24 Aug Oil Pulling: Miracle or Myth?
Sometime in maybe the 2000s, I started hearing a lot about, “oil pulling.” How it was an ancient Ayurvedic practice used extensively for thousands of years. And it seemed to cure everything from cavities to cancer.
I had never heard of it.
I had been studying Ayurveda since 1985, in the US, in India, and had never heard of it.
A little surprising for such a powerful Ayurvedic practice to elude me for about 25 years of study and exposure, but stranger things have surely happened. Over the next 4-5 years, I heard about it more and more. It was a specific practice (described below). I heard the rationale for why it was such a powerful medicine for the body, and practiced it myself, to see what all the fuss was about.
Then, a couple years ago I enquired of Dr. Robert E. Svoboda what he thought of the panacea-like claims associated with the practice of oil pulling.
He had not heard of oil pulling.
Dr. Svoboda is the first westerner ever to receive a Bachelor’s of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS). He’s been at this for about 40 years.
It seemed to me that the chances were very slim indeed that this reportedly powerful, popular, ancient Ayurvedic practice would have not made it into his education either.
So this year I did a little research to see where oil pulling as a term and current practice originated. Here is what I found, what the practice looks like now, its health claims, what makes sense to me, and what the classical Ayurvedic texts have to say about oil pulling (hint: nothing. But they do talk about something related).
How oil pulling is currently being practiced and taught
On an empty stomach, take about a Tablespoon, or about half a mouthful, of oil into your mouth. Push, pull and draw the oil through the teeth, from side to side and front to back, for 8-20 minutes. If you feel the need to spit during this time, spit a little out and keep “pulling.” At the end, the oil will be milky white, thin and frothy. Spit this out and rinse your mouth with water. Some say to brush your teeth after oil pulling, as they say the oil pulls out toxins, bacteria, pus, and mucous, which is why, they say, the oil gets whitish after swishing it around for 20 minutes. It is said that this should be practiced one to three times daily, but that the best time is in the morning, before breakfast, on an empty stomach. Coconut or sesame oil seem to be the most commonly used oils, but sesame, olive, almond, sunflower and other oils also receive honorable mention. There seem to be no particular associated dietary considerations or prescriptions.
Health claims around the practice of oil pulling
- Strengthens teeth and gums and oral health in general
- Cleans the teeth, removing plaque
- Cures arthritis
- Improves the health of sinuses
- Reduces headaches
- Benefits skin and blood disorders (some accounts claim incredible improvement to psoriasis within just a few days of oil pulling)
- Benefits hormonal balance
- Reduces chronic inflammation in the body, thereby benefiting heart and brain health and, indeed, can be a near miraculous, panacea-like practice that improves the health of the whole body.
- It is one of the most powerful and effective practices available for detoxifying the body.
Where does the current practice of Oil Pulling originate?
While there is a reference to oil pulling being, “used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy for many years for strengthening teeth, gums, and the jaw and to prevent decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, dryness of the throat, and cracked lips,” I am not able to find any old folk description of it or from where the practice originated, save from a Dr. F. Karach. I could not find out what the “F” stands for, or any authoritative source of information about him, his studies or his work. The closest I could come was in the article, “What is Oil Pulling And Does It Work?” by Helen Sanders of the website, “Health Ambition.” Sanders writes that Dr. Karach was a, “Ukrainian physician who lectured about oil pulling as a ‘remarkable treatment’ at a convention of the All Ukranische-Union of the Oncologists and Bacteriologists, a position of the Academy of Sciences of UDSSR”. Sanders writes about Dr. Karach’s philosophy and experience, but I am unable to find his original research. “Bruce Fife, a major proponent of Oil Pulling, writes, “Oil pulling as we know it today, was introduced in 1992 by Dr. F. Karach, MD. Dr. Karach claimed that oil pulling could cure a variety of illnesses ranging from heart disease and digestive troubles to hormonal disorders. He said it cured him of a chronic blood disorder of 15 years duration and within three days it cured his arthritis, which at times was so painful he was bed ridden. He used the method in his medical practice with great success.”[i]
Dr. Karach’s success and practice seems to have spread pretty steadily. Today, when I Google “oil pulling,” 26,500,000 results pop up.
