Oil pulling

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Oil pulling or oil swishing is a folk remedy where oil is "swished" (kavala graha) or "held" (snigda gandoosha) in the mouth.[1] [2]

Practitioners of oil pulling claim it is capable of improving oral and systemic health, including a benefit in conditions such as headaches, migraines, diabetes mellitus, asthma, and acne, as well as whitening teeth. Its promoters claim it works by "pulling out" toxins, which are known as ama in Ayurvedic medicine, and thereby reducing inflammation.[3][4][5][6]

Oil pulling has received little study and there is little evidence to support claims made by the technique's advocates.[7] In one small study, sesame oil was found to be effective at reducing plaque and oral bacterial load, but was less effective than chlorhexidine (an antiseptic mouthwash); the health claims of oil pulling have otherwise failed scientific verification or have not been investigated.[8][9] The National Center for Health Research states that "it's still unclear whether or how the practice actually works to get rid of bad bacteria in our mouths. It's also unknown what the long term effects on oral and overall health may be." [10]

Traditional usage[edit]

In traditional Ayurveda, gargling treatments like kavala graha and gandusha are used to treat imbalances of various doshas.[11][12] Ayurveda does not recommend general treatments blindly for everyone,[13] but, rather, health is held to be very individualistic, and the dominant dosha in both the individual and nature determines health care, including dental health.[14][15][16][17] As per Ayurvedic literature, sesame oil is one among many medicinal fluids recommended for daily preventive use and/or seasonal use to reduce dryness (vata dosha) of the mouth and reduce inflammation and burning sensation in the mouth.[1][2][12] In case of specific issues, Ayurvedic practitioners might also suggest other treatments such as coconut oil and sunflower oil or other herbalized oils after proper diagnosis of the specific ailment or dosha.[18]

Current origin[edit]

The phrase "oil pulling" and usage in its current form was popularized in the early 1990s by one of the early adopters, Tummala Koteswara Rao in Bangalore, South India. Rao actively evangelized oil pulling as an ancient Ayurvedic practice.[19]

Rao claims to have been introduced to oil pulling by a paper presented by Fedor Karach to the All Ukrainian Association of the Academy of Science of the USSR in which he advocated a method of oil pulling.[20][21][22][23][24][25] The paper is claimed to have been widely circulated in the German Magazines Natur & Heilen (Nature & Healing - author: Günther W. Frank) and, Natur und Medizin (Nature and Medicine - author: Veronica Carstens).[26] It is further claimed, in the same paper, that Siberian shamans practised oil pulling with sunflower oil for more than a century.[27]

The extensive promotion as an Ayurvedic practice, the increased commercial interest in vegetable oil, and the claimed anecdotal benefits helped firmly establish oil pulling as a popular alternative medicine home remedy.[27][28]

Traditionally, sesame oil was used for oil pulling, but recent endorsements by celebrities has resulted in increasing popularity of coconut oil based oil pulling in the Western world.[29]

Purported mechanism of action[edit]

Even after several (limited) studies, the exact mechanism of action of oil pulling therapy is still not clear.[30]

The suggestion is that oil provides a surface layer that prevents plaque or bacteria adhering to teeth.[31][32][33]

It is also suggested that by increasing the secretion of saliva, oil pulling uses the salivary glands in the mouth as a detoxifying organ: the saliva can trap the toxin within the oil particles.[34]

It is also suggested that the prolonged and forceful mechanical action could play a part in dislodging bacteria and undigested particles from the deep crevices within the mouth.[35][36]

Oil pulling with sesame seed oil moisturizes gums, which can provide a measure of relief to those suffering from dry mouth. Dry mouth is known to increase bacteria growth.[33][37]


Dentists remain skeptical of the claimed benefits behind oil pulling.[18][38] Reliable scientific evidence of the benefits and risks is scarce and American Dental Association states that insufficient research has been done on oil pulling.[9][15][16][17][39][40] Rather than oil pulling, the ADA recommends brushing the teeth twice a day, flossing, and the use of an antiseptic mouthwash.[41] The Canadian Dental Association, responding to published research, has stated that "We sense oil pulling won't do any harm, we're not convinced there are any particular benefits to it."[42]

A 2013, in vitro, study found that oil pulling with olive oil, safflower oil, or linseed oil had no effect on microbial colonization of the enamel. The authors concluded that it could not be recommended for biofilm reduction.[43]

