Oil pulling

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

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.[2][3][4]

Oil pulling has received little study and there is limited evidence to support claims made by the technique's advocates.[5] 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.[6][7] Oil pulling is controversial amongst Western health practitioners. 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."[8]

Traditional usage[edit]

Sesame oil

In traditional Ayurveda, gargling treatments like kavala graha and gandusha are used to treat imbalances of various doshas.[9][10] Ayurveda does not recommend general treatments blindly for everyone,[11] 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.[12][13][14][15] 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][10] 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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18][19][20][21][22][23] 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).[24] It is further claimed, in the same paper, that Siberian shamans practised oil pulling with sunflower oil for more than a century.[25]

The extensive promotion as an Ayurvedic practice, the increased commercial interest in vegetable oil, and anecdotal benefits helped firmly establish oil pulling as a popular alternative medicine home remedy.[25][26]

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.[27]

Purported mechanism of action[edit]

The purported mechanism of action of oil pulling therapy is not clear.[28]

A suggestion is that oil provides a surface layer that prevents plaque or bacteria adhering to teeth.[29][30][31][unreliable medical source?]

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.[32]

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.[33][34]

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.[31][35]


Most dentists remain skeptical of the claimed benefits behind oil pulling.[16][36][37] Reliable scientific evidence of the benefits and risks is scarce and American Dental Association states that insufficient research has been done on oil pulling.[7][13][14][15][38][39] Rather than oil pulling, the ADA recommends brushing the teeth twice a day, flossing, and the use of an antiseptic mouthwash.[40] 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."[41]

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.[42]

In vitro lab studies have shown antibacterial activity of edible oils such as coconut oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil.[43][44][45][46][47][48] 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.[49][50][51]

A 2012 - AIT, Ireland - study[citation needed] indicates that coconut oil which has been partially digested (or enzyme modified) by saliva is more effective as an antifungal and antibacterial, than natural coconut oil. Amongst the pathogens tested were Candida albicans and Streptococcus mutans which are most often related to oral health issues.[52][53]

It was reported in Mar–Apr 2014 that Leslie Laing, a doctor from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Dentistry, conducted an as yet unpublished pilot study on the use of coconut oil for treatment of dry mouth in a dozen patients suffering from Sjögren's syndrome, with promising results.[31][41][54]

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.[55] The drawbacks highlighted by medical professionals and experts are:[56][57]

  • 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 mouthwashes.
  • There is a report of lipid pneumonia caused by accidental inhalation of the oil during oil pulling.[34][58][59]
  • Coconut oil, in rare cases, can act as an antigenic agent that causes contact dermatitis.[60][61][62]
  • In addition, according to the ADA, cases of diarrhea or upset stomach have been reported.[63]
  • If the oil is spat into a sink, it can clog the pipes if it solidifies.[64][65]
  • 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.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sooryavanshi, S; Mardikar, B. R. (1994). "Prevention and treatment of diseases of mouth by gandoosha and kavala". Ancient Science of Life. 13 (3–4): 266–70. PMC 3336527Freely accessible. PMID 22556659. 
  2. ^ Grush, Loren (24 March 2014). "What is oil pulling? Examining the ancient detoxifying ritual". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 24 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Amruthesh, S (2008). "Dentistry and Ayurveda - IV: Classification and management of common oral diseases". Indian Journal of Dental Research. 19 (1): 52–61. PMID 18245925. 
  4. ^ Marion, Jane (June 2014). "what is oil pulling". Baltimore. 
  5. ^ "Just what is oil pulling therapy?". 
  6. ^ "Is Oil-Pulling Your Best Choice for Dental Health?". 
  7. ^ a b Julie Beck (19 March 2014). "Swishing With Oil for Oral Health: Not Recommended". The Atlantic. 
  8. ^ Laurén Doamekpor (June 2014). "Oil Pulling: Snake oil or a worthwhile health practice?". 
  9. ^ http://www.saumya-ayurveda.com/kavalgraha.html Gandusha & Kavalagraha
  10. ^ a b "Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 22 - Oral, Ear And Head Therapy". 
  11. ^ "Oil Pulling: An ancient Ayurvedic treatment, or is it?". 
  12. ^ Singh, Abhinav; Purohit, Bharathi (2011). "Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health". Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. 2 (2): 64–8. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.82525. PMC 3131773Freely accessible. PMID 21760690. 
  13. ^ a b "Oil-Swishing Craze". 
  14. ^ a b c "Does oil pulling work?". 
  15. ^ a b c Cheshire, Sara (August 6, 2014). "Does oil pulling work?". CNN. 
  16. ^ a b "Live Well: Oil pulling draws fans, skeptics in Colorado Springs". 
  17. ^ "Review of "Wonderful Therapy Oil Pulling" book". 
  18. ^ "Oil Pulling for a Brighter Smile and Better Health". 
  19. ^ "Folk Remedy from Russia:Oil Therapy by Dr. Karach" (PDF). 
  20. ^ "Oil Pulling: Miracle Treatment or Woo Mouthwash?". 
  21. ^ "Will oil pulling reverse cavities?". 
  22. ^ http://www.drcharlesdixon.com/images/PULLING%20OIL%20article.pdf PULLING OIL - The Oil Treatment of Dr. Karach
  23. ^ http://www.scribd.com/doc/85039940/Wonderful-Therapy-Oil-Pulling-Self-Help-Cure-for-Diseases-Tummala-Koteswara-Rao Wonderful Therapy - Oil Pulling[unreliable medical source?][full citation needed][page needed]
  24. ^ Harnisch, Günter. The oil pulling therapy. [full citation needed][page needed]
  25. ^ a b David Frej; George Kuchar. Detoxification healing oils. [page needed][full citation needed]
  26. ^ "Ayurvedic regeneration with detoxification". [self-published source?]
  27. ^ Van Allen, Jennifer (June 6, 2014). "Coconut: Super healthful, or just super trendy?". Times Online. 
  28. ^ Lakshmi, T; Rajendran, R; Krishnan, Vidya (2013). "Perspectives of oil pulling therapy in dental practice". Dental Hypotheses. 4 (4): 131–4. doi:10.4103/2155-8213.122675. 
  29. ^ "Is 'oil pulling' the new mouthwash?". 
  30. ^ "What Is Oil Pulling (And Is It Worth Trying)?". Huffpost Living. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 
  31. ^ a b c "Faculty of Dentistry, Leslie Laing, explains Oil Pulling practice". 
  32. ^ "Oil pulling: Holistic technique believed to improve your oral health". Gaston Gazette. 
  33. ^ http://jonbarron.org/article/oil-pulling-detoxing#.U5hlU3afWmw Oil Pulling For Detoxing?
  34. ^ a b "Oil Pulling Your Leg". 
  35. ^ Saini, Rajiv; Saini, Santosh; Sharma, Sugandha (2011). "Ayurveda and herbs in dental health". AYU. 32 (2): 285–6. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.92542. PMC 3296356Freely accessible. PMID 22408318. 
  36. ^ Laughter, Lory. "A second look at oil pulling as dental home care therapy". RDH. 
  37. ^ "Dr James Goolnik says - I wouldn't recommend it as a replacement for oral care and hygiene". 
  38. ^ "Should you try oil pulling". 
  39. ^ Gray, Barbara Bronson (April 18, 2014). "Oil-Swishing Craze". 
  40. ^ "Oil Pulling: Does it Really Work?". 
  41. ^ a b Anna Lazowski (5 June 2014). "Oil pulling: Ancient practice now a modern trend". CBC News. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  42. ^ Hannig, Christian; Kirsch, Jasmin; Al-Ahmad, Ali; Kensche, Anna; Hannig, Matthias; Kümmerer, Klaus (2012). "Do edible oils reduce bacterial colonization of enamel in situ?". Clinical Oral Investigations. 17 (2): 649–58. doi:10.1007/s00784-012-0734-0. PMID 22552590. 
  43. ^ "The Benefit of Oil Pulling". [self-published source?]
  44. ^ Thaweboon, Sroisiri; Nakaparksin, Jurai; Thaweboon, Boonyanit (2011). "Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models" (PDF). Asia Journal of Public Health. 2 (2): 62–6. 
  45. ^ "Coconut Oil Stops Strep from Damaging Tooth Enamel". [unreliable medical source?]
  46. ^ Enig, Mary (25 April 1996). Health and Nutritional Benefits from Coconut Oil: An Important Functional Food for the 21st Century. AVOC Lauric Oils Symposium. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 
  47. ^ "The Best Oil for Oil Pulling Therapy". 
  48. ^ Kabara, Jon J., ed. (1978). Symposium on the Pharmacological Effects of Lipids. American Oil Chemists' Society. OCLC 5446619. [page needed]
  49. ^ Soukoulis, S.; Hirsch, R. (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. PMID 15293818. 
  50. ^ "Home remedies: Tea tree oil, oil pulling, and effects on oral health". [unreliable medical source?]
  51. ^ Stoeken, Judith E.; Paraskevas, Spiros; Van Der Weijden, Godefridus A. (2007). "The Long-Term Effect of a Mouthrinse Containing Essential Oils on Dental Plaque and Gingivitis: A Systematic Review". Journal of Periodontology. 78 (7): 1218–28. doi:10.1902/jop.2007.060269. PMID 17608576. 
  52. ^ "Coconut oil could combat tooth decay". 
  53. ^ "AIT researchers show coconut oil could combat tooth decay" (Press release). Athlone Institute of Technology. 3 September 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  54. ^ "Is coconut oil the new Listerine?". 
  55. ^ Kensche, A.; Reich, M.; Kümmerer, K.; Hannig, M.; Hannig, C. (2012). "Lipids in preventive dentistry". Clinical Oral Investigations. 17 (3): 669–85. doi:10.1007/s00784-012-0835-9. PMID 23053698. 
  56. ^ "Ask the Experts: Should you try oil pulling?". 
  57. ^ "Oil Pulling: Does it live up to the hype?". 
  58. ^ "Does 'Oil-Pulling' Actually Have Health Benefits?". 
  59. ^ Kim, Jae Yeol; Jung, Jae Woo; Choi, Jae Chol; Shin, Jong Wook; Park, In Won; Choi, Byoung Whui (2014). "Recurrent lipoid pneumonia associated with oil pulling [Correspondence]". The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. 18 (2): 251–2. doi:10.5588/ijtld.13.0852. PMID 24429325. 
  60. ^ "Allergy to coconut oil". 
  61. ^ http://nationaleczema.org/contact-dermatitis-coconut-fatty-acids/ Contact Dermatitis and Coconut Fatty Acids
  62. ^ "Is Oil Pulling as good for you as everyone says it is?". 
  63. ^ "Oil Pulling: Benefits & Side Effects". 
  64. ^ "'Oil Pulling' trend claims to whiten teeth, improve health". 
  65. ^ "Oil-Pulling: Fact Or Fad?". 

External links[edit]

  • "The Practice of Oil Pulling". Science in the News. American Dental Association (ADA). April 14, 2014. Provides a brief overview on the practice, health claims associated with oil pulling, and information on the lack of science to support use of this technique for any oral or general health benefit