Sweeter voice and enhanced sense of taste through oil pulling.
What does gargling have to do with health, vitality and fresh breath? Breath may be obvious, but garling with oil, water or herbs is a traditional Ayurvedic practice to support overall health. Persistent, even undiagnosed, infection drains energy from the body, particularly because of the load on the immune system. The gums and teeth are two locations where unrecognized infections caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other germs can flourish and wreak havoc on the body even before symptoms appear. The breeding ground of the mouth can unleash infections which enter the body via the bloodstream through the rich vascular tissue in the mouth. To counteract this, Ayurveda includes the practices of gargling as the oral health component of a dinacharya (daily regimen) for maintaining all the vital organs and systems, preventing illness and healing imbalances.
Ayurveda teaches two types of mouth gargling: gandusa (gargling with mouth full of liquid) and kavalagrah (small amount that can be swished around the mouth). Oil is frequently used for this practice; another definition of gandusa is oil-pulling. This practice is said to draw out toxins and reduce or destroy pathogenic microorganisms in the mouth, cleansing the oral cavity and strengthening the gums and teeth. It stimulates the body’s eliminatory system and increases metabolism. In the Ayurvedic classics, gandusa is recommended for neck rigidity, headaches, earaches, eye diseases, nausea, lethargy or drowsiness, tastelessness, diseases of the head and sinusitis. Oil-pulling improves the perception of all the senses, especially enhancing taste, which leads to improved health.
Gargle For Health
The tongue draws a map of your internal organs and is connected to all the organs and systems through the points of reflection and meridians. Therefore, practicing gandusa (oil pulling) is helpful in maintaining the health of the whole body. Signs of adequate gandusa are whiter and shinier teeth, more refreshed and relaxed waking, balanced appetite, regular elimination, sound sleep, reduction of dark circles around the eyes and increased energy throughout the day. Depending on what you choose to use, gargling can be done on its own, after nasya (nasal therapy), in the morning, during the day or before bed. Gargling with herbal decoctions, teas or plain water is usually practiced after meals or drinks. Ayurveda recommends the use of oil once or twice a day. Gandusa with oil, or oil pulling, must be done on an empty stomach. An ideal time to practice oil pulling is after brushing your teeth on an empty stomach.
Choose a Gargle
The choice of herbs, oil or tea for gargling all depends on the condition of the patient’s health and the state of their doshas (the functional elements of the body). For example, if there is an aggravation of vata (air and ether elements) or kapha (water and earth elements), then the medium of choice for gargling would be sesame oil. In case of an aggravation of pitta (fire element) leading to inflammation, sunflower is a good option. For ailments such as mouth ulcers and canker sores, gandusa can be done with herbal oil or herbal tea such as triphala decoction or licorice water.
Take one tablespoon oil in your mouth. Slowly move the oil between your teeth, swish, pull and suck the oil through your teeth. Ideally continue this process for as long as 10 to 20 minutes. You will notice the color of the oil change to white. In Oil Pulling Therapy, Dr. Bruce Fife recommends spitting the oil in the trash rather than swallowing or even powering down the sink. Rinse your mouth with water after completion.
Some of the good signs of properly executed gandusa regularly done are freshness of all the indriyas (senses), face and mind; lightness in the body; sound sleep, improved perception of taste; strong and healthy teeth and gums, reduced number of diseases of the head, ear, nose and eyes; and even a sweeter quality of voice. Gargle and be grateful for the ancient practice of gandusa.
Dr. Ram Tamang BAMS is a licensed physician in India and Nepal and the director of panchakarma at The Healing Gardens. hehealingardens.com
Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxification and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing
Oil Pulling Therapy
By Dr. Bruce Fife
Piccadilly Books, 2008
In his latest book, Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxification and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing, writer, naturopath and oil aficionado Dr. Bruce Fife has turned his attention to the use of oil for oral hygiene. It’s a practice that Dr. Fife reminds us comes from the Ayurvedic texts such as the Charaka Samhita, which see gargling with oil as important for oral and systemic health. Dr. Fife’s favorite oil for the practice (and everything else) is coconut, although Ayurveda suggests sesame or sunflower. Coconut, he states, is a healthier oil. And if it’s solid in the winter or on a cold day, a few moments on the stove will cause the oil to liquefy.
He insists that our usual practices of oral hygiene are inadequate, even with the best dental care in the world, root canals and fillings are a mainstay of dental office visits. Oil-pulling can also dislodge particles brushing and flossing don’t seem to affect. Oil pulling is not a substitute for brushing, Dr. Fife cautions. And if you pull before bed, refrain from contaminating your now-clean mouth with food before sleep. In the book, Dr. Fife provides detailed instructions for the practice, which include making sure you spend enough time swishing the oil around your mouth. A hurried session will preclude the oil’s benefits. –– Felicia Marie Tomasko
Since oil pulling is a complement to, and not a substitute for brushing, there are a number of herbs traditionally used in Ayurveda to support gum and dental health. These include licorice, tulsi and triphala, clove and cinnamon. The Los Angeles-based company, Athreya, has created a blend of supportive herbs called Healthy Gums (licorice, triphala, cinnamon and clove) for brushing or massaging to maintain gum health. For more information, visit: letsallbehealthy.com