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Oil Pulling has been getting lots of press lately for its teeth-whitening and cosmetic benefits. Today, I would like to share with you the science behind this very popular topic.
Oil Pulling got its name from the “pulling”, or cleansing, effect oils have when applied to the skin. Oils are lipophilic, meaning they attract other oils and fat soluble toxins, “pulling” them out from any surface an oil is introduced to.
This can be observed when oil is applied onto the skin or massaged on the body, introduced into the digestive tract via edible oils, or – in the case of our topic for the day – the swishing of oil in the mouth.
This amazing property to chelate, or pull, toxins out of the body has been employed for centuries during classical Ayurvedic detox therapies like Panchakarma. (1, 2)
Some of the Perks!
In a randomized triple-blind study measuring the effects of oil pulling on oral health, 20 boys were divided into two groups. One group gargled daily for 10 minutes with a 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 a healthy immune response against foreign microbes and supported healthy gum and plaque levels in both groups. (3, 4)
In another study, the swishing of oil in the mouth was shown to have a saponification (detergent or cleansing) effect on the oral mucosa, supporting cleansing benefits for healthy oral hygiene. (5)
Numerous studies citing similar results very much support the original Ayurvedic statements made more than 3000 years ago, (6) which suggests that the effects of oil pulling on plaque and its role as a natural cleansing agent for the teeth and gums are all very real.
How Do You Do It?
Uncooked sesame oil, coconut oil and the spice turmeric are traditionally combined for the most reliable benefits. Take about 1 tablespoon of this oil mixture and swish or gargle in the mouth for about 10 minutes a day. It is perhaps best to do this in the shower while you are washing your hair or singing the blues! Oops – singing and swishing don’t mix well – you’ll find out why. Give it a try!
1. Sharma HM, Midich SI, Sands D, Smith DE: J Res Educ Indian Med, 1993; 12(4); 2-13.
2. Heron, Fagan. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in its September/October 2002 issue, two
3. Asokan S, Emmadi P, Chamundeswari R. Indian J Dent Res. 2009; 20:47–51. [PubMed: 19336860]
4. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. PMID: 18408265
5. Indian J Dent Res. 2011 Jan-Feb;22 (1):34-7. doi: 10.4103/0970-9290.79971. PMID: 21525674
6. Charaka samhita Ch V -78 to 80.