What is Oil Pulling?
The basic technique is simple. Upon waking, you take one tablespoon of sesame or sunflower oil in your mouth and swish it around. Then spit it out. The details, however, are a little more involved.
- You need to do it first thing in the morning, before you eat or drink anything.
- You need to swish for 20 minutes — give or take maybe three to five minutes. As it turns out, this is absolutely essential for the procedure to work. If you swish for much less than 20 minutes, it won’t work. If you swish for much longer than 20 minutes, you run the risk of reabsorbing the bacteria and toxins back into your body.
- Effectively, you want to swish until the oil turns from clear and thick to a thin, white, milky consistency.
- You want to swish the oil back and forth between all of your teeth and side to side across all of your gums. You want to hit the cheeks and soft palate. Like butter on an English muffin, you want to “press” the oil into all the nooks and crannies of your mouth — over and over again.
- Do not gargle with the oil. You do not want to risk swallowing it. Swallowing a little will not harm you, but repeatedly swallowing the oil after you’ve swished with it means you will be ingesting things that you’re trying to get rid of.
- Once done swishing, spit the oil out into the toilet or sink.
- Rinse, gargle, and spit out again
- Use a tongue scraper to remove the coating from your tongue.
- Finish by brushing your teeth and rinsing with a mouthwash if you like.
Perform daily for approximately 40-50 days (three 8-ounce bottles of oil will do the trick), then as desired.
Where does oil pulling come from?
As it was originally presented to me seven years ago, oil pulling was an ancient Ayurvedic technique for detoxing that had been “rediscovered.” It was effected by swishing vegetable oil around in your mouth to “pull” all manner of toxins out of your body and into the oil in your mouth, whereupon you then spat those toxins out. Or to quote from the Indian Journal of Dental Research, “It is claimed that the swishing activates enzymes and draws toxins out of the blood. The oil should not be swallowed as it contains bacteria and toxins.”1
Reported benefits of oil pulling
According to an article on the Earth Clinic website3, Oil Pulling is reported to cure: “Mouth & Gum Disease; Stiff Joints; Allergies; Asthma; High Blood Sugar; Constipation; Migraines; Bronchitis; Eczema; Heart, Kidney, Lung Diseases; Leukemia; Arthritis; Meningitis; Insomnia; Menopause (hormonal issues); Cancer; AIDS; Chronic Infections; Varicose Veins; High Blood Pressure; Diabetes; Polio; Cracked Heels.”
Or as Dr. Karach, one of the biggest proponents of oil pulling says, “The Oil-therapy heals totally headaches, bronchitis, tooth pain, thrombosis, eczema, ulcers, intestinal diseases, heart and kidney diseases, encephalitis and woman’s diseases. Preventively the growth of malignant tumors is cut and healed. Chronic blood diseases, paralysis, diseases of nerves, stomach, lungs and liver and sleeplessness are cured.”4
Now that’s an impressive list. And interestingly enough, there may be some truth to it — sort of. In fact, most of the benefits of oil pulling may actually be indirect results from the one benefit that it probably is truly responsible for: eliminating mouth and gum disease.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease
At any given time, there are more than 500 species of bacteria in your mouth — some beneficial, some harmful. It is these bacteria that form the sticky, colorless film on your teeth known as plaque, the “gateway” to many health problems. When mineral salts in saliva combine with plaque, hard deposits known as tartar or calculus, which can’t be removed by brushing alone, are formed on your teeth. Plaque can build up at your gum line, where even more bacteria can accumulate in the space between your gums and teeth. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate your gums and cause them to become inflamed and bleed (a condition called gingivitis). This causes your gums to separate from your teeth, forming spaces between your teeth and gums (pockets) that become infected.
The toxins produced by the bacteria and the infection in these pockets can also stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which your body turns on itself and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen, the inflammation and infection increase, and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. This is called periodontitis.
