Oil Pulling..... oil in your mouth for how long?!?!?

Today I’d like to chat about oil pulling.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the practice, oil pulling consists of swishing oil around in your mouth every morning for 5-20 minutes. Usually it’s done with sesame oil or sunflower oil. It was practiced in ancient India and proponents claim that it pulls toxins from the blood and they adhere to the oil and it cleanses your entire body. They declare it the miracle cure for a list of ailments so long and severe that no reasonable person could possibly not question it’s merits. Here’s one such list from the so-aptly-named-how-can-it-possibly-be-biased website oilpulling.com:
“head-aches, bronchitis, tooth pain, thrombosis, eczema, ulcers and diseases of stomach, intestines, heart, blood, kidney, liver, lungs and women’s diseases. It heals diseases of nerves, paralysis, and encephalitis. It prevents the growth of malignant tumors, cuts and heals them. Chronic sleeplessness is cured.”
OK, so I’m not really on that train, but I totally dig all things homeopathic and the idea that it may do something good is not absurd, so I decided to look a little further. Unfortunately, I could not get too far.
I have Googled and Googled and asked around and tapped into my brilliant crunchy mamma resources and came up with only one actual study. The link to it is here. The sample group was small, it only looked at one type of bacteria, one type of oil, and only looked a very limited time period; but beggars can’t be choosers. They basically found that both sesame oil pulling and the use of mouthwash led to a reduction in the count of Streptococcus mutans, which is a major contributor to tooth decay. Nothing else was examined so no other conclusions were reached.
OK, so based on this study, I’ll stipulate that oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash. If nothing else, this is a mouthwash alternative that does not contain the questionable ingredients that are found in traditional mouthwashes such as: artificial colors and sweeteners, quanternium-15 which is formaldehyde (seriously, tons of products contain this in “safe” amounts, but that’s a topic for another post), fluoride, sodium laurel sulfate, and a whole host of other things that I can’t pronounce or spell that while considered safe in certain amounts, should not be ingested and are considered harmful when released into the environment.
I find the fact that I can’t locate much actual research to be so annoying that I started trying to figure out ways to conduct my own mini investigation. I have absolutely no scientific background, no access to any investigative resources, and most importantly, no time, so this basically was a dead end. This leaves me with loads of blogs and comments from people who are on both sides of the is-oil-pulling-good debate. There are many stories of people who swear by the practice, but I swear by the practice of not putting my faith into peoples’ stories so there goes that plan.
So, in traditional Allison form, I’m going to logic my way through this tunnel.
I’ve been doing it with coconut oil so that’s what I’ll focus on. I did it one time with sesame oil, but the taste was too overwhelming and made me gag. I used sunflower oil for awhile after that, and it was tasteless and fine, but it’s just not something I keep on hand so now I just stick with coconut.
Coconut oil is good for you in all different kinds of ways which means that if I inadvertently swallow some or it’s absorbed into my system, which frankly can’t really be avoided, it’s nothing but beneficial. Furthermore, it has properties that are anti fungal, anti viral, and anti bacterial which means that swishing it around in my mouth for ten minutes would possibly mean that it’s attacking anything it comes into contact with that I don’t want in my mouth. Does that mean that it’d help keep away or get rid of cold sores faster? I don’t know and I don’t get them often enough to notice when the time does come, but in my mind, it seems like something that may help. Same would go for a cold or sinus infection. I can say that it usually makes my nose a little runny so it may be softening up the mucus and that is obviously a good thing.
Another point to consider is the routine of oil pulling. By doing this for ten minutes each morning, I’m waking up my mouth and head, massaging my gums and getting the blood flowing in that area, and cleaning nooks and crannies that I’m probably not reaching with my toothbrush. I gargle with sea salt water after and that also helps cleanse and is an anti inflammatory. Claims that it will whiten teeth and make gums and tongues look more pink does not seem far fetched when I look at it that way.
I had been oil pulling for a few months and got out of the habit because I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. A few weeks ago, I looked at a picture of myself and realized that my teeth looked horribly yellow. I have no cavities, brush daily, don’t drink coffee or smoke and have never had a problem with yellow teeth, but this picture was terrible. HH swears it was the camera, yet my daughter’s teeth looked bright. It made me decide to start oil pulling again right away figuring that if nothing else, it’s harmless. I haven’t taken another picture, but when I looked in the mirror this morning, my teeth don’t look yellow and my gums and tongue are pink. I think they were before, but I don’t have any before and after to compare because in a panic, I deleted the picture that brought me here in the first place.
The notion of this pulling toxins out of my blood through the tiny veins in my mouth and cleansing my entire body of impurities is a little bit nonsensical. I can’t find anything suggesting that any kind of oil serves as a super strong magnet for bacteria. It’d need to be so strong that it can rapidly draw toxins through my entire bloodstream and into my mouth to be trapped in the oil until I spit. I just think that something so strong would have superpowers if I merely rub it on my hands and rinse it off after a few minutes and yet, hand rubbing is not any ancient secret that I have heard of. Furthermore, there’s a difference between things that are water versus fat soluble. Anything in my bloodstream would need to be water soluble, but oil is a fat. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a scientist, but I did graduate from high school and there seems to be some kind of logic gap there.
On the other hand, we all know (or should know) that poor oral hygiene has been linked to heart disease and a number of other health problems, so I’m willing to give oil pulling the nod of being good for my entire body in the sense that it probably is good for my mouth. Whether that just means it kills bacteria as well as mouthwash and is less toxic than mouthwash, or whether you buy into the fact that it may serve a slightly higher purpose in cleaning your mouth is up to you. For me, either way it seems like something that is more than likely going to do a little bit of good and I can’t think of a single argument against it so I’m going to keep it up.
I always like to hear more about the stuff that I research. I look into things because I’m interested and share them on here because I think someone else may be. If you practice oil pulling, or think it’s stupid for some reason that’s more articulate than “it’s stupid”, please share your experience with me.

March 24, 2014 by Allison Lund
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