A Health Enhancing Practice

Compilation: Dr Sandi Nye

Aromatherapists usually know a lot about the benefits of using natural oils – both volatile/essential oils and fixed/carrier oils – but how much do they know about the ancient treatment of oil pulling?

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling refers to swishing oil in the mouth as a cleansing procedure and is a form of natural oral hygiene.

This tried and tested method of intensive cleansing has been enjoying a modern resurgence since the early 1990s, when it was popularized by a medical doctor, Dr. F. Karach. I, however, first became aware of this ancient practice during my Ayurvedic medicine training in 1995.

Oil pulling is a simple and inexpensive treatment that not only effectively cleanses the mouth, but also simultaneously supports the gums and whitens the teeth’s appearance.

Coconut oil uses you will love! - By Cocobaci Oil Pulling

Bugs in the ‘beak’ – So to speak

It’s no secret that several potentially pathogenic organisms reside in the mouth e.g. Streptococcus and Candida, which can cause illness if the immune system does not keep them under control.  An Indian study, relative to the effect of oil pulling and oral bacterial count, was conducted in 2008.  It concluded that sesame oil [the oil used for this particular study] exhibited antibacterial activity against Strep. Mutans, lactobacilli, as well as total oral bacteria.

What can it do for your health?

While most of us wouldn’t dream of not brushing out teeth or flossing, this practice is relatively new and only became the norm in the early 1900s. Before that time, our ancestors cleaned their teeth with bits of chewed twig or oil-pulling! Their teeth also benefited from the lack of very refined foods—especially sugary food and drink or phytic acid laden grains.

Frequently Asked Questions About Oil Pulling:

According to Dr. Karach the beauty of this method of oral hygiene lies in its simplicity.

Simply slowly swish between 10ml-30ml of your oil of choice in your mouth, ‘pulling’, pushing and munching it between your teeth in a relaxed fashion, for about 15-20 minutes.

You may notice that as the process continues, the oil tends to gets thinner and becomes white or creamy coloured [depending on which oil is used]. This is completely normal and is just a mixture of saliva, mucus, and accumulated debris.”

Apparently swishing activates enzymes in the saliva and these enzymes draw toxins out of the blood.  However, don’t swallow the mixture that results from the procedure, as that defeats the purpose of the treatment!

When you’re done spit it out, rinse your mouth, and brush your teeth. Rinsing with warm, sea-salt water is also recommended.

It helps quell the gag reflex if you tilt your chin down or lean forward a bit, as opposed to tilting your head back and letting it hit the back of your throat.

Ideally, first thing in the morning – before drinking or eating anything, and before brushing your teeth – since this is when the accumulated gunk from the sleeping hours is lurking in greatest quantity.  Morning breath confirms this!

In addition, if you do start feeling a bit green around the gills from the process or taste, it’s a lot more pleasant if you have an empty stomach.

It can however also be done at night, 3-4 hours after dinner, if mornings aren’t your thing.

Daily or 3-4x per week – depending on individual need or preference.  It can even be done 2-3x a day, for short periods of time. But, always before meals, or on an empty stomach i.e. 3-4 hours after a meal has been digested.

As long as you like, or until you see improvement.

Not usually, but If you do experience a bit of stiff jaw or muscle tightness in the cheeks, just relax your face more when doing it or don’t swish and pull too vigorously and it should subside.

If you experience a release of mucus in your throat or nose, simply blow your nose before you start.

Sometimes symptoms may feel initially worse, but this is usually a reaction to the treatment working. If you keep going, this should pass.

Yep – children can also do this but with less quantity of oil [5ml], provided they have sufficient control not to swallow the oil.

According to the Coconut Research Center: ‘Oil pulling will not and cannot loosen properly placed crowns or fillings.  The only time oil pulling will affect crowns or fillings is if the teeth underneath have decayed and are full of infection.  In this case, the foundation on which the crowns or fillings are secured to is is badly decayed and unable to hold the dental material. Oil pulling simply cleanses the mouth and teeth. It cannot pull out porcelain, amalgam, or composite dental materials from the teeth.’

If in doubt about oil pulling consult a biological dentist for an opinion.

Upping the ‘ANTE’ with Essential Oils!

In closing, adding a few drops of essential oil to your daily oil pulling dose can enhance the therapy.  About 1 drop per 5ml is usually palatable and effective and a good starting dilution.  Organic essential oils are preferential.

Aromatherapists will be able to work out which oils are best for various indications but, in general, spearmint, peppermint, lemon, orange, grapefruit, and fennel are good basic oils to start with. They can be used either alone or combined. Other oils, like oregano, tea tree, and myrrh are also often suggested, but they’re an acquired taste. Although many people refer to clove oil has a suggested enhancement, be cautious as it’s highly potent and can burn the oral mucosa if used improperly—so take care.