 minutes. 
  4. Follow by brushing your teeth well and rinsing with water. Choose a gentle toothpaste. I’m currently in love with the Ayurvedic toothpaste Svadanta, but also keep a good tube of Auromere around, too.
  5. Repeat daily as a part of your morning dinacharya practice.