Oil Pulling Research

April 23, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

When investigating natural healing techniques, one must frequently consult with two disparate camps: scientists and traditional healers. Generally speaking, scientists attempt to debunk or explain how a practice works (or doesn’t) via established mechanisms and objective data. Traditional healers tend to offer an alternative view about how the body functions and historical accounts of success. When these two groups come together, quite often some degree of common ground can be found. A case in point is the ancient Indian practice known as oil pulling.

One of the first documented descriptions of oil pulling can be found in the ancient Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita where it is described as “Gandusha” and “Kavala”. Modern Ayurvedic healers claim that oil pulling can cure or improve “about 30 systemic diseases ranging from headache, migraine to diabetes and asthma“. These are rather bold and unexpected claims for a practice that essentially calls for swishing around a small amount (about a tablespoon) of sesame oil in your mouth for 10 to 15 minutes. The idea is to “pull” the viscous liquid in between your teeth and agitate it until it turns a “milky white” color, at which point, you spit it out.

Scientists aren’t ready to accept many of the assertions made by Ayurvedic healers with regard to oil pulling. However, several studies of late lend some scientific support for it in relation to the promotion of oral health. The latest trial compared the effects of oil pulling versus rinsing with a prescription mouthwash in patients with chronic bad breath (halitosis). The findings of the two week intervention determined that oil pulling therapy was as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash in terms of improving halitosis and reducing the number of bacteria that contribute to it. Additional research has found that pulling with sesame oil also reduces symptoms of gingivitis and plaque formation. The primary pathway by which oil pulling seemingly improves oral health is by decreasing the number of cariogenic and pathogenic microorganisms including Streptococcus mutans.

There are other reasons to consider the alternative practice of oil pulling. A recent review pointed out that rinsing with sesame oil may present certain advantages as compared to modern mouthwashes. For instance, oil pulling is cited as being all natural, causing no staining, inexpensive and having low allergenic potential. Even so, Dr. Andrew Weil (and other friendly figures in the integrative medical community) is only willing to give a luke warm endorsement of oil pulling. This is largely because of the limited amount of scientific data currently available to back up many of the traditional claims. Also, I don’t know how many people are willing to swish with sesame oil for 10 to 15 minutes each and every morning – usually before breakfast and brushing. Having said all that, if you happen to have a vexing oral health issue that isn’t responding to other treatments, I think it’s certainly worth reaching for a bottle of sesame oil.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of (link)

Study 2 - Effect of Oil Pulling on Halitosis and Microorganisms Causing Halