If you can handle the taste and the jaw workout, oil pulling is gaining popularity as a natural dental hygiene and health boosting practice. Though it’s becoming more and more popular, oil pulling is no new trend. Claimed by ancient Indian medicine to cure over 30 diseases, oil pulling has been in practice for around 3000 years. While scientific studies and evidence are limited, the reviews of user’s strongly support using oil pulling for dental care, headache relief, hangover prevention, skin impurities, digestive issues, and more.

Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil

coconut-oil

What, exactly, is oil pulling? The process is simple, yet tiring. While most recommend using extra virgin coconut oil, those who regularly oil pull use sesame oil, olive oil, or safflower oil. We will discuss the pros and cons of each of these, later. To reap the benefits of oil pulling, swish one tablespoon of oil in your mouth for about 20 minutes, then spit it out. This process is said to help rid the body of toxins as the oil, a fat, and latches onto the fatty cell membranes surrounding bacterial microorganisms in the mouth. So, when you spit out the oil, the plaque and bad breath-causing bacteria leave the body with it. The benefits of oil pulling discussed in this article pertain to using coconut oil. We will explore the use of other oils towards the end of the article.

Oil Pulling Benefits

Is it a hoax or a health and beauty miracle? Coconut oil in particular has antimicrobial properties, proving it effective in killing the Streptococcus Mutans bacteria in the mouth – the bacteria that causes bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. The limitation here is that coconut oil and oil pulling cannot reverse present gum disease or tooth decay (i.e. your cavity will not magically disappear). It is important to maintain regular dental hygiene by continuing to brush and floss teeth even while oil pulling.

Though there is little scientific evidence, some doctors and dentists have endorsed oil pulling as an effective, natural substitute for mouth wash and have supported claims that it can increase dental health. Oil pulling boasts other potential benefits such as headache and hangover relief, skin improvement, digestive ease, and weight loss. These additional benefits have not been scientifically supported, though we will discuss the reviews below.

How to Oil Pull

oil-pulling-how-to

Though the process of oil pulling is rather simplistic, it can be a challenge to stomach the taste and texture. Oil pulling involves swishing one tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 20 minutes as you extract the toxins and bacteria from the mouth, then spitting out the oil. Most agree that 20 minutes of swishing takes some practice, so start with 5 minutes every other day. As you gain a tolerance for the taste and texture, you can increase to 10 minutes daily to begin reaping some benefits. Eventually, work your way up to 20 minutes each day. The longer you swish the oil around, the more bacteria you will extract from your mouth, thus increasing the benefit. Also note that you should just gently swish the oil; the motion does not have to be aggressive to be effective. Another common complaint is that your jaw will quickly tire, so working your way up to 20 minutes will train you to tolerate the taste and strengthen the jaw muscles.

Oil pulling is best performed on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. After you’ve eaten something throughout the day, your body secretes less saliva. Saliva contains enzymes that go out into the body and pick up toxins and bacteria that will then latch on to the oil. If you oil pull on an empty stomach, you can trigger the maximum amount of saliva possible, making this the most effective time. Due to the texture and taste, oil pulling has also been reported to cause feelings of nausea, which can be less likely or less severe if done on an empty stomach.

It should be noted that swishing with oil is true oil pulling, though many consider consuming oil or applying it topically to be oil pulling, as well. In this article, oil pulling will be considered swishing oil in the mouth, unless otherwise stated. Both of these methods host their own array of benefits, and will also be investigated further.

How Does Oil Pulling Work

Your body is filled with bacteria. A gross but true fact. Bacteria consist of a single cell surrounded by a protective membrane made up of fat. Oil is also a fat. The fat of the oil binds to the fatty cell membrane of the bacteria. As you swish the oil around your mouth or apply it topically, bacteria are drawn out from the surface of your mouth, gums, teeth, and skin. After you spit out the oil or wipe it off of your skin, the bacteria from the top layers of skin or teeth are disposed with it. Though there is a lack of evidence, some sources state that if you ingest oil, the bacteria in your body adheres to the oil as it moves through your digestive tract and is expelled, taking the bacteria and toxins with it.