In periodontitis, the connection between the teeth, gums, and jawbone is broken down — in fact, your jawbone and the ligaments that hold your teeth to your jawbone are literally eaten away. If you think this is something you don’t need to worry about, think again! Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms (at first), so that many people are unaware that they suffer from it. About 75 percent of Americans have gum disease and don’t know it! The bottom line is that periodontitis results in loosening of the gums from the teeth, and eventually loosening of the teeth from the jawbone — not to mention bad breath and an increasing risk of life-threatening chronic illnesses, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Respiratory illness
- Heart Disease
How can bacteria in the mouth impact so many other diseases in the body? First, once the bacteria have a sheltered breeding ground in the pockets that appear around your teeth, they can proliferate exponentially. They can then easily migrate throughout the rest of your body. In fact, simple testing of most people’s saliva will show the presence of these bacteria. Considering how many times a day you swallow saliva, it’s not hard to imagine where those bacteria can then travel. Any bacterial infection in the mouth can easily spread throughout the entire body. Each time you swallow, more and more bacteria get to enter your digestive tract and potentially enter your bloodstream, as do their exotoxins and endotoxins, which are released in your mouth. And if you manage to avoid swallowing hundreds of times a day by instead spitting repeatedly in a spittoon, you’re still absorbing the toxins sublingually 24/7. All of this leads to a never-ending, low-grade infection throughout your body, not to mention never-ending, low-grade systemic inflammation. If nothing else, this taxes your immune system, leaving it less able to deal with other infectious threats as they come along.
Once you understand this, it is easy to see that if you kill the bacteria in the dental pockets and stop the flow of poison into your body, miraculous improvements in health are a distinct possibility. This would have nothing to do with detoxing. It would simply be the result of killing the harmful bacteria that are protected from your normal everyday dental hygiene.
The key here is that most of things that you normally do as part of daily oral hygiene cannot reach the bacteria buried in pockets. Brushing and flossing won’t do it. Rinsing with a mouth wash, even one with antibacterial agents won’t do it. And applying healing gels to the gum line won’t do it. Only a water flossing device that applies a stream of water under pressure, if used properly, has a chance to flush out the buried bacteria. In other words, only a water-flossing device has any chance of eliminating the bacteria once they establish in the pockets. But here’s where oil pulling comes in. It seems that oil pulling, too, may do the job — and perhaps even better than water irrigation.
Given what we now know about oil pulling, it might be better to refer to it by its less common name, oil swishing, since there probably is no “pulling” of toxins from the body involved. On the other hand, it requires only a little bit of a stretch to say that it does “pull” bacteria out of your mouth and gum pockets. And you could also say that by absorbing the exotoxins and endotoxins present in your mouth, it is “pulling” pulling them too from your body. In any case, given its low cost and potential benefits, it probably makes sense to add it to your arsenal of health maintenance protocols.
But even more important, if we truly understand what it’s doing and how it’s doing it, we can probably tweak the technique a bit to make it that much more effective. Consider the following options:
- Add a teaspoon of tea tree oil (60 drops) per 8 ounce bottle of oil you use. That works out to 3.75 drops of tea tree oil per tablespoon of oil. In fact, studies have demonstrated tea tree oil’s effectiveness against a number of oral bacteria.6 That’s the reason tea tree oil is added to everything from toothpaste to mouthwash to “treated” toothpicks.
- Add a quarter teaspoon of limonene oil7 to each 8 ounce bottle of sesame or sunflower seed oil you use. Because of its dense electromagnetic field, limonene oil, which is extracted from citrus fruit, is one of nature’s most potent natural solvents. It is also strongly antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. And finally, it works as a transporter to carry things through the skin. That means it will carry itself and the swishing oil through the gum tissue itself and directly into the gum pockets — no seeping required. (Note: if you’re allergic to citrus, limonene is not an option.)
- Although people have used just about every kind of oil for oil pulling, my recommendation is use what is known to work: sesame and sunflower oils. These two oils easily have the most anecdotal evidence behind them. And although people have used all different grades of oil, I would recommend using organic, unrefined, cold (or expeller) pressed oil.
And if you don’t already own a tongue scraper, this is your chance to get one. Tongue scraping should already be part of your daily oral care, morning and evening. But if it isn’t already, be assured that you will absolutely want to use the technique after oil swishing. (Note: using your toothbrush on your tongue won’t do the trick.)