The seemingly bizarre practice of swishing oil in your mouth on a regular basis dates back over 3,000 years. Used primarily in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, this process is known as oil pulling.
And oil pulling is rapidly gaining in popularity in the Western world – with everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Dr. Mercola giving it a go.
While it doesn’t sound like the most appealing technique in the world, rinsing with a mouthful of oil for up to 20 minutes daily is said to be a fantastic detoxification method.
In fact, according to Ayurveda, oil pulling purifies the entire system as each section of the tongue is connected to a different organ such as the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine – similar to the concepts underpinning Traditional Chinese Medicine and reflexology.
The unpleasant taste and texture, and the inevitable painful jaw for beginners, are easily overlooked once you discover all the incredible health benefits oil pulling can bring.
10 Benefits Of Oil Pulling With Coconut Oil
1. Improve Immunity
Oil pulling has traditionally been touted as a majorly effective detoxifying technique and immune booster.
By swishing oil in your mouth for several minutes, you’re cleansing between the teeth, underneath the gums, along the tongue and on the surface of the teeth – pulling bacteria away. When you spit out the oil, you’re removing these microbes from your body.
If these little invaders are removed from the mouth, they can’t make their way down to the gut – where 80% of our immune system is located.
Oil pulling is such an effective immune booster that it made David Wolfe’s list of top 10 tips for next level health!
2. Boost Energy Levels
When we’re feeling sluggish it can sometimes be down to an overworked immune system. By boosting immunity, the body can direct its energy elsewhere.
Regular oil pullers say you should have some added pep in your step in just two weeks!
3. Get Smooth & Glowing Skin
How can oil pulling heal skin?
It’s a good question – there doesn’t appear to be much of a link between the two.
But skin conditions like acne, rosacea, dermatitis and psoriasis can be linked to the health of your gut. This link, known as the gut-skin axis, is something that scientists have been aware of for over 100 years!
When the gut flora is back in balance, then the skin can begin to heal and regain its beautiful glow.
4. Cure Bad Breath
One of the most science-backed health benefits of oil pulling is its ability to improve oral hygiene, including bad breath, or halitosis – which is often caused by bacteria.
A 2011 study evaluated the effect of oil pulling with sesame oil on bad breath, and compared it to conventional mouthwash.
After two weeks of oil pulling, researchers found a definite reduction in the signs of halitosis – as evaluated through tongue scrapings and assessment of breath odor.
They concluded that oil pulling therapy is every bit as effective as chlorhexidine (an antibacterial used in mouthwash) on halitosis and bacteria associated with halitosis.
A second study, carried out three years later, backs up these findings.
After three weeks, the participants in the research enjoyed a significant reduction in plaque, gingivitis, perceptions of bad breath and oral bacteria levels among both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups, but not the control group, supporting the theory that oil pulling reduces bad breath as much as mouthwash does.
5. Reduce Tooth Decay
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research claims that dental caries (tooth decay) is the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults, even though it is largely preventable.
Oil pulling is one way to prevent this health issue, according to research published by the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine.
A study that reviewed holistic approaches to oral health discovered that oil pulling is one of the most effective natural solutions for preventing tooth decay and loss.
6. Prevent Gingivitis
Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, redness and inflammation of the gums.
When researchers looked at the effects of sesame oil pulling, they found that this folk remedy was just as effective as conventional mouthwash at reducing the plaque that leads to gingivitis.
After 10 days of oil pulling, participants in the study experienced a reduction in levels of both plaque and gingivitis, as well as lower levels of microorganisms in the mouth.
It’s not just sesame oil that provides a cure.
2015 research looked specifically of the role played by coconut oil on gingivitis over a 30-day period.
After just seven days of using the coconut oil, researchers found that both plaque and gingivitis symptoms decreased significantly, and they continued to decrease for the remainder of the month.
7. Say Goodbye to Sensitivity
If you cringe when you bite into an ice-cream or get a searing shot of pain if your coffee is too hot, then it sounds like you have sensitive teeth.
Hard core oil pulling fans claim that a reduction in sensitivity is a welcome side effect of swishing every morning.
While there isn’t any research on this one, it makes sense as tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of factors, including tooth decay near the gum line, gingivitis, plaque buildup and inflammation caused by bacteria – all problems that oil pulling has been shown to eliminate.
Sensitive teeth can also be linked with mouthwash use – something which you can ditch once you begin oil pulling.
8. Whiten Teeth
Because poor dental hygiene and inadequate brushing and flossing to remove plaque can cause tooth discoloration, oil pulling may whiten up your choppers again.
It’s one of the reported long-term side effects of this healthy habit – although hard evidence is lacking.
Make sure to have a look at these other natural and effective teeth whitening remedies too.
9. A Safer Alternative to Mouthwash
Once you start oil pulling, you can say goodbye to store-bought mouthwashes.
While these products can help prevent cavities, gum disease and canker sores, a possible link exists between alcohol-containing mouthwashes and oral cancer.
A study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, reviewed the cases of 924 head and neck cancer patients in Europe and 1,824 cases in Latin America.
The authors found that using mouthwash with up to 30% alcohol twice a day was a significant risk factor for head and neck cancer.
Other studies, dating back to the 1970s, have had similar results. Yet others show no link.
The American Dental Association Council on Dental Therapeutics states that, based on existing data, alcohol-containing mouthwash is safe.
But, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that, although there is no strong link between alcohol-containing mouthwash and oral cancer, excessive use should be discouraged.
Plus, we are exposed to so many toxic ingredients every day through our skincare and personal care products that cutting out at least one source can only be a good thing!
10. Help Your Heart
Strangely enough, good oral hygiene has been linked with a healthier heart!
A growing body of research shows that bacteria and inflammation in the mouth are linked to problems like heart attack and dementia.
Scientists believe that inflammation caused by gum disease may be responsible for the link between the two conditions. Poor oral hygiene can also exacerbate existing heart conditions.
What’s more, a 2014 report the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that treating gum disease can lead to better health, lower healthcare costs and fewer hospitalizations among people with common health conditions.
Researchers looked at the health and dental insurance records of nearly 339,000 people, all of whom had gum disease and one of five conditions (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or pregnancy).
With the exception of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, those who had at least one gum disease treatment had lower medical costs and fewer hospitalizations within four years of the treatment, compared with people who weren’t treated at all.
Why Use Coconut Oil?
You may have noticed from the studies above that sesame oil was the oil of choice and the one that is traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine.
While sesame may work in the same way as coconut oil (by mechanically pulling microbes from the mouth) coconut oil has a number of advantages over sesame:
- Coconut is lower in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids than sesame oil.
- Coconut oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties meaning it can kill the microbes in your mouth.
- Coconut oil has been shown to destroy Candida, the yeast which causes oral thrush.
- Coconut oil has a much better flavor than sesame, especially first thing in the morning!
To learn more about the amazing properties of coconut oil, check out this article.
A Beginners Guide to Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is incredibly simple – it just requires some of your time. Here’s how you do it:
- Take a spoonful of coconut oil (such as this Nature’s Way Extra Virgin Coconut Oil) and allow it to liquefy in your mouth.
- Begin swishing it around – pushing, pulling and drawing it through your teeth and around your tongue.
- The goal is to do this for twenty minutes most mornings a week – preferably before breakfast. But start with just five minutes – it can cause a bit of jaw pain until you’ve exercised the muscles adequately! There’s no need for vigorous swishing either – a gentle pace is all that’s needed.
- When you’re done, spit the oil in the bin (not the sink as it can clog). It should be a thin consistency and milky white. Whatever you do, don’t swallow the oil – it’s full of nasty bacteria and food particles.
- Make sure to rinse your mouth with water or a mix of water and baking soda, or water and Himalayan pink salt.
- Finally, brush your teeth as normal.
Your teeth should feel smooth and shiny, like they’ve just had a deep clean.
To take it up a notch, and for added microbial properties, you could add essential oils to the coconut oil. Peppermint, orange, lemon, grapefruit, oregano and rosemary are all good choices.
For added convenience in the morning time, why not make these Coconut Oil Pulling Chews with added activated charcoal – a brilliant teeth whitening ingredient? Store them in the fridge, and pop the bite-size pieces in your mouth when you wake.
Once you’ve tried oil pulling for a few weeks, and experienced some of its great benefits, you’re sure to be hooked on the habit!