Oil Pulling Reviews

While there are countless user reviews of oil pulling, there is very little scientific evidence of the additional health benefits aside from dental health. The Indian medicinal practice has reportedly helped users cure bad breath whiten teeth, strength jaw, teeth, and gums, relieve sinus congestion, cure headaches and migraines, reduce arthritis inflammation, increase energy, clear skin, reduce hangovers, and improve sleep. Positive reviews and results were achieved by regularly oil pulling for 20 minutes per day for several weeks. Again, with the exception of dental benefits, these benefits are backed solely by user’s feedback.

With all of these health-enhancing claims, the only seemingly negative reviews from those who have tried oil pulling are the taste, texture, and amount of time before results appear. The wait period for results varies depending on the desired benefit and will be discussed further.

Oil Pulling Results

Oil Pulling For Teeth

oil-pulling-for-teeth

While reading through research and reviews regarding oil pulling, the very first thing each source cited was the dental health benefits, followed by a note from a dentist. Dentists urge those who use oil pulling to better their dental hygiene to not replace normal dental care – keep brushing, keep flossing. So, don’t go clearing out your medicine cabinet just yet. Oil pulling is no miracle cure, though it is a very beneficial dental hygiene staple.

After as little as two weeks, tooth sensitivity begins to diminish, teeth appear whiter, and gums become healthier. While some users have reported “disappearing cavities,” dentists disagree that oil pulling can cure or reverse previously done damage. Oil pull-ers and dentists do agree, however, that oil pulling results in a cleaner mouth with less plaque on teeth and fewer bacteria in the mouth. Three months of regular oil pulling is recommended to see full benefits.

It has recently been discovered that dental health plays a large role in cardiovascular health. While the method that supports the relation of mouth bacteria and heart disease is not entirely clear, there is a probable explanation. Those who suffer from periodontis – a condition in which the tissue that supports the teeth begins to erode from bacteria – may release mouth bacteria into the blood stream via chewing and tooth brushing. Those bacteria may make its way through the blood stream and into the arteries, building up as plaque and eventually contributing to heart attack. Another explanation is that inflammation in the mouth as a result of bacteria and plaque build-up may increase inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Therefore, keeping the mouth healthy and free of bacteria via oil pulling may also promote heart health.

Oil Pulling for Digestive Conditions

oil-pulling-digestive-conditions

Some who suffer from acid reflux (also known as GERD), Crohn’s Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome have praised oil pulling as a natural relief from their symptoms. While there is no scientific support for this, some reviewer’s report that ingesting 3 tablespoons of coconut oil daily in addition to oil pulling with 1 tablespoon each morning has proven to help ease their digestive processes and limit symptoms. Consuming coconut oil may help remove bacteria from the intestines as well as coat the esophageal wall, soothing reflux and aiding in the digestive process.

Oil Pulling For Acne

oil-pulling-acne

Those who suffer from acne, particularly adult acne, may be able to find relief from the constant struggle through oil pulling. This use has mixed reviews, potentially due to the visual results through the oil pulling process. Most report that acne may appear to generously worsen before the oil pulling technique takes full effect to reveal smooth, clear skin. This was not the case for all reviewers, though it seemed to be a common frustration. Most who continued daily oil pulling even through the flare up found that using oil topically and consuming oil helped smooth their skin and diminish acne and acne scars.

When combined with a healthy diet, oil pulling may reduce the appearance of acne due to its ability to remove bacteria. Coconut oil contains natural acids, acids that may kill acne-causing bacteria that can only survive if the body is overly toxic. Oil pulling may reduce inflammation and kill those bacteria. The vitamin E found in oil may also help heal skin and scars, clear blocked pores, and restore the skin’s protective layer.

To include topical application of oil in your oil pulling regimen, apply a small amount to your finger tips and rub into your face, making small circles. Wipe your face with a warm cloth to remove the excess oil and impurities that have been released.

Oil Pulling For Weight Loss

oil-pulling-weight-loss

If you are still on the hunt for the magical weight loss remedy, you may need to keep searching. While many sources claim that oil pulling can aid in and cause weight loss, there are no documented studies supporting those claims. While oil pulling can do wonders for oral health, it is not clear what properties of oil would promote weight loss.

