I heard about oil pulling a few months ago on a Facebook group that I belong to. I didn’t pay much attention to it nor did I manage to research it. Fast forward a few months later and oil pulling is everywhere. Google oil pulling and you will find health claims from hangover cure to TMJ pain relief. As usual, there are as many people touting the amazing health benefits of oil pulling as those claiming that there is no scientific research to back it up.
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing oil in the mouth for oral and systemic benefits. Oil pulling has been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years for everything from tooth decay to strengthening of teeth, gums and jaw. Any vegetable oil such as sunflower or sesame oil can be used. In Ayurveda, sesame oil is considered the queen of oil seed crops due to its benefical qualities. The systemic benefits of oil pulling can be explained by the fact that Ayurvedic medicine believes that each section of the tongue is connected to vital organs such as lungs, kidney, spleen, stomach, small intestine, liver and heart which is a very similar belief system in reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Show me the research
In the West, our ideology is firmly rooted in research/evidence based medicine. Not that there is anything wrong in using research to direct care or treatment. However, it has been my observation that ancient ways of healing are simply chalked up as a hoax and irrelevant. A study by Asokan S et al (2009) showed that oil pulling significantly reduced the plaque index, modified gingival scores and total colony count of microorganisms in the plaque of adolescents with plaque induced gingivitis.
Oral health has been linked to various conditions such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and birth, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s just to name a few. I am not advocating ditching your regular oral hygiene regimen (toothbrush, dental floss, regular visits to the dentist) in favour of oil pulling. However, if swishing some oil in your mouth can enhance overall general health while fighting breath then why not give it a try?
What to do?
I have decided to use coconut oil for my oil pulling experiment. I chose this oil because of it’s antibacterial properties and I find it palatable.
1. I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil melted and working up to 1 tablespoon per session
2. As soon as you wake up in the morning, put 1 teaspoon of melted coconut oil in your mouth. Do not brush or floss before doing this.
3. Swish the liquid around for about 15-20 mins. Do not swallow. The liquid will get thick and fill up your mouth as time progresses. Try to be relaxed while doing this. Do not hold the oil for longer than 20 mins.
4. After 20 mins, run the hot tap water and spit out the liquid in your mouth. You don’t want coconut oil solidifying in your pipes.
5. Rinse your mouth out with warm salt water, brush/floss as usual.
6. I highly recommend using a natural toothpaste that has been EWG approved and abstain from using mouthwash.
I challenge you to oil pull for 2 weeks and see if it impacts your health.