As far as I can see, the most common Ayurvedic source quoted, as proof that oil pulling originated thousands of years ago, is:
“Keeping of oil gargle provides strength in jaws and voice, development of face, maximum taste and relish in food. The person practicing this does not suffer from dryness of throat, there is no fear of lip-cracking, teeth are not affected with caries, rather they become firm-rooted. They (teeth) are not painful, nor are they oversensitive on sour-taking, they become able to chew even the hardest food items.”[ii]
While this passage does refer to oil in the mouth, it does not describe the current practice of oil pulling. “Keeping of oil gargle” is a poor translation of “gandusa,” a practice we will consider presently. So this particular classic is actually not referring to the current practice of oil pulling.
What the Ayurvedic classics do say about oil pulling
Nothing. As far as I can see, there is no passage in the brhat trayi (the “Three Great” and classic, ancient Ayurvedic texts, Charaka Samhita, Ashtanga Hrdayam and Sushruta Samhita) that describes the current practice of oil pulling.
Here’s what they do describe.
Gandusa is a practice whereby oil is held in the mouth without moving it around at all, after having the neck and shoulders warmed and massaged, looking slightly upward, while sitting quietly in a sunny, warm place first thing in the morning. The oil is held in the mouth until “the mouth gets filled with kapha,” or secretions come out from the nose and eyes.
According to the classical Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita, gandusa improves the strength and health of the face, jaw, voice, throat, lips, teeth, gums and general oral tissues.[v] (These are the benefits given in the quote that most sites provide as proof that oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice, but it is actually a quote that relates to the practice of gandusa.)
There are four kinds of gandusa: one to address the increase of each of the three doshas,[vi] and one to help heal oral ulcers.
- Snigdha (unctuous or oily) gandusa is prepared with oil processed with sweet, sour and salty substances. It is used to pacify vata disorders of the head and neck.
- Shamana gandusa is prepared with bitter, astringent and sweet tasting substances and is used to pacify pitta disorders of the head and neck.
- Shodhana gandusa is prepared with pitter, pungent, sour or salty substances that are warming, to pacify kapha disorders of the head and neck. It may seem strange to the student of Ayurveda that sour and salty tastes are used here, as they are tastes that usually increase kapha. However, the sour taste has the ability to increase oral secretions and this may help clear the local channels. Similarly, salt may help clear local channels because of its ability to soften hard masses and reduce swelling. Also, this is not being swallowed, so these tastes are mainly affecting the local channels and, therefore, will not serve to increase kapha systemically.
- Ropana gandusa is prepared with astringent and bitter substances, to promote the healing of oral ulcers.
Gandusa can be practiced with various substances like oils, ghee, milk, honey water, fermented gruel, wine, meat juice, fermented grain washes mixed with pastes of various substances, even animal urine, for various therapeutic purposes, but most of these are used for specific therapeutic purposes. Of the daily use options recommended, oil is perhaps the most appropriate choice.
Some modern day practitioners who seem not to differentiate the practice of oil pulling from gandusa, say oil pulling shouldn’t be practiced outside of narrow and strict parameters of the complicated and delicate detoxification practice of panchakarma but, considering the classics do give an option for daily use, and gandusa is not the same as oil pulling, it may be possible that using oil for daily use could be beneficial. However, if there is excess ama, or toxins prevalent, especially in the neck or head, it may be prudent to consult with a practitioner before engaging in the practice.
Whereas gandusa involves holding liquids in the mouth without movement, kavala—the other classical practice involving oil in the mouth—involves gargling with the oil or other liquids. Gargling is not part of the current practice of oil pulling. In fact, one website dedicated to the practice of oil pulling that claims to be the, “Most Trusted original and popular website on oil pulling since 2004,” says specifically NOT to gargle with the oil.
Kavala is advised for some diseases of the neck, head, ears, mouth and eyes, excess salivation, diseases of the throat, dryness of the mouth, nausea, stupor, anorexia and rhinitis are curable especially by kavala.