It is true; however, that a body free of toxins is able to better function. So, if your body is functioning optimally, oil pulling may potentially ease the weight loss process through proper nutrition and exercise.

There are also claims that oil pulling with coconut oil has helped people burn fat. Coconut oil itself is a fat, but due to its make-up it is a different fat than what most of us consume on a typical day. Coconut oil has a thermogenic effect on the body, increasing the body’s energy expenditure (also known as calorie burn) more than the same amount of calories from other fats. So, if coconut oil is consumed in the amount of 1-3 tablespoons per day, in please of other food sources of fat, some studies suggest that metabolism may be increased by about 120 calories per day.

I did read many reviews from people who regularly oil pull and consume coconut oil who claim that it helped reduce their appetite, therefore causing them to consume fewer calories and potentially drop a few pounds. This claim may be supported by one study in which 40 women were given 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to consume (note: consuming oil is not conventional oil pulling) while they walked daily and slightly decreased their calories consumed. The group of women lost an average of 2 pounds, their HDL (good) cholesterol levels increased, and they lost an average of about an inch of fat around their midsections (Authority Nutrition). However, since the group increased their physical activity and decreased the amount of calories they consumed, it cannot be determined whether the weight loss was a result of the activity, calories, or oil consumption.

Oil Pulling Detox

oil-pulling-detox

Doesn’t it seem like you can detox with anything these days? Well, add oil to the list. Consuming oil throughout the day as a means of detoxification of the body is said to help with eczema, jock itch, yeast infection, and conservative weight loss. To detox with oil, consume 1 to 2 tablespoon of coconut oil throughout the day, up to 14 tablespoons. If that is too much to stomach or the taste becomes too pungent, you can mix plain yogurt or lemon juice with the oil to mask the taste. The coconut oil detox provides your body with energy as you restrict your calorie consumption for 3 to 7 days. While it is most important to not consume carbs or sugar during the detox, it is most effective if no other food is consumed throughout the process. Coconut oil is a healthy fat that provides your body with energy and minimal calories during the cleansing process. By not expending energy digesting foods, your body is able to direct all energy on the detoxifying process and flushing out toxins. It is best to use raw, organic, extra virgin coconut oil for a detox. Read the label and be sure it contains unrefined, cold-pressed, and unbleached coconut oil. Finding this pure form of coconut oil is also essential to your detox, as you will be sure not to invite other toxins or unnatural bi-products into your diet when consuming the oil. To facilitate the potentially cleansing benefits of a coconut oil detox, drink more water than you typically would consume on a normal diet. Again, the benefits of an oil pulling detox are not proven, but the idea behind the detox is that when calories are kept at a minimum, the body focuses on cleansing. Using coconut oil as the fuel for the cleanse may add additional benefits as the oil acts as a magnet for bacteria and toxins, potentially aiding in their removal.

Oil Pulling Keratosis Pilaris

oil-pulling-keratosis-pilaris

Often referred to as chicken skin, Keratosis Pilaris is a skin condition which appears as red, rough bumps on the skin surface. Typically these bumps appear on the back of the arms, though the pesky condition can pop up on any skin surface. Keratosis Pilaris is not contagious and is typically a genetic condition passed along blood lines. Those who suffer the itch and unwanted appearance of Keratosis Pilaris often search near and far for relief from the condition, some resolving to try oil pulling as a natural remedy. To test this method for skin relief, use the swish method for 10-20 minutes at least 4 days per week. Consistent oil pulling may improve skin appearance and texture, based on user reviews. Reports of improved skin are not backed by scientific research as controlled studies have not yet been performed.

Oil Pulling with Other Oils

While oil pulling can be done with multiple types of oils, reviewers seem to agree that coconut oil delivers the best results. Aside from coconut oil, those who oil pull have used olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower and safflower oil. If being used for dental health, swishing with coconut oil proves to be your best bet as it is the only oil with antifungal and antiviral properties that give it the power to kill the bacteria Streptococcus Mutans, the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Coconut oil also seems to be the most effective for teeth whitening, as it pulls the stains, decay, and bacteria from the surface of the teeth.

Oil Pulling with Olive Oil

olive-oil

While some may prefer the familiar, savory taste of olive oil over coconut oil, studies have shown that it is not particularly effective in removing or reducing the biofilm (plaque build-up) on tooth enamel. Consuming olive oil, not the traditional form of oil pulling, may have health benefits. Olive oil contains healthy fats that protect the heart, reduce inflammation, and protect skin from UV rays. Olive oil is also packed with antioxidants, upping its beneficial properties. Consuming around 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your diet with other foods can potentially lead to these benefits.

Oil Pulling with Sesame Oil

sesame-oil

Sesame oil is full of vitamins and nutrients and is particularly high in copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. These nutrients make sesame oil beneficial for skin conditions, as it can help repair damaged tissue and promote collagen production. Sesame oil has been used topically for sunburns and other skin conditions.

Until coconut oil gained popularity among natural health and beauty supporters, sesame oil was the most widely used substance for oil pulling. While some prefer the taste of sesame oil over the thick consistency of coconut oil, it has been proven less effective than coconut oil in preventing Streptococcus Mutans from coating the teeth and promoting tooth decay. Oil pulling with sesame oil via the swishing method does benefit dental hygiene by ridding bad breath and protecting the mouth against gingivitis. Sufferers of dry mouth may find relief by oil pulling with sesame oil as it provides moisture to the mouth and gums.

Oil Pulling with Sunflower Oil

sunflower-oil

Similar to olive and sesame oil, sunflower oil has not been proven to prevent tooth decay or plaque build-up. However, applied topically, sunflower oil may have potential skin benefits. Applying a mixture of 20% castor oil and 80% sunflower oil to the face in circular motions in place of regular face wash may lead to clear, blackhead and blemish-free, glowing skin. After massaging into the skin for about 30 seconds, gently remove the mixture with a hot wash cloth. Similar to using oil pulling for acne relief, this process may lead to increased skin issues before results appear. Those who regularly cleanse their skin with an oil mixture state that 2 to 3 weeks of consistency is typical before seeing dramatic results. So, if you can stick with it and look past the blemishes, cleansing your face with sunflower oil and pulling out impurities the natural way may be for you!

To round things up…

The benefits discussed in this article have been found to be most apparent through the use of coconut oil. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which gives the oil antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil is therefore effective in removing bacteria from the surface of the mouth (or skin if applied topically). Coconut oil’s ability to improve oral health can lead to total health benefits, as poor oral hygiene can increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease. It is important to note, however, that oil pulling cleanses the surface of the mouth, about a millimetre deep. Bacteria can live deep into the body, so it is essential to maintain regular tooth brushing and flossing, as well as keep up with regular dentist visits to assure optimal dental health.

Coconut oil hosts an array of additional benefits if applied topically to the skin. Many people swear by coconut oil as a moisturizing and facial cleanser. Full of protein, vitamin E, lauric acid, and saturated fats, coconut oil is an ideal anti-aging serum and skin softener. The protein in coconut oil promotes cell health and tissue repair and growth, improving the protective layer of your skin. Lauric acid can disinfect the skin and protect the surface of the skin from infection. Saturated fats keep the skin smooth to the touch and promote even skin tone. To apply topically, apply a small amount of liquid or solid coconut oil on your palms and massage them into your face or your body. With coconut oil, less is more – you will quickly become aware if you are using too much as your skin will appear shiny and greasy. If that occurs, simply wipe the excess off with a dry cloth. There are currently ongoing scientific studies being performed to prove or disprove whether this method of moisturizing can cure skin conditions such as Psoriasis, eczema, and acne, as users report.

