Oil-Pulling: Real or Just a Trendy Fiction?

A Huffington Post article begins:

Is the ancient Indian practice of oil pulling a cure-all or snake oil?

A scientifically minded website devoted to debunking internet nonsense says:

"Oil pulling is a traditional Ayurveda method of oral care. It involves swishing sesame oil or a similar oil, perhaps mixed with other substances, in the mouth for 10-20 minutes as a means of preventing caries (cavities), reducing bacteria, and promoting healthy gums. In our internet-fueled age of misinformation, oil pulling has seen a surge in popularity as it makes the rounds on Facebook and other popular social media sites."

The National Center for Biotechnology quotes a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study from 2009 (Indian J Dent) that studied oil pulling and determined:

There was a statistically significant reduction of the pre- and post-values of the plaque and modified gingival index scores in both the study and control groups (p < 0.001 in both). The oil pulling therapy showed a reduction in the plaque index, modified gingival scores, and total colony count of aerobic microorganisms in the plaque of adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis.

Meanwhile, a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook says, when I asked her:

oil pulling! one of my faves! doing it right now ;P and have for over two years on a regular basis! if you don't yet know about this wonderful method of detox for your organs AND amazing, all natural powerful healing tool for your teeth, here ya go! enjoy!

Exclamation points notwithstanding, I do believe that she really has oil-pulled for over two years and that she's really (!!) excited about it, and that she may even be doing it whilst Facebooking.

But...WTF, as the kids say?

What IS oil-pulling?

Again, let's turn to NCBI for a description :

Oil pulling, in CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine), is a procedure that involves swishing oil in the mouth for oral and systemic health benefits. It is mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita where it is called Kavala or Gandusha, and is claimed to cure about 30 systemic diseases ranging from headache, migraine to diabetes and asthma. Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy for many years to prevent decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, dryness of throat, cracked lips and for strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw.

Oil pulling therapy can be done using oils like sunflower oil or sesame oil. The sesame plant (Sesamum indicum) of the Pedaliaceae family has been considered a gift of nature to mankind for its nutritional qualities and desirable health effects. Sesame oil is considered to be the queen of oil seed crops because of its beneficiary effects.

OK, we know what it is. Now I want to know if it really works.

How To Oil-Pull

To do this, I need some volunteers from the audience. Please try this yourself -- at home, not at work. Place a tablespoon of cold pressed organic vegetable oil (sesame oil most sources say) in your mouth and swirl it around for about 10-15 minutes, then spit it out.

Practitioners of oil pulling say this has a few different effects.

1) The oils mix with the saliva, turning it into a thin, white liquid. Lipids in the oils begin to pull out toxins from the saliva.

2) As the oil is swished around the mouth, teeth, gums and tongue, the oil continues to absorb toxins, and usually ends up turning thick and viscous and white.

3) Once the oil has reached this consistency, oil and toxins are all spit out..

None of this is meant as an endorsement of the practice -- I'm simply reporting what I've read about oil-pulling and would like to know more. Liike...

What The Heck Does Oil-Pulling Do?

Says FoodMatters, a site that's almost as breathlessly pro-oil-pulling as my Facebook pal:

Oil pulling may also increase saponification in the mouth, creating a soapy environment that cleanses the mouth as vegetable fat is an emulsifier by nature. Most interesting is perhaps the ability of oil to cleanse out harmful bacteria, as well as reduce fungal overgrowth. These oils also possibly help in cellular restructuring, and are related to the proper functioning of the lymph nodes and other internal organs.

Other possible benefits of oil pulling for oral health include:

• Overall strengthening of the teeth and gums and jaws
• Prevention of diseases of the gums and mouth, such as cavities and gingivitis
• Prevention for bad breath
• Potential holistic remedy for bleeding gums
• Prevention of dryness of the lips, mouth and throat
• Possible holistic treatment for TMJ and general soreness in the jaw area

Is oil-pulling something you know about? Want to talk about oil-pulling? Want to hear other people talk about oil-pulling? Leave a comment on our Facebook page and tell us what you think -- pro, con, non, or, especially, from your own experiences. We'd love to hear what you know about this.