Myths and real benefits of the modern day practice of oil pulling
Does oil pulling remove toxins from the mouth?
Some proponents of oil pulling claim that the white mixture that we spit out after the practice, is white due to the “toxins” that are being pulled out of your mouth. However, if you simply mix oil and water together for a few minutes in a blender, it will turn whitish. Saliva and oil, thoroughly emulsified, are likely to be white so, while there may be plaque or bacteria in this mixture, it is perhaps a stretch to claim that the mixture is white because of toxins. While it is likely that some plaque is dislodged in the process of oil pulling, I personally do not feel that my teeth and gums are sufficiently clean after oil pulling to quit brushing and flossing.
There is a small study on the effects of oil pulling for 45 days, that concluded that practicing oil pulling has the ability to reduce plaque and gingivitis.[vii] Another small study concluded that oil pulling 10 minutes daily with sesame seed oil may reduce Streptococcus mutans (which is linked to the production of plaque) within two weeks.[viii]
So there is evidence that oil pulling can reduce plaque and gingivitis, but there may be other reasons why oil pulling could benefit oral health.
Does oil pulling benefit the teeth, gums & oral health in general?
I have read many, many first hand accounts on the internet claiming improved oral health through the practice of oil pulling. Teeth are whiter, gums pinker and healthier-looking. I don’t know if this is true, but there are so many that I certainly think it possible.
This is what makes sense to me: oil is viscous, and pulling it repeatedly through our teeth, subjects our oral muscles to significantly more effort than they are used to. This oral exercise increases blood flow to our oral tissues and muscles, in the same way that exercising any group of muscles can increase the health of the local tissues. Increased blood flow to tissues anywhere in the body help improve the health of those tissues by carrying more nutrition to the tissues, and more waste away so, increasing blood flow to oral tissues could improve the health of the gums and other local tissues.
Increasing blood flow to the area and efficacy of waste removal could also serve to stimulate secretions from the nose or mouth, and help clear the local channels. I could see this having the potential to benefit most any disorders of the mouth, sinuses and head and face in general. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we understand that, wherever there is pain, there is stagnation of qi or prana (energy) or blood. If we move that qi or blood, the pain resolves. Since oil pulling should increase blood flow to the oral tissues, I would expect it to benefit pain and inflammation there, and possibly for it to help reduce stagnation and inflammation in other local tissues, including the sinuses, jaw, throat, and possibly tissues as far away as the eyes or top or sides of the head.
One concern that arises on the internet is that oil pulling could help leech mercury from people’s amalgam fillings. Another is that the practice of oil pulling could loosen crowns. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is worth exploring, when considering if this is a good practice for everybody.
Does oil pulling benefit our health in general?
If, in fact, oil pulling does reduce inflammation in the gums and oral tissues—and it seems likely it does, it has the potential to benefit the health of the body. Why? Because chronic inflammatory gum disease, like any latent inflammation in the body, has been shown to increase C-Reactive Protein (CRP). Higher levels of CRP are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Latent inflammation taxes the immune system. Resolving latent inflammation anywhere in the body, helps free up the body’s resources to fight other pathogens.
Resolving latent inflammation, and thereby reducing CRP levels, has the potential to reduce heart disease, arthritis, and other conditions in the body that are negatively impacted by inflammation. So, yes, it is possible that oil pulling can benefit our overall health, in the same way that addressing any latent inflammation anywhere in the body could be of benefit. As a practitioner, I would want to assess where a patient’s inflammation is, and address it there.
Are there other possible benefits to oil pulling?
Possibly. According to Eastern medical traditions, all organs are represented on the tongue, so it is theoretically possible that exercising the tongue would have a “reflexology” effect perhaps, benefiting the organs that have that subtle connection with the tongue, but this seems to me to be a very indirect possibility, and certainly more difficult to prove.
Is oil pulling the most important and powerful detox practice ever?
I think not. It makes sense to me that it could have a very beneficial effect on oral health, that it could possibly have a beneficial on disorders of the throat, jaw, face and head and, in that it may reduce inflammatory conditions locally, it has the potential to free up the body’s resources to do other important things, like address inflammatory conditions elsewhere and reduce our CRP levels. That is super.
But I think that the Ayurvedic practice of panchakarma –that addresses inflammation and health of the tissues throughout the body, is absolutely a more thorough approach to detoxification. In Ayurveda, we think it is most effective to address inflammation via the closest orifice. Addressing inflammation in the head, and especially the mouth, by introducing medicine or medicinal oil or other substances, to the mouth makes sense. If inflammation is in the joints or organs, however, then getting the medicine to those organs via oral route, to be digested and circulated, or through massage on the skin—in the case of joints—may be more direct and effective routes of delivery.
Are there contraindications to the practice of oil pulling? [This bit added October 2018]
Since this is a relatively new practice and I am not aware of any studies on either its benefits or risks, we are relying on anecdotal evidence (something I actually value–but that is a different conversation) and our own common sense. I was recently alerted to a study on two people that practiced some form of what was described in one case as oil pulling, “via mouth washing” and the other case as oil pulling ” via nasal washing.” Both patients ended up with, “exogenous lipoid pneumonia” (ELP) –a rare type of pneumonia that, “results from the inhalation or aspiration of oil components. Exogenous cases may manifest with either an acute pattern, due to the inhalation of large amounts of oil components within a short period of time; or a chronic pattern, resulting from the deposition of small amounts of oil over long periods of time.”
I have never heard of oil pulling, “via nasal washing” so don’t know what that practice would entail, but the study did say that the 66 year old man that did oil pulling, “via nasal washing”, “often aspirated the oil” and that the 38 year old woman who did it via, “mouth washing”, “sometimes” aspirated the oil. I don’t believe I have ever aspirated the oil when doing this practice so imagine the patients were doing something I am not doing. To be safe, I would think that doing this practice in such a way that no oil is aspirated into the lungs, would be advisable.
While I appreciate that some practitioners have had or seen amazing results from the modern practice of oil pulling, for myself, I think that the practice has great potential to improve oral health, have an overall positive, if perhaps sometimes minor, beneficial effect on the general health of the body and its organs; it has low potential for negative side effects, and is likely worthwhile to include in a healthy dinacharya (healthy daily routine), if you are not concerned about leaching mercury or loosening crowns. I would use an oil that is appropriate to my vikruti (current condition), if I didn’t know what that would be, I would consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner, especially if I had any pathology in my head or neck, or concerns about whether it would be good for me or not.
I realize there are passionate proponents and practitioners of “oil pulling,” and it is not my intent to minimize the value of this practice. Neither is it my intent to influence anyone either to engage in or avoid this practice. Rather, to explore its roots, and what makes sense to me to be its likely benefits and to share those explorations, in case it resonates with anyone else. My personal conclusions could be completely wrong. (Something that is true in this and all cases J.) If you’ve either had wonderful or horrible effects, personally, from the modern day practice of oil pulling, feel free to let me know and I may post your experience, below, along with those of others.
Thank you for being here.
With oil pulling, we have taken an ancient Ayurvedic practice (that of gandusa or kavala—as described in the Spring 2014 newsletter), altered it, and applied it in a very different world and environment from whence its related traditional practices originated. So it may be useful to hear the experiences of others, to consider for ourselves whether this practice would be likely to benefit us or not.
To that end, I invited people to submit their own personal experiences with oil pulling and describe benefits or negative side effects they experienced, if any. Many of you responded. (If you have a personal experience you would like to share, please submit it as you would like it to appear, and kindly indicate whether you would like your full name to appear with your testimonial, only your initials, or you would rather remain anonymous. And please indicate roughly how many days, weeks, months or years you regularly practiced oil pulling before experiencing the effects).
We may add more testimonials to this list, as time passes. Naturally, all of these accounts are considered “anecdotal,” and none of the benefits are proven through controlled trials, so it is up to each of us to come to our own conclusions. Though, with the tremendous potential for skewed results in controlled trials, it is probably up to each of us to come to our own thoughtful conclusions, no matter where we receive our information.