In vitro, lab studies have indicated the antibacterial activity of edible oils such as coconut oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil.[44][45][46][47][48][49][50] Also, multiple studies have indicated the effectiveness of essential oils such as tea tree oil against gingivitis and dental plaque formation when used in combination with regular oral hygiene.[51][52][53][54][55]

  • A 2012 - AIT, Ireland - study indicates that coconut oil which has been partially digested (or enzyme modified) by saliva is more effective than natural coconut oil.[56][57][58][59]

Against the background of current scientific and empirical knowledge, edible oils might be used as oral hygiene supplements but a decisive benefit for the oral health status is questionable.[61][62][63] The drawbacks highlighted by medical professionals and experts are:[64][65]

  • Oil pulling cannot replace care from a qualified dentist, and any delays in going to the dentist might make it difficult to treat mouth problems.
  • It consumes more time than conventional alcohol-free, antiseptic mouthwash
  • There is a report of lipid pneumonia caused by accidental inhalation of the oil during oil pulling.[36][66][67]
  • Coconut oil, in rare cases, can act as an antigenic agent that causes contact dermatitis.[68][69][70]
  • The oil has to be spit into the garbage can, not the sink. Coconut oil if it solidifies can clog the pipes.[71][72]
  • Ayurvedic experts warn of negative side effects - if improper technique is used - such as dry mouth, excessive thirst, muscular stiffness, exhaustion and loss of sensation or taste in the mouth.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Prevention and Treatment of Diseases of Mouth by Gandoosha". Anc Sci Life 13 (3-4): 266–70. Jan 1994. PMC 3336527. PMID 22556659. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Prevention and Treatment of Diseases of Mouth by Gandoosha". Anc Sci Life 13 (3-4): 266–70. Jan 1994. PMC 3336527. PMID 22556659. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Grush, Loren (24 March 2014). "What is oil pulling? Examining the ancient detoxifying ritual". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  4. ^ http://www.ijdr.in/article.asp?issn=0970-9290;year=2008;volume=19;issue=1;spage=52;epage=61;aulast=Amruthesh Dentistry and Ayurveda
  5. ^ http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2014/03/how-dental-professionals-can-respond-to-oil-pulling-patients.html How dental professionals can respond to 'oil pulling' patients
  6. ^ "what is oil pulling". 
  7. ^ "Just what is oil pulling therapy?". 
  8. ^ "Is Oil-Pulling Your Best Choice for Dental Health?". 
  9. ^ a b Julie Beck (19 March 2014). "Swishing With Oil for Oral Health: Not Recommended". The Atlantic. 
  10. ^ Dr. Laurén Doamekpor (June 2014). "Oil Pulling: Snake oil or a worthwhile health practice?". 
  11. ^ http://www.saumya-ayurveda.com/kavalgraha.html Gandusha & Kavalagraha
  12. ^ a b "Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 22 - Oral, Ear And Head Therapy". 
  13. ^ "Oil Pulling: An ancient Ayurvedic treatment, or is it?". 
  14. ^ http://www.jaim.in/article.asp?issn=0975-9476;year=2011;volume=2;issue=2;spage=64;epage=68;aulast=Singh Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health
  15. ^ a b "Oil-Swishing Craze". 
  16. ^ a b c "Does oil pulling work?". 
  17. ^ a b c "Does oil pulling work? - CNN special". 
  18. ^ a b "Live Well: Oil pulling draws fans, skeptics in Colorado Springs". 
  19. ^ "Review of "Wonderful Therapy Oil Pulling" book". 
  20. ^ "Oil Pulling for a Brighter Smile and Better Health". 
  21. ^ "Folk Remedy from Russia:Oil Therapy by Dr. Karach". 
  22. ^ "Oil Pulling: Miracle Treatment or Woo Mouthwash?". 
  23. ^ "Will oil pulling reverse cavities?". 
  24. ^ http://www.drcharlesdixon.com/images/PULLING%20OIL%20article.pdf PULLING OIL - The Oil Treatment of Dr. Karach
  25. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/85039940/Wonderful-Therapy-Oil-Pulling-Self-Help-Cure-for-Diseases-Tummala-Koteswara-Rao Wonderful Therapy - Oil Pulling
  26. ^ Harnisch, Günter. The oil pulling therapy. 
