Oil pulling is as commonplace as brushing one's teeth, others shake with disgust when they hear it all: take a mouthful of oil every morning, rinse well and then spit it out. Oil pulling has become a popular detox ritual. The application of alternative medicine is by no means a novel trend, but a centuries-old healing method. The effect of oil pulling should not be limited to a healthy oral flora, but extend to the holistic treatment of various diseases. The easy-to-use healing process has many followers, but also causes doubts and criticism. Read how oil pulling works and if it really does work.
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling, in English Oil Pulling, is an alternative medical healing application, which is also known under the terms oil treatment, oil suction or oil chewing. During oil pulling, the oral cavity is rinsed with a vegetable oil or an oil mixture for a certain period of time, depending on the method. The primary goal is to "extract" pollutants from the body.
Where does oil pulling come from?
The holistic method goes back to ancient traditions such as Ayurveda, the Indian doctrine of healthy living. Oil pulling first appears in the Charaka Samhita, the oldest Ayurvedic script, called Kavala Graha or Kavala Gandoosha. Over 30 different diseases are listed in the 2, 000-year-old plant, which should be combated by the oil pulling (here with sesame oil).
The oil pulling specifically with sunflower oil probably originated from the Ukrainian and Russian folk medicine.
The existing in the German-speaking treatment recommendations are due to two articles in the medical literature from the year 1991. Both publications refer to a lecture of the Russian doctor Dr. med. Fedor Karach, who presented the procedure at a congress of oncologists and bacteriologists. Exact time and sources are missing, however, citable publications of a doctor Karach are not available.
Why oil pulling?
In addition to the health of the teeth and the oral flora, the most important benefit of oil extraction is the detoxification of the body. In addition, the method is said to detoxify systemic and chronic diseases, relieve their symptoms and other ailments, and even cure some conditions. In the following, we will introduce you to the health effects of oil pulling.
Oil pulling as a tooth cleaning?
Oil pulling should be particularly useful for cleaning teeth and a healthy oral flora and especially to help or prevent the following symptoms:
- Bleeding gums
- tooth discoloration
- dry mouth
- chapped lips
In fact, some studies - especially Indian studies - report a proven positive effect of oil pulling on dental and oral health. Nonetheless, oil pulling does not replace the brushing of teeth, but serves as a complementary option for keeping the oral cavity healthy.
Oil pulling as a detox ritual
Oils and oil blends should be able to pull toxins and pollutants out of the body via the tongue and the oral mucosa. Because oil pulling stimulates the salivary glands and thus supports the elimination of harmful substances from the organism.
Advocates of the method also swear by detox treatments - ie detoxification cures - with the oil pulling method. For example, when losing weight or fasting, the dwindling fatty tissue releases previously stored pollutants. These can then be removed by oil pulling out of the body.
In which diseases does oil pulling help?
Specifically, the healing method should help in addition to the maintenance of a healthy oral flora in the following diseases and disorders:
- a headache
- Skin problems (eczema, acne, psoriasis, neurodermatitis)
- Bladder and kidney problems
- Flu infections
- Period pain and menopause
- Gastric ulcers and gastritis
- Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract (for example in the case of infestation with the Candida fungus)
- Diseases of the heart
- Diseases of the blood
- Diseases of the liver
This listing is not exhaustive, as oil extraction is credited with many positive effects. It should be noted, however, that the effects of oil pulling on many of these complaints are based on experience and are not scientifically proven.
Oil pulling with cancer?
Patients with oropharyngeal, gastrointestinal, liver or kidney cancers often suffer from bad breath as these tumors alter the cell structure.
In addition, certain forms of therapy, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, can increasingly kill mucosal cells, which also causes an odor development. In addition, the mucus cells form a breeding ground for microorganisms, so that bacteria and fungi can cause gases and thus halitosis.
In these cases, oil pulling can help affected cancer patients as it has antioxidant and antibacterial effects. In addition, the oil forms a kind of protective film over the oral mucosa.
Oil pulling can therefore be used to combat bad breath in cancer, but not for the prevention or treatment of cancer itself.
Explanations for the mechanisms of action of oil pulling
For the mode of action of oil pulling there are different, but not proven theories. Basically it is said that the swirling of the oil in the mouth stimulates the oral mucosa to secrete pathogens and toxins and excrete. These are bound in the oil and removed by spitting the oil out of the body.
Rinsing in the mouth turns the oil milky white. Proponents of oil extraction claim that this is evidence of the cleansing action of the oil and the toxins dissolved in it. In fact, the oil emulsifies. That is, the substances contained in the saliva split the fat in the oil, resulting in the milky color.
Advantages of oil pulling
The advantage of oil pulling in maintaining the health of the mouth and cleaning teeth is that unlike toothpaste, oil can reach all interdental spaces. This is additionally supported by the swiveling and pulling in the mouth, as the oil is thus pressed into all gaps.
In addition, neither three-minute brushing nor an applied in a few seconds mouth rinse with the 20-minute exposure time of the oil keep up.
Disadvantages of oil pulling: first aggravation
But oil-drawing also has its drawbacks: First of all, for many it's not the best idea to put oil in your mouth every morning on an empty stomach. This inhibition threshold must first be overcome.
Furthermore, it can lead to "side effects", such as diarrhea or increased secretion of nasal and pharyngeal mucus. The reason for this is the detoxification, which can burden the organism more than usual. The release of pollutants in the bloodstream can therefore also lead to an initial aggravation, ie an apparent worsening of diseases and complaints.
These initial exacerbations are also known from other alternative therapies and are considered a positive signal of the body. Because they indicate that in the organism self-healing processes were activated, fight the disease and increasingly metabolize degradation products.
Criticism of oil pulling
The main criticism of oil pulling is undoubtedly the insufficient scientific research or the lack of evidence of a positive health effect of oil extraction by studies or other evidence.
As mentioned earlier, there are some studies that have examined the effects of oil pulling on oral and dental health. However, it should be noted that these works have methodological deficiencies and their results are therefore not meaningful enough to confirm the health benefits of oil pulling with certainty.
It has not been scientifically proven that oil pulling can relieve or even cure other illnesses and complaints such as headaches, skin problems, osteoarthritis or bronchitis.
In alternative medicine, however, the method is recognized and widely used. However, one should keep in mind that the much advertised effect of oil extraction is only an assumption based more on centuries of tradition than on proven facts.
* Studies on oil pulling
- Asokan, S. et al. (2008): Streptococcus mutans count effect on plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study.
- Asokan, S. et al. (2011): Effect of oil on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: A randomized controlled pilot trial.
- Asokan, S. et al. (2009): Effect of oil on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study.
- An, TD et al. (2008): Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria.
- Singh, A., & Purohit, B. (2011): Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health.
- Amith, HV et al. (2007): Effect of oil pulling on plaque and gingivitis.
- Nagilla, J. et al. (2017): Comparative Evaluation of Antiplaque Efficacy of Coconut Oil Pulling a Placebo, Among Dental College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.
- Gbinigie, O. et al. (2016): A systematic review of randomized clinical trials.
- Naseem, M. et al. (2017): Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance.