There's barely a week goes by these days without some celebrity talking about how they use coconut oil for 'Oil Pulling' on social media. But isn't it just another silly fad - or is there more to it? I decided to try it out myself.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil Pulling is an ancient ayurvedic remedy that involves swishing oil in the mouth for oral health and systemic benefits. It is thought to date back thousands of years where it was referred to as 'Kavala Graha' or 'Kavala gandusha'.
For such a relatively simple act of swishing oil about in your mouth, there's a myriad of amazing benefits been linked to the practice. They include:
- Headache relief
- Reduction of eczema
- Supports kidney function
- Easing congestion
- Promoting regular sleep patterns
- General detoxification of the body
- Reduced joint swelling
- Reduction of asthma symptoms
- Improved digestion
- Clear skin
- Slowing the signs of aging
As for Oral Health, the benefits reported are again pretty amazing:
- Strengthens the jaw
- Reduction in risk of cavities
- Reduction of bleeding gums
- Reduction of bad breath
- Prevents dry lips, mouth and throat
- Whitens teeth
Studies so far have focused almost entirely on the oral health benefits of Oil Pulling and provide some pretty convincing conclusions. Reduction of oral bacteria appears to be evident with one study reporting a 20% decrease in oral bacteria in just 40 days.
What do Dentists say?
Through searching the internet, the general concensus from dentists appears to be that there may be some mild benefits but these should not take the place of standard oral care advice.
The American Dental Association actually does not recommend the practice and states on their website:
"Based on the lack of currently available evidence, oil pulling is not recommended as a supplementary oral hygiene practice, and certainly not as a replacement for standard, time-tested oral health behaviors and modalities."
On the whole however, most said that whilst the benefits are likely to never reach the dizzy heights of the claims, its unlikely to cause any harm. (See Further Reading links for some great balanced articles from dentists)
How Do I Do It?
It's really easy to do. Gently swish a tablespoon of food grade oil (usually coconut, olive or sesame oil) around your mouth for 10 -20 minutes first thing in a morning after waking. Once finished, spit into the trash and don't swallow. Afterwards, brush your teeth as normal.
I used a good quality coconut oil for my oil pulling and it was really easy to do. I found the suggestion of a tablespoon to be far too much (in fact it made me want to gag), a loaded teaspoon was just about the right amount for me. It should be a comfortable experience not something of dread. This practice does mean that you cannot speak to anyone for up to 20 minutes in a morning - this wasn't an issue for me but I can imagine this could be challenging if I had a young family to look after. I didn't experience any aches in my jaw but I did swish gently, twenty minutes was fine from the start for me but you can start with 5 minutes and work up to a longer time.
I completed the oil pulling every morning for a month and did see some benefits. My lips have been chapped and dry for as long as I can ever remember - no matter what product I used, and through this practice were left soft and in great shape. You can feel the oil seep a little onto your lips whilst swishing. My gums also seem to bleed less when brushing, and my teeth do feel cleaner. I would say they appear whiter too without the use of any conventional or chemical whitening products. (Sorry, didn't think to take before & after photos)
My conclusion: Oil pulling is a really easy practice and did appear to provide me some oral benefits. I'm likely to continue to do it a few times a week but probably not every day. I doubt I will buy the flavoured oil pulling sachets advertised online as they seem expensive in comparison to the coconut oil already in my cupboard, even though they may be more convienient for some. I do however plan to make some oil chews with essential oils - look out for a future post.
Although holistic medicine claims many systemic benefits, I can't say experienced any that I can pinpoint directly to the oil pulling. I look forward to any clinical research that may take place in the future, but for now I remain quite sceptical on those.
Have you tried Oil Pulling? Did you experience any benefits?
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