[I'm always in search of effective and affordable home remedies, and while I've heard many great things about the health benefits of oil pulling (basically swishing oil in your mouth), to be perfectly honest, every time I've tried it it's made me gag. SO…. I've asked my fellow health blogger, Mindy Wood, to share what she learned in her quest to find out – does oil pulling work? Enjoy!]
I have to admit, I had no real reason to try oil pulling. It was more of an experiment based on the fact that it sounded cool, and that I'm naturally skeptical about anything that is trendy. So basically, I just wanted to know if the hype about oil pulling was a big pile of boloney or not.
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is old, I mean really old. With recorded origins as far as 5000 years ago, oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic method of dental and systemic cleansing where you swish oil in the mouth to help pull out the bacteria and toxins. Interesting … I tend to appreciate things that have been around for longer than time itself (hence, maybe not as much of a passing trend as I thought).
Ayurvedic science says that different parts of the tongue are connected to different parts of the body, so, oil pulling eliminates toxins from the whole body through the tongue. The idea is that fat soluble toxins (like heavy metals, parasites, pesticides, preservatives, and additives) are attracted to and absorbed by, the oil because it is lipophilic (meaning oil attracts other oil and fat). Cool.
So, I decided to give it a try without any idea what benefits I might experience. I guess I was just thinking I'd be less full of toxins, which is always good, right?
Choosing an oil for oil pulling
Sesame oil is the traditional oil choice for oil pulling and is the oil choice that most studies are based on, however, you can use just about any oil, preferably organic, non-GMO, and cold pressed.
Many people choose sesame oil since it is the traditional oil used for oil pulling and it has a gentler detoxifying effect. Another popular oil is sunflower oil which has a milder taste than sesame but has a similar detoxifying element.
I chose coconut oil because it contains lauric acid which is anti microbial. Also, coconut oil has been proven to kill most strains of Streptococcus bacteria (“strep”) so, oil pulling with coconut oil packs an added punch of healing. It's also already in my kitchen cabinet, so, no added shopping trips. (source)
Does oil pulling work for oral health?
I’ve tried oil pulling a few times. Though I haven’t been able to keep up with it every day or for weeks at a time, I have still seen benefits. I noticed whiter teeth after only a few days, however, I don’t drink sugary drinks which I think helps any whitening attempt work faster.
My overall oral health seems to have improved (no more funk mouth in the morning). I also haven't had any cavities in years, though I can't say that is directly related to oil pulling.
And science backs up my experience. It turns out that oil pulling can reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth and reduce cavities. In a 2008 study, oil pulling (using sesame oil) caused a reduction in the number of Streptococcus Mutans in plaque in 1-2 weeks. The chlorhexidine mouthwash removed more, but comes with yucky side effects such as staining of teeth and alteration in taste perception. (source)
In another study, 100% of participants saw reduction in susceptibility to cavities, 50% of which saw significant reduction. This change has been attributed to the reduction in bacteria in the mouth from oil pulling. So, maybe my lack of cavities is related to oil pulling?
In yet another study, oil pulling reduced plaque and signs of gingivitis just as well as the traditional mouthwash.
Oil pulling was also found to be just as effective as mouthwash in reducing bad breath (and still without the yucky side effects of the mouthwash). (source)
Other benefits of oil pulling
Another benefit I saw was some improvement of the runny nose and eczema I get when I’m not careful to avoid dairy and gluten. This was a bit of a surprise to me because I didn't know there were benefits beyond oral health when I started oil pulling.
According to the traditional Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita, oil pulling may cure as many as 30 systemic illnesses including arthritis, diabetes, colitis, Crohn's disease, constipation, hemorrhoids, asthma and bronchitis. Some other benefits include:
- Whiter teeth
- Reduced headaches and hangovers
- Improved acne and eczema
- Reduced inflammation
- Hormone regulation
- Improved heart, kidney, and liver function
- Eased sinus congestion and allergies
- Less back and neck pain
And it makes sense that oil pulling could cure, prevent, or treat these conditions since disease starts in the mouth and a direct link has already been found between oral health and diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis. (source)
It also makes sense that if oil pulling kills bacteria and the presence of bacteria causes inflammation then oil pulling would have an anti inflammatory effect and could then ease symptoms associated with diseases that are related to inflammation.
How to do oil pulling
Oil pulling is pretty simple actually:
- Choose an oil. This is the coconut oil I use. In the case of solid coconut oil, it will melt quickly once it's in your mouth.
- Swish for up to 20 minutes. If you get tired, swish more gently or take small breaks. It’s best to oil pull first thing in the morning before breakfast and teeth brushing (many people do it in the shower), but any time of day is fine and beneficial.
- Spit into the trash. Don’t spit it into the drain (or on the ground like I did), especially if you are using coconut oil, because it could cause a clog.
Start with just five minutes and work your way up to the full twenty. Many people (including myself) experience some detox side effects after beginning oil pulling.
My side effects included a mild headache, just feeling sort of icky and looking washed out. I took it as a good sign that my body was getting rid of toxins, but it’s hard to deal with feeling sick to start feeling better, ya know? So, when I backed off to five minutes of oil pulling, I didn’t feel sick. I then slowly increased oil pulling time until I reached the full twenty minutes without detox side effects.
I also noticed that after the detox effects wore off, I felt better than I did before oil pulling.
Ready to try oil pulling for yourself? This is the coconut oil I recommend.
Does oil pulling work for you?
Let us know in the comments!
After getting caught up in the go, go, go, and buy, buy, buy, of modern living, I found myself unhappy and exhausted. I soon embraced a slower life and now write about simple living at PurposefullySimple.com.