  27. ^ a b Dr. David Frej and George Kuchar. Detoxification healing oils. 
  28. ^ "Ayurvedic regeneration with detoxification". 
  29. ^ "Coconut: Super healthful, or just super trendy?". 
  30. ^ Lakshmi, T; Rajendran, R; Krishnan, Vidya (2013). "Perspectives of oil pulling therapy in dental practice". Dental Hypotheses 4 (4): 131. doi:10.4103/2155-8213.122675. 
  31. ^ "Is 'oil pulling' the new mouthwash?". 
  32. ^ "What Is Oil Pulling (And Is It Worth Trying)?". Huffpost Living. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  33. ^ a b c "Faculty of Dentistry, Leslie Laing, explains Oil Pulling practice". 
  34. ^ "Oil pulling: Holistic technique believed to improve your oral health". Gaston Gazette. 
  35. ^ http://jonbarron.org/article/oil-pulling-detoxing#.U5hlU3afWmw Oil Pulling For Detoxing?
  36. ^ a b "Oil Pulling Your Leg". 
  37. ^ Saini, Rajiv; Saini, Santosh; Sharma, Sugandha (2011). "Ayurveda and herbs in dental health". AYU (An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda) 32 (2): 285. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.92542. 
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  39. ^ "Should you try oil pulling". 
  40. ^ "Oil-Swishing Craze". 
  41. ^ "Oil Pulling: Does it Really Work?". 
  42. ^ a b Anna Lazowski (5 June 2014). "Oil pulling: Ancient practice now a modern trend". CBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  43. ^ Hannig, C., Kirsch, J., Al-Ahmad, A., Kensche, A., Hannig, M., Kümmerer, K. (2013). "Do edible oils reduce bacterial colonization of enamel in situ?". Clinical Oral Investigations 17 (2): 649–658. doi:10.1007/s00784-012-0734-0. 
  44. ^ "The Benefit of Oil Pulling". 
  45. ^ http://www.asiaph.org/admin/img_topic/6096Sroisiri.pdf Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models
  46. ^ "Coconut Oil Stops Strep from Damaging Tooth Enamel". 
  47. ^ "A New Look at Coconut Oil". 
  48. ^ "The Best Oil for Oil Pulling Therapy". 
  49. ^ http://books.google.co.in/books?id=zQSzj1hcYVkC&printsec=frontcover&dq=&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false "the pharmacological effect of lipids" 1978 book by jon j. kabara
  50. ^ Jon J. Kabara. the pharmacological effect of lipids. 
  51. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15293818 The effects of a tea tree oil-containing gel on plaque and chronic gingivitis.
  52. ^ "Proposed Natural Treatments for Periodontal Disease". 
  53. ^ Soukoulis, S.; Hirsch, R. (June 2004). "The effects of a tea tree oil-containing gel on plaque and chronic gingivitis". Australian Dental Journal 49 (2): 78–83. doi:10.1111/j.1834-7819.2004.tb00054.x. 
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  55. ^ "The long-term effect of a mouthrinse containing essential oils on dental plaque and gingivitis: a systematic review". 
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  59. ^ "AIT researchers show coconut oil could combat tooth decay". Athlone Institute of Technology. 3 September 2012. 
  60. ^ "Is coconut oil the new Listerine?". 
  61. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23053698 Lipids in preventive dentistry
  62. ^ http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00784-012-0835-9 Lipids in preventive dentistry
  63. ^ http://www.deepdyve.com/lp/springer-journals/lipids-in-preventive-dentistry-t0zaqmnTbE Lipids in preventive dentistry - Article Preview
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  65. ^ "Oil Pulling: Does it live up to the hype?". 
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  67. ^ Kim, Jae Yeol; Jung, Jae Woo; Choi, Jae Chol; Shin, Jong Wook; Park, In Won; Choi, Byoung Whui (1 February 2014). "Recurrent lipoid pneumonia associated with oil pulling [Correspondence]". The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease 18 (2): 251–252. doi:10.5588/ijtld.13.0852. 
  68. ^ "Allergy to coconut oil". 
  69. ^ http://nationaleczema.org/contact-dermatitis-coconut-fatty-acids/ Contact Dermatitis and Coconut Fatty Acids
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  71. ^ "'Oil Pulling' trend claims to whiten teeth, improve health". 
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