What is Oil Pulling?: The practice of oil pulling is typically done by using sesame or coconut oil as a mouth wash or gargle. These oils are classically herbalized with turmeric and/or other herbs to enhance the effects.
How to do it?: Put approximately 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish around your entire mouth, pulling through your teeth and around your tongue for 15-20 minutes. The frequency is up to you, although people report experiencing the most notable benefits when performed daily. Some do it up to three times a day while others go for once a week (this is largely determined by the problem(s) being addressed). It is best when done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
After the pulling is complete, be sure not to swallow the oil as it is full of bacteria. Spit it out in the sink and be sure to rinse your mouth out well with water and follow up by brushing your teeth.
How Does Oil Pulling Work?: Sesame oil, coconut oil and turmeric all have benefits. Sesame and coconut oils herbalized with turmeric are used in Ayurvedic medicine regularly to detoxify or ‘pull’ toxins from the skin. The theory is the oils are lipophilic, meaning they attract other oils. The fatty layers in our skin are well-known dumping grounds for fat-soluble toxins (6). Some of the fat-soluble toxins that we are regularly exposed to are: heavy metals, parasites, pesticides, preservatives, additives, hormones, environmental toxins. When applied to the skin, these oils also attract toxic fat molecules to the surface, cleansing them through the body’s largest detoxification organ, the skin.
Ancient Science: Oil pulling is clearly mentioned in the classic and most esteemed textbook of Ayurveda, the Caraka Samhita. Caraka says this about oil pulling: ‘Keeping of oil gargle provides strength in jaws and voice, development of the face, maximum taste and relish of food. One does not suffer from dryness of throat, lip cracking and teeth become firmly rooted. The teeth do not ache or become sensitive and can chew the hardest food items’ (1). There are many other references to its ability to detoxify.
Modern Science: In a randomized triple-blind study measuring the effect of oil pulling on oral health, 20 boys were divided into two groups. One group gargled daily for 10 minutes with traditional mouthwash (chlorhexidine, considered the most effective anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis agent). The other group gargled daily for 10 minutes with sesame oil. The results showed support for a healthy immune response against foreign microbes, and healthy gums and plaque levels in both groups (2, 3). In another study, the swishing of the oil in the mouth and pulling the oil between the teeth were shown to have a saponification (detergent or cleansing) effect on the oral mucosa (4). Numerous studies citing similar results very much support the original statements made by Caraka Samhita more than 3000 years ago.
1. Charaka samhita Ch V -78 to 80.
2. Asokan S, Emmadi P, Chamundeswari R. Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian J Dent Res. 2009; 20:47– 51. [PubMed: 19336860]
3. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. PMID: 18408265
4. Indian J Dent Res. 2011 Jan-Feb;22(1):34-7. doi: 10.4103/0970-9290.79971. PMID:21525674
5. Sharma HM, Midich SI, Sands D, Smith DE: Improvement in cardiovascular risk factors through Panchakarma purification procedures. J Res Educ Indian Med, 1993; 12(4); 2-13.
6. Heron, Fagan. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in its September/October 2002 issue, two.
Our experience with a vast range of clients is that oil pulling is very beneficial for a range of conditions – and for many people does in fact work. It’s not a panacea but it certainly is an inexpensive intervention that’s well worth a try. To find out more you may wish to read:
‘Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing’ by Dr. Bruce Fife – This book contains over a 150 scientific studies in support of oil pulling in it’s many guises. Click here to find out more.