The Truth about Oil Pulling.

Via on Jul 30, 2013

Perhaps you have heard of it: the Ayurvedic technique of swishing oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes daily that claims to deliver a litany of health benefits.

The web is chock-full of stories claiming amazing results from this seemingly innocuous procedure. It seems implausible that swishing oil in the mouth could benefit one’s joint, heart and immune health.

In this article, join me as I dive into the research—separating the wheat from the chaff, the truth from the non-truths—about this very ancient Ayurvedic technique.

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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. One tablespoon of this oil is swished in the mouth and sucked or “pulled” through the teeth for 10-20 minutes.

truth about oil pulling sesame seeds and oil imageAn International Buzz

In 1996, an Indian newspaper called Andhra Jyoti conducted a survey to find out user experiences regarding the effectiveness of oil pulling. Out of a total of 1041 respondents, 927 (89%) reported amazing health benefits. Only 114 (11%) reported no benefit.

The survey included the following:

• Pains in the body – 758 cases
• Respiratory system -191 cases
• Skin -171 cases
• Digestive system-155 cases
• Elimination – 137 cases
• Joints – 91 cases
• Heart and Circulation – 74 cases
• Blood Sugar – 56 cases
• Hormones – 21 cases
• Miscellaneous -72

Since the newspaper buzz in 1996, oil pulling has been gaining more and more attention. The claims of health benefits linked to this very simple therapy have been extraordinary. However, many such claims are just anecdotal, without any research to substantiate them. Unfortunately, this newspaper survey, while it might have spawned international interest, carries no real proof for these claims.

But before you throw your “swishing oil” in the trash, there are real benefits to be had. Let’s take a look at the facts.

The Truth and the Research

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).

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 a truth about oil pulling zebra showing teeth imagetraditional 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. The benefits of oil pulling on plaque as a natural cleansing agent for the teeth and gums are all very real.

But can the benefits of oil pulling go beyond the mouth?

How Does Oil Pulling Work?

Sesame oil, coconut oil and turmeric all have benefits. Sesame and coconut oils herbalized with turmeric are used in Ayurveda regularly to detoxify or “pull” toxins from the skin that they are applied to. 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:

o heavy metals
o parasites
o pesticides
o preservatives
o additives
o hormones
o environmental toxins

When applied to the skin, these oils may attract toxic fat molecules to the surface, cleansing them through the body’s largest detox organ: the skin.

truth about oil pulling turmeric powder imageBacked by Science

This use of oil as a detox accelerator or “pulling” agent has been recently studied. In one study, the external use of sesame oil in massage and the ingestion of ghee were found to reduce lipid peroxides or free radicals in the blood (5). The researchers concluded that the lipophilic effect of the oils helps pull free radicals and toxins out of the blood.

Another study observed how heavy metals and environmental toxins were “pulled” out of the blood during sesame oil massage and the ingestion of ghee during an Ayurvedic detox called panchakarma (6). Again, the lipophilic or pulling effect of the oils is believed to be the mechanism behind this detox effect.

To Pull or Not to Pull?

While more studies need to be done on the oil pulling technique, it is clear that the mechanism of oil acting as a pulling agent for toxins is known. As a result, it is very plausible that exposing the skin—and particularly the oral mucosa—to oils and herbs like sesame, coconut and turmeric may have a beneficial and detoxifying pulling effect.

References
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

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Ed: Sara Crolick

About Dr. John Douillard, DC

Dr. John Douillard, DC has been practicing and teaching Ayurveda since 1988. He is the founder, owner and practitioner at John Douillard's LifeSpa. He regularly lectures worldwide and is a faculty member at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. To sign up to receive his free, weekly video-newsletters right in your inbox, along with exclusive discounts on Lifespa's organic herbal supplements and skin care products, visit lifespa.com. John's book, The 3-Season Diet, discusses the very simple and profound Ayurvedic principle of eating more foods in their appropriate season. Ready to plan for a spring cleanse? Check out Dr. Douillard's Colorado Cleanse, a two week at-home detox plan designed to reset digestion, restore balance, and body/mind well being.

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18 Responses to “The Truth about Oil Pulling.”

  1. Elena says:

    I tried the oil-pulling, it definitely has some health benefits I could use. But I couldn't do it! Swishing something slimy around in my mouth for 10 – 20 minutes?!?! I just wanted to gag. I wish I could get past that, but I can't seem to.

  2. Athena says:

    Start with a few minutes and work your way up. Totally worth whiter teeth, healthier gums, cleaner mouth (after brushing) & fresher breath. First thing in morning before anything ingested is optimal.

  3. Jeffron says:

    Question: Can you oil pull if you have amalgams?

  4. Anisha says:

    I've tried it for a month, couldn't continue as I couldn't find cold pressed sunflower oil . Now that I know sesame oil works I can start again. In that be month I felt it helped with mucus n respiratory problems I was facing. It definetly helps… It takes a while to get used to the weird feeling b the benefits makes me just put up with it…

  5. Platofish says:

    If the oil can exert a 'pulling effect' and extract molecules from the mucosa, it can also 'push' molecules in the oil into the mucosa with equal efficiency. This can, of course, either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the molecular species and your particular body chemistry. Its a bit like opening a window to let cooking smells out. The same open window will let insects and dust in! So, yes oil pulling may remove some toxins from the mouth, but it may also act as a portal for toxins in the oil. Nothing in life comes without some cost.

  6. @dhanoch says:

    I love oil pulling with cold pressed organic coconut oil. I prefer the taste and it works just as good.

  7. Bryan says:

    Hey folks, this is a specific Ayurvedic Procedure that should be done under the care of a REAL Ayurvedic Physician. Mr. John has left some critical information about oil pulling out of this article, like most other people who are throwing this stuff around without actual Ayurvedic knowledge. For some authentic information check out the link below.
    http://trueayurveda.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/oil-

    • Gay W Shaw says:

      I hope the articles in EJ

      don’t become a venue for a

      sales pitch.

      • elephantjournal says:

        Hi, there. We hope so too—which is why we published this particular article, which discusses the benefits (from a health perspective) and research about oil pulling. A sales pitch might have involved the author promoting his specific brand of oil that works miracles. I think you'd have to agree that he does not. Cheers, Sara

        • Melfa says:

          As I understand, you should spit out the oil after pulling and never allow the oil to touch your throat as the toxins now in the oil could get into your sensitive throat lining.

      • Bryan says:

        If you are referencing the link to the blog post, it is not my blog – though I do enjoy that specific blogger who actually has some deeper knowledge of Ayurveda. No sales pitch involved as there is nothing for sale past honest information for free.
        If you are indeed referencing John Douillard as a sales pitch, that is what most of his articles are in my opinion. You can't really properly apply half the knowledge he gives in his articles even though it appears he's helping or he may have good intentions. If you see his website its a product bonanaza….He even sells hard to find things like shilajit that are being lost to mankind because of people making money off of it and the popularity of Ayurveda. You can make your own call.

  8. Michael says:

    I get great results if I oil pull twice in a row (2 x 20 minute sessions, first thing in the morning). I always use organic, unrefined sesame oil.

  9. Sam says:

    Does anyone know if oil pulling will make medication ineffective? I take prescription thyroid medicine first thing in the morning and am not supposed to eat for 30 minutes after taking it. I'm wondering if oil pulling after taking this medicine would negate the med's effect.

  10. Gokce says:

    Hi everyone, I wonder why my oil is not getting darker at all after 20 minutes of oil pulling with organic coconut oil, it also gets more fluid than before. I read everywhere; it is expected that it will get darker and creamy. Well, as a background I generally eat organic food, never drank black tea or coffee, no chips or snacks like that.. so i can say that in general i eat / drink clean. but i live in a city, of course there are toxins in my body. I wonder if i miss something or if i do something wrong? thanks for your support in advance..

  11. Bill Miley says:

    Hi all.

    To your knowledge, is Kadoya Pure Sesame Oil suitable for oil pulling?

    Thanks!

  12. Cassie says:

    The scientific facts quoted in this article are not accurate.

    The study mentioned above that compared oil pulling to chlorhexidine mouthwash showed that BOTH methods were equally effective in reducing oral bacteria.

    This means that one can just as well use mouthwash, as oil pull – though it seems that oil pulling is fairly harmless, provided you rinse your mouth out after and don't swallow any oil (which would likely lead to diarrhea).

  13. Jenn says:

    If I use a coconut oil and turmeric mixture on my skin, does it need to be left on my skin for prolonged period of time, or does it need to be rinsed off? I’ve been using coconut oil for a long time, but I’ve never put turmeric on my skin so I’m curious as to whether or not I should be worried about any possible reactions. Thanks!

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