I stumbled across the idea of oil pulling a few years back around the start of my sugar free health journey. I had noticed that my nerves were suddenly just not handling caffeine well. I was getting jittery with just one or two cups in the morning. It was starting to make my heart race a bit. I felt jumpy and unsettled.
It was so uncomfortable I started considering giving it up, at least temporarily. But I was so not looking forward to the caffeine withdrawal symptoms that would certainly ensue. The resources I had come across at that time touted oil pulling as practically a miracle process for anything in the body, so I thought I would try it.
The resources I found at that time basically described that the swishing around of coconut oil in your mouth would “pull out” toxicity along the same routes that disease can spread from the mouth to the rest of the body. I can’t say I totally understood how it was supposed to work, but I figured there was probably little likelihood of doing any harm and it might actually work.
The result? Amazing! I woke up the next morning and oil pulled for about 15 minutes while getting ready for work and skipped the coffee. I downed a bunch of water to flush my kidneys and support my general recovery process. And despite kinda expecting at least some mild miserable headache to come, I felt fine. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop later that day, but nothing bad happened! And within the next few days, I noticed having more stable energy available without the caffeine than I had with it.
Just an aside: this season of caffeine-free living only lasted a short while but for my body for that season I believe it was a necessary adjustment.
After my experience with oil pulling, I became a pretty big fan of the process. But the truth is, just like many of you, I just don’t have 15-20 minutes consistently to put towards oil pulling. So I wanted to dive into the research to understand when it’s really beneficial, how it works, what exactly is reasonable to expect and even if my own results were normal.
What is oil pulling?
I should probably pause to acknowledge that if you aren’t in the health food, crunchy granola crowd, you might not have heard of oil pulling at all before. Oil pulling, also known as Kavala Graha or Gandusha, is basically an oral care routine that involves swishing about a tablespoon of oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Sound gross? It honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Ideally, it’s performed in the morning before eating or drinking anything. I always recommend if you are going to do it to include it in your shower routine because you typically don’t have to talk to people in there.
Oil Pulling Health Claims vs the Research
I have collected the major health claims of oil pulling from various websites and I have looked through all of the medical research articles to compare. Does that sound like it took a long time? Not really, because there are literally less than 2 dozen articles in published medical journals available to review. So that lets you know that our current scientific understanding of this process is limited at best.
- Health Claims of Oil Pulling Enthusiasts
- Overall strengthening of teeth, gums and jaw
- Plaque prevention
- Preventing halitosis
- Prevention of lip, mouth, and throat dryness
- Prevention of cavities and diseases such as gingivitis
- Home remedy for jaw soreness and TMJ pain
- Relief of migraine headaches
- Hormone imbalance correction
- Inflammation reduction
- Support of normal kidney function
- Relief from sinus congestion
- Relief from eczema
- Improved vision
- Pain reduction
- Aids in detoxification
- Help with insomnia
There is support for plaque prevention in adolescents, but needs more research to truly understand this process and how effective it is and in what context.
Halitosis prevention was one of the most proven claims as several articles suggest that oil pulling is as effective as a commonly prescribed antibiotic mouthwash in addressing bad breath/ halitosis symptoms. That same article also demonstrates support for the prevention of plaque-induced gingivitis.
The most startling and supportive article I found compared oil pulling to an antibiotic mouthwash in cavity treatment. Both were shown to be equally effective, with oil pulling providing increased relief of symptoms over the antibiotic treatment.
The remaining health claims are currently unsubstantiated by the available research. But honestly if you are suffering from something and desperate to find something to help, oil pulling is an easy home remedy to try that might give good results even if you can’t explain exactly how or why.
The Bottom Line on Oil Pulling
Perhaps the most commonly cited concern by most dentists is that oil pulling has not been demonstrated to be a replacement for brushing your teeth. And on this point, I would agree.
However, I do think it’s a beneficial option to supplementing your dental health regime and is probably much more beneficial than the chemical-laden antibacterial mouthwashes that are available on the market. I would highly recommend being careful with your oil sources though. Make sure it’s food grade from reliable brands.
If you are serious about doing it often, check out this recipe for oil pulling chews.
So, what do you think? Totally weird and gross? Willing to give it a try? Or maybe you’ve tried it… I would love to hear your experience in the comments.
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