So. Here are your stories:
“I’ve been oil pulling off and on for about 10 years. My oral health is terrible but when I pull it improves greatly. What also improves is my energy level. I can’t believe it wasn’t mentioned by anyone else. I’m a low energy type of person anyway so I really notice the difference. It’s not like I’m on drugs or caffeine, it’s more like I’m more aware, clear headed. Sometimes I do things that lower my energy level after I have pulled just to see if it slows me down. Things like eating too much sugar or smoking weed and usually I just breeze right on through post pulling but if it’s been awhile I will definitely be headed for a nap. If that makes sense… I guess that’s all!” Charles Clay, Springfield MO
“As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I’ve so often been asked about oil pulling. Yet I never had much to say because, as you know, this practice is not taught in Ayurveda school! When I began to experience some tooth pain in my top molars on both sides (upon stepping down, usually) I decided to give oil pulling a whirl. I [searched] for references from the classical texts, but found nothing more than what you quoted in your newsletter. Figuring there is little harm in swishing oil in my mouth, gave it a go. I gladly grasped this task with all the enthusiasm of a typical pitta-predominant constitution, and began by swishing sesame oil in my mouth twice daily for 20 minutes each time (first thing in the am and before bed). I began to really enjoy this addition to my dinacharya [https://drclaudiawelch.com/resources/articles/dinacharya-changing-lives-through-daily-living/ ] [“daily routine”]. While swishing, I’d often notice that mucous was moving out of my sinuses, the last remnants of a cold I’d been battling.
I was astonished and pleased when just a few days later, my tooth pain was completely gone.
However, I could now feel something soft and squishy under my tongue. Upon examination, I discovered a fluid-filled sac under my tongue on the bottom of my mouth. I also found a similar cyst on the inside of my lip. Eww.
With just one or two delicate applications of frankincense essential oil, the cyst inside my lip quickly deflated. However, the “ranula” (a blocked salivary gland) under my tongue grew bigger and more angry with every passing meal (due to saliva that was excreted while I chewed my food!). Google told me that the conventional method of treating ranulas is surgical removal of the salivary gland. Otherwise, they often grow very large and become a chronic recurring issue.
I immediately stopped oil-pulling and tried to find similar stories on the internet. I found only one. My suspicion, of course, was that I had dislodged some ama [morbid substance in the body]. I have chronic eczema at the back of my neck/head where I also often find enlarged and swollen lymph nodes. Ama? I think yes
So now, the question was: how to undo what I did? Continue oil pulling to see if I can open the channel back up? Or wait it out? I decided to wait it out.
In the meantime, I attended a dentist appointment with my daughter. While catching all the “sugar bugs” in my toddler’s mouth, the hygienist asked if I’d ever tried oil pulling. I told her of my recent tooth pain, and how oil pulling seemed to magically heal it. She asked if I’d recently had sinus issues or a cold (which I had) because that often will cause tooth pain, especially in the top teeth, and especially when adding pressure (i.e. stepping down). Aha! So now I knew that oil pulling probably healed my tooth pain because it helped move the mucous that was lingering in my sinus channels. Mystery solved. Sort of. I didn’t tell the “sugar bug catcher” about my oral cysts because truthfully, I was embarrassed and grossed out.
Then, as if on cue, Dr. John Douillard sent out a newsletter with info on oil pulling and his newest product — an oil made especially for oil pulling. His product includes sesame oil, coconut oil, peppermint essential oil, and… TURMERIC! Why hadn’t I thought of turmeric? So, after a few more days of obsessively fiddling my tongue against the squishy ranula, wondering if I dared to actually out MORE oil in my mouth, I finally decided to experiment. I heated some sesame oil on the stove with a healthy dose of turmeric.
Once cool enough to put in my mouth (but still warm), I swished the turmeric oil for 20 mins. I continued this once a day, first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach), followed by a thorough rinse and brush.
After two days, the ranula was noticeably smaller. After 4 days, it had all but healed. As of today, my mouth has been ranula-free for two whole weeks!
I have continued swishing with the turmeric oil in the morning because, well, I like it. I really, really like it. It adds structure and a focal point to my morning dinacharya. It gets me thinking about putting oil in, on, and all over my body. It gets me in the mood to be healthy, to care for myself, and to love myself (sneha means both oil and love in Sanskrit for a reason!).