While oil pulling boasts many potential benefits, as with most health and diet supplements, there are a few downsides and potential side effects. Oil pulling can aid in your dental care routine, but again should not serve as a replacement for regular brushing and flossing. The natural extraction process can replace store-bought mouth wash, but is significantly more time consuming that swishing mouth wash for a minute. The longer you swish, the more bacteria are extracted. The long duration of swishing can also lead to muscular stiffness around the jaw and face and some users report developing dry mouth. It is also important to dispose of the used oil in the trash, rather than the drain, to avoid clogging the plumbing. Detoxing through oil pulling may lead to feelings of exhaustion and nausea, which are common side effects of any cleanse due to the lack of calorie consumption and the amount of effort the body puts in to dispelling toxins.

My Experiment…

oil-pulling-my-experiment

After spending significant time researching the topic and recording my findings, I thought I’d give this practice a try myself. I will be very candid and admit that this at-home experiment only lasted me 4 days, partially due to the fact that I ran out of coconut oil (I used what I had left from a previously purchased jar), and partially because I wasn’t fond of the texture. The first time I tried oil pulling, I very quickly realized that I used too much coconut oil. It was hard to swish without having the urge to swallow or spit some out, so I quickly spat out the mouthful and tried again, pouring a bit less. After gathering the strength to swish for 4 minutes on day one and working up to 11 minutes the following days, I found myself brushing my teeth for an excessively long time to achieve the minty sensation I feel after mouth wash and brushing. Though the swishing and the oil made my teeth feel smooth to the touch, they almost felt slimy and I couldn’t shake the thought that perhaps all the bacteria I loosened through swishing was still lingering in my mouth since I wasn’t left with the after burn of typical mouth wash. User’s reports of jaw stiffness and soreness rang true for me – swishing for a long period of time truly was tiring!

Remembering to spit the oil in the trash was also a challenge for me the first time I swished, as it’s just not an ordinary part of my dental routine. Though a single disposal of oil won’t harm the pipes, if I do pick up this practice again I will be sure to use the trash. While my teeth may have looked whiter after my short bout with oil pulling, I’ll be very honest and say I may have been imagining this – most who oil pull have stated it takes a couple weeks to actually see a difference. Perhaps I was eager to see visible results from my hard work! Aside from pseudo-whiteness, I didn’t notice any other benefits from my time spent swishing. No more energy (unfortunately), my skin didn’t look any different (I did wake up to one zit, but that is likely unrelated), and my weight and appetite were unaffected. Again, I didn’t stick with oil pulling as long as most recommend, so perhaps others will have more success should they choose to give it a go.

Conclusion…

All in all, oil pulling may not be all it’s cracked up to be due to the lack of supportive evidence and the vast time commitment. Though the effects of swishing oil in the mouth have shown a decrease in mouth bacteria and plaque, this may also be due to the mechanism of swishing for a long period of time, rather than the substance itself. The additional benefits of skin clarity, energy, digestive ease, and more, are completely based on user reports, and the method through which these benefits are achieved is unexplored and unsupported by scientific evidence.

Due to the lack of concrete evidence, there does not seem to be any large reason to recommend oil pulling or swishing over traditional and trusted dental care. The convenience of swishing mouth wash for a fraction of the time it is recommended to swish oil may be hard to replace being that both practices seem to result in the same benefits. Those who are supportive of natural health and beauty care may opt for oil pulling via swishing and the topical method over synthetic, store-bought products. However, there is no significantly supportive evidence that this will boast whiter and cleaner teeth, better digestion and weight loss, or clearer skin than those who maintain typical dental and skin care.

Since there seems to be very little risk of serious side effects of opting for oil pulling methods over other self-care methods, there is no harm in experimenting with the practice to see if you experience positive results. Though long-lasting, this may be one beauty and health trend that will become popular for many, and remain disbelief to others.

Manon McGovern

Manon McGovern, creator of The Traveling Trainer, is a fitness and weight management specialist who loves sharing her passion for a healthy lifestyle. She studied Exercise Science at The Ohio State University and started personal training and teaching group exercise classes to introduce herself into the fitness world. She enjoys personal training and teaching Yoga, Spinning, KickBoxing, and strength classes. Now working... Read More

Get the FitBodyHQ Newsletter (it's filled with good stuff!)
Every week we'll send you more stuff we think you'll love.
Loading more awesome...
Load More