Oil pulling is nothing new, but over the last few months it has gained some serious popularity and with all these alleged benefits, we can see why. From whitening your teeth to helping prevent kidney failure, oil pulling has some incredible health credentials. But what the hell is it?
The practice first originated in naturopathic Ayurvedic medicine over 3000 years ago and is still practiced in India, reintroduced here in the States by Dr. F. Karach, M.D. in 1992.
The technique is very simple, just take spoonful of vegetable oil - be it sesame seed oil, olive oil or coconut oil - and swish it around in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. Work the oil around your mouth by pushing and pulling it through your teeth and around your gums. Do this one to three times a day, on a empty stomach. After swishing, spit out the oil into a trash can (not the sink or toilet!).
Let's be honest, the first time you try this technique, it will not be pretty. Oil is thick and will collect all those nasty germs sitting in your mouth. Plus, swishing for 15 to 20 minutes may be difficult on your jaw muscles the first few times, but the end result is totally worth it!
But before we go onto the benefits, we've said it a million times: there is no true miracle cure for all your ails. Although oil pulling can come close, it should still be approached with some skepticism. If you have really bad acne for example, oil pulling alone won't cure you completely - but that's not to say it won't help.
So we spoke to Dr. Bruce Fife, who runs the Coconut Research Center in Colorado and wrote the book Oil Pulling Therapy, to get to the bottom of all the misconceptions and proven benefits of oil pulling.
What benefits does oil pulling actually have?
"There are numerable benefits," Dr. Fife says. "Teeth become whiter, breath becomes fresher, gums become pink and healthier, gums stop bleeding, the gum line tightens up around the base of the teeth, incidence of cavities and gingivitis dramatically decrease, even deep seated oral infections are greatly improved if not totally healed."
Sounds pretty great, right? But what Dr. Fife says most people don't recognize is that the mouth and oral health can have a huge affect on the body's health in general.
"What happens in one area of the body, including the mouth, does affect the rest of the body," Dr. Fife explains. "In fact, what happens in the mouth can have a very pronounced effect on the entire body. It has been well documented that bacteria in the mouth can migrate from the mouth to any area of the body adversely affecting the skin, brain, joints, kidneys, arteries, heart, and any other organ."
Since oil pulling pulls germs out of the mouth, it keeps all those germs from migrating around the body and causing you problems. Meaning, by adding oil pulling into your routine, you'll supposedly be at a lower risk of heart failure, dementia, arthritis, skin breakouts, and dangerous blood sugar levels.
How does oil pulling work?
The thick oil, Dr. Fife says, "'pulls' bacteria, viruses, fungi, puss, mucous, and other toxic material out of the mouth, creating a healthier oral environment."
You may ask yourself at this point, "What the difference is between oil pulling and just using your standard antibacterial mouthwash every day?" Dr. Fife has the answer: the results that make all the difference.
"Have you ever heard of anyone using antibacterial mouthwash and claiming it suddenly whitened their chronic yellow teeth, healed their bleeding gums, or stopped an oral infection? Or that it cured them of arthritis, helped balance their blood sugar levels, prevented skin outbreaks, or gave them more energy? These are conditions that are reported with oil pulling."
Is it for real?
We admit, the scientific proof for all these benefits is thin on the ground. However, according to the handful of actual clinical trials, oil pulling does indeed improve oral health as a preventative measure, though oil pulling for a week will not suddenly make you the paragon of health.
As with most healthy practices, it needs to be a real part of your lifestyle for you to feel the awesome benefits and filter down into other areas of the body. And while you should always visit your physician when facing serious medical problems, adding oil pulling to your daily routine certainly wouldn't hurt!
For accurate information and scientific studies on oil pulling, check out Dr. Fife's book Oil Pulling Therapy.
Will you be trying out oil pulling? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!