I still suspect that ama was in fact the cause of my cystic formations. In the future, I will likely recommend oil pulling to certain friends and clients, though I will also carefully identify signs of ama first, especially in the head/neck area.
I also wonder if it could be especially important to (1) only practice on an empty stomach while following a light diet, and/or (2) only use oil that has been heated and infused with medicinal herbs appropriate to the practitioner’s prakriti and vikruti.”
“THAT was extremely helpful! I have been oil pulling for a while and have definitely noticed a difference in the sensitivity of my teeth and my dentist has noticed other improvements but I had wondered about all the other claims. I really appreciate all your research.
“I’ve used oil pulling with great success. My dentist told me she thought I needed a root canal. I did the oil pulling for 30 minutes each morning for a month and I haven’t had any tooth pain since.”
“I did try this practice several years ago, and it DID loosen several fillings. The loosening happened within 3 weeks. I thought the practice was helpful as far as addressing the actual gum issues I was attempting to address — but I was not willing to lose all of my fillings to do that.”
Zach Zube, March 24, 2014:
“I began oil pulling in September,… working my way up to about 15 minutes at the most.
I have kept up the oil pulling since, [this was written late the following March—so, about six months later] but only 1-3 minutes daily, in the morning after tongue scraping and before teeth brushing. I haven’t used it to replace any oral hygiene practices, but only to augment them.
Here is my experience:
- If I swish to the 3 minute mark or so, I will usually have loosened some debris from between teeth or impacted into the gums that brushing may not have reached.
- Over the time I have been “oil pulling”, this winter has been my healthiest on record (as far as not succumbing to a nasty cold/flu/virus)…
- My gums do feel healthier, firmer and don’t swell/bleed as often as they used to.
I would care to note that shortly after [beginning the practice of oil pulling], I also took on a more complete dinacharya that includes tongue scraping, oil pulling/swishing, skin brushing, abhyanga, nasya and agni sara. I recognize that my improved immunity is very likely attributed to the sum of all of these practices, and not owed to the oil pulling itself. I do like the way my mouth feels after oil pulling and I have no plans to cut it out of my daily routine. I also have no plans to increase my time to 20 minutes, either!”
“I decided to give oil pulling a try about 6 months ago. I settled on coconut oil over sesame based on taste and mouthfeel. I also knew it was very anti-microbial. Within just a few days my chronic gingivitis, bleeding gums, inflammation and gum pain were gone. Oil pulling was much more effective than the H2O2 mouthwash my dental hygienist had recommended. The relief from chronic low level pain was wonderful! In Feb I saw my hygienist and she immediately commented that my gums were no longer bleeding and also that one of my deep pockets reduced from 9mm to 6mm. So I am sold on oil pulling and now do it daily as well as recommend to friends and clients. I do it during my morning shower so it does not add any time to my daily routine.”
“I started oil pulling after taking Cate Stillman’s Living Ayurveda Course two years ago and I did enjoy the very clean feeling it left in my mouth, but beyond that I cannot say that I experienced any other benefits. For someone with a primary Vata constitution, I love the unctuous feeling it leaves in my mouth.”
“After [panchakarma] with [Dr.] Rosy Mann, Kim, and Terrel [http://www.lakshmisgarden.com/index.shtml], two years ago, Kim told me all about oil pulling. I tried it for months. It did not seem to give me these remarkable results:( in fact, it seemed to me that my teeth got browner, not white – and my teeth are pretty white! So I stopped. I might restart with your words about inflammation. But it looks like this is by no means an Ayurvedic tool but a recent possibly good fad…. Maybe it belongs in the New Age category, rather than the Ayurvedic category.”
“Thank you for sharing your research on oil pulling. I was first introduced to this practice by an Ayurvedic Dr in India in 2006 when I had a chunk of my tooth near the gum line flake off exposing the root, while I was attempting to scrape away “plaque” that I now know was bright white because of demineralization.
I was given a bitter infused sesame oil to swish every morning on an empty stomach, before brushing and breakfast. I didn’t latch onto the practice, and ended up not finishing the small bottle of oil. That didn’t stop me from being amazed by the rest of my introduction to Ayurveda through diet and herbs, as I was able to eat, drink, and feel strong again after the acute phase of months of digestive unrest. I felt like I was learning things I already knew, though felt foreign at the same time.
For the last couple of years I have been experimenting with oil pulling as my teeth have continued to be a source of learning and focus of my health. From doing it everyday, to once a week, to when I feel like I need a deep clean, I have an on and off relationship with oil pulling. I do feel like my gums are stronger after oil pulling, they don’t bleed, or feel pain when I floss, and I am left feeling uplifted and clean.
I really appreciate reading what you had to say about the practice and discovering it’s roots in gandusa and kavala. To me it seems like oil pulling is a hybrid of the two. Thank you.”
“What a clear and thorough explanation of a practice that has been working for me. I loved reading your newsletter. I’m not sure when exactly oil pulling entered my consciousness, but it sounded weird enough to be of an Ayurvedic nature, so I went with it. I practice it, and because of it’s benefits, I pass it on to clients. Since starting the practice, my dental hygienist has commented on my teeth and gums in ways never before. I’m not a flosser, and she doesn’t believe that I don’t floss because of the lack of plaque at the gum lines. This is new, they’ve always harped on me about gingivitis…but no more. Also, I’ve noticed that when I’m regularly “pulling”, I don’t get the painful mouth ulcers, that were in my life on a regular basis since childhood. As much as I’d love to continue giving the credit of this great practice to Ayurveda, I must discontinue, thanks to your eye-opening newsletter, or, at least discontinue until further notice. Gratefully swishing.”
Nicole Schultz, VMD:
“I use coconut oil. After 6 months, I had a routine oral hygiene appointment. The technician (my usual one) was amazed at the change in my overall oral health. My gum recession had reversed by 2mm and there was almost no plaque to remove. I was done in half the normal amount of time. I am a conventional doctor and do not, at this time, practice any other holistic personal health routines except regular use of a Neti pot. The results in my case were undeniable.”
“I want to share my personal experience from oil pulling with you. Initially I began oil pulling to help my teeth and gums. What I did not expect was this – my tachycardia episodes that I have had ongoing on a monthly or more basis for the past 20+ years would diminish to almost nothing!
And to give you an idea of how bad they were – many episodes of SVT I have had lasted over 30 hours. Many of them. I have also been in emergency, had my heart stopped and been paddled with still no conversion.
Long ago I cut out all caffeine including chocolate or any food or beverage that even had a hint of stimulant in it. Because it would always set off an episode.
For the first time in years I had my first glass of hot chocolate with no tachycardia to follow! It was delightful!
Coincidence? I don’t know. But this is the only thing that I have changed in my lifestyle/diet that I can attribute it to. I noticed the heart condition improving and tachycardia episodes becoming less frequent after about a month of oil pulling.
Also, I am not on any prescription medications for this condition or any other prescription meds whatsoever. I have learned over time than I can usually interrupt my tachycardia with yogic breathing techniques.”
Anonymous. Written within a month of the Spring 2014 Oil Pulling Newsletter:
I used to do [oil pulling] every morning. But would get nauseated after a few seconds. After reading your newsletter, I started practicing [again]. This time I used sunflower oil. I don’t get nausea with sunflower oil. [The] first effect was it helps me sleep better. Flossing is much easier. Tongue is cleaner in the morning.”
Thank you for this excellent capture of this currently popular practice. Only recently, I have come to know about the popularity of this ‘oil-pulling’ when one of my nurses read about it.
I am a Radiation Oncologist (retired from Academics, doing Locums now in Houston area), had some training in Ayurveda from AVP Coimbatore. For many years I have used gentle oil swishing in mouth for no more than 2 minutes once or twice daily, for my patients under radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. Baking soda-salt solution mouth wash is also used several times a day. Those with underlying poor hygiene with superadded radiation induced dryness and mucositis have been helped. I ask them to use sesame oil (cold-pressed if they can get it) or virgin olive oil that they may have in their kitchen. This often works as well as or better than commercial specialty mouth washes. And more affordable !
