What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is a natural healthcare practice where you swish oil around in your mouth for up to 20 minutes without swallowing it.
Although it is apparently an ancient Ayurvedic practice, other Ayurvedic practitioners claim that it is a modern practice. It’s claimed that oil pulling was introduced to the Western World in 1992, by a Dr Fedor Karach, who is or was a Ukranian doctor. I couldn’t find anything to substantiate this, although it’s quoted as fact on many oil pulling websites.
Dr Bruce Fife has written a whole book about oil pulling, and writes about it here on a blog called Coconut Research Centre. He suggests that it will brighten teeth, heal gums, prevent bad breath, quench inflammation and heal oral infections. He also claims that it will help with arthritis, asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue, diabetes, migraine headaches, PMS, and chronic skin problems. Apparently, oil pulling does all this by detoxifying or cleansing the body.
While there does seem to be some research that shows that oil pulling can help reduce plaque, gingivitis and bad breath, I could find nothing to back up the claims of Dr Bruce Fife.
Is oil pulling safe?
As long as you don’t swallow the plaque and bacteria, I haven’t found anything that suggests it’s not safe. Medical practitioners and dentists seem to agree with Dr Andrew Weil, who says that, “Oil pulling won’t hurt you, but I wouldn’t depend on it to help you improve your overall health or treat significant medical problems.”
What are the benefits of oil pulling?
Oil pulling, while it may not fix your migraine or your allergies, does have benefits as part of a dental care routine.
Dentist Dr Jessic Emery says that swishing stuff around in your mouth does make sense from a mechanical perspective. The primary cause of tooth decay is bacteria, and we use mouthwash to swish around our mouths to remove bacteria.
The problem with mouthwashes is that they are often made with harsh chemicals that are not actually very good for our mouths. Alcohols, detergents, synthetic colours, flavours and fragrances are just some of the ingredients that are used in mouthwashes, and they aren’t terribly good for us.
So using something more natural as a mouthwash is surely beneficial.
Studies have shown that oil pulling with sesame oil has the same benefits as using a chlorhexidine mouthwash in reducing plaque and gingivitis. Chlorhexidine is an antibacterial and antiseptic, and is strongly suspected of being an immune and respiratory toxin. It’s found in mouthwashes made by Colgate and Oral B, and even Oral B suggests not to use it for too long.
What’s the technique for oil pulling?
How do you actually do the oil pulling?
- Make sure that you use a good quality, cold pressed oil.
- Do the oil pulling first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Adults should use one to two tablespoons of oil. You can start with a teaspoon and gradually increase the amount if you find that much oil difficult at first. Children over 10 years of age should use one teaspoon.
- Swish the oil gently around in your mouth. Swish it through your teeth and over your gums.
- Swish for 20 minutes. Do it gently, or you’ll find that your jaw gets tired. Work up to 20 minutes if you can’t manage 20 minutes at first.
- The oil should become whitish as it collects saliva, plaque, bacteria and other junk in your teeth and mouth.
- Don’t swallow it – all this gunk is not going to be good for your stomach.
- Spit it into a cup or a tissue, and get rid of it in the rubbish. If you spit it down the sink, you’re going to end up with clogged pipes.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water a few times, then do a proper brush and floss to get rid of anything the oil pulling has missed.
What oil should you use?
Coconut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oils seem to be the oils of choice. The oils need to be a good quality, cold pressed oil.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a popular choice for oil pulling.
Sesame oil has also been tested for its benefits in oil pulling, so that’s another good choice.
Coconut oil tastes good, and could also be mixed or infused with other herbs that are beneficial to oral health. Traditional remedies are myrrh, peppermint and clove, and you could easily add a drop or two of these essential oils into coconut oil for oil pulling. Liquorice root has been shown to help reduce plaque and has an antibacterial action, so you could infuse this into coconut oil.
If you’re pregnant or are encouraging your children to do oil pulling, do be careful of any essential oils you’re adding and make sure that they’re appropriate.
Have you tried oil pulling? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
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