If you’ve heard of oil pulling recently, you may have dismissed it as the latest in weird natural health ideas. Misconceptions abound, such as the idea that you need to oil pull for at least 20 minutes at a time to see any benefit, or that this treatment was recently discovered. In fact, not only has oil pulling been around for centuries, it is surprisingly easy to do and several studies have backed up its many benefits for oral health.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is the process of rinsing the mouth with oil in order to improve oral health. It is part of Ayurvedic medicine, a form of natural healing that is practiced in India.
Oil pulling is based on instructions written down in two ancient Ayurvedic texts, one from 800 B.C. and one from 700 B.C. In the texts, pulling uses natural liquids to clean and detoxify the mouth and body. Pulling with different liquids, including milk, honey, and hot water, is intended to address a variety of health concerns, from bad breath and mouth ulcers to headaches and diabetes.
Oil pulling specifically has recently been adopted by proponents of natural health, and many doctors who specialize in Ayurvedic medicine also recommend it to patients with oral hygiene problems as a supplement to traditional dental care. The most common form uses organic coconut or sesame oil. There are two courses of oil pulling that can be followed:
Kavala and gandusha.
Kavala oil pulling involves holding a mouthful of oil for two to three minutes before swirling the oil around for one minute and spitting it out. This is repeated three to four times.
The gandusha oil pulling technique involves holding the liquid oil still in the mouth for four or five minutes. The oil is then immediately spat out and the process is repeated a second time.
Health Benefits of Oil Pulling
The idea behind oil pulling is that the oil is able to cut through plaque and buildup on the teeth, tongue, and gums, and “pull” them out of the mouth. It also gathers up bacteria, fungus, yeast, and other harmful organisms that can grow in the mouth, and these are expelled when the oil is spat out.
Coconut oil is especially recommended because of the lauric acid in it, which works as an antimicrobial agent to fight off bacteria and viruses. For those with digestive problems or severe acne, pulling coconut oil may also help by removing bacteria and yeast before they can enter the gastrointestinal system or bloodstream. Proponents also claim that it can improve a variety of more serious health conditions, including:
- irregular blood sugar
- chronic fatigue
Research has proved some of these claims are true. In 2009, a small study showed that pulling with sesame oil improved the oral health of adolescent boys with gingivitis, while in 2013 a larger study concluded that oil pulling helped to reduce both plaque and gingivitis. No studies have been done, however, on the effect oil pulling may be on other health conditions.
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