Dec, 2020, anonymous:
Hi there. After reading your article on oil pulling, I wanted to share my experiences in short.
I had been suffering from acne and eczema for a long time, having tried every approach to cure. Upon starting oil pulling, it cleared within 3 days (inflammation), then healing completely took about 2 weeks.
I have recommended this to two other friends with acute acne and it has cured them both. I also noticed other side effects such as, brighter skin on face, reduced appearance of spider veins in my legs, nd reduced ‘skin tags’ on body. In my experience, I would say that oil pulling has a very positive effect on skin health in general.
My own experience is that I have receding gums that easily bleed—a bit of a vata/pitta combo. I had a periodontist tell me I absolutely needed gum surgery, due excessive gum recession. I decided to take his counsel under advisement but not to do anything about it just yet. About two years passed. During which time, I think I had further gum recession. Then I started to do oil pulling for 10 minutes daily, with neem oil infused with a few drops of hyssop essential oil and frankincense essential oil. This combination is antibacterial, antiviral, pitta reducing, and blood moving. This is the main combination I use, but sometimes use coconut oil, to nourish the gums, as well as provide a pitta-pacifying effect. After practicing this for about three months, I considered the effects. It appeared to me that my gum recession was halted, and possibly slightly reversed, and my gums were less prone to bleeding. Also, perhaps due to the antiviral, antibacterial quality of the neem mix, I was less vulnerable to catching colds or flus. Everyone around me was very sick with a terrible cough and cold, and I never got it.
Afterword: Now, after years of intermittent oil pulling, I can say that I cannot say for certain that I think it has a truly discernible effect on my immunity. There are just too many factors for me to be sure. My gums seem to have maintained at the same level of recession, maybe slightly worse, but other than recession, there is no pocketing and my dentist tells me they are healthy. I have seven crowns and a bunch of fillings and none of them have loosened, as far as I can tell.
i. this article has since been removed from the internet, but here is one of the many similar ones: https://www.fairfielddentalcare.com.au/blog/oil-pulling/9990
ii. Charaka Samhita; Sutrasthanam V:78-80
iii. Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana: XXII:1-12
iv Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana XXII:12
v. Charaka Samhita; Sutrasthanam V:78-80
vi. The 3 doshas being Vata, Pitta and Kapha. You can read more about them in an article [https://drclaudiawelch.com/resources/articles/your-ayurvedic-constitution/] on my website.
vii. http://www.johcd.org/pdf/Effect_of_Oil_Pulling_on_Plaque_and_Gingivitis.pdf That study has since been removed from the internet. It said, “Oil pulling is an age-old process mentioned in Charaka Samhita and Sushratha’s Arthashastra.” I don’t know what Sushruta’s “Arthashastra is. It is not a section of Sushruta Samhita that I can find, and the authors did not give references for it. The reference they gave was for Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthana and they equated oil pulling with, “The process is called Kavala Gandoosha/ kavala Graha in Ayurveda.” Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthana does not describe a practice like the current day oil pulling. It does describe kavala and gandusa but, as we see, these are not practices that resemble the modern day practice of oil pulling. The authors of that, “study” were listed as:
Dr. HV Amith, BDS Post Graduate Student, Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry. KLES Institute of Dental Sciences ,Belgaum, Karnataka. #29 C, II Main, 6th Cross, Bhaskar diary road, Sadashivnagar, Belgaum 590010. Karnataka. Mobile: +919448008007 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr. Anil V Ankola MDS Professor & Head, Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry. KLES Institute of Dental Sciences, Belgaum, Karnataka. Dr. L Nagesh MDS Ex-Professor and Head, Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry. KLES Institute of Dental Sciences ,Belgaum, Karnataka. J Oral Health Comm Dent 2007 ;1(1):12-18
viii. Both the study group of oil pullers and the control group (that used chlorhexidine mouthwash—a chemical antiseptic) for 10 min every day in the morning before brushing, had decent results by the end of the 2 weeks. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. PMID: 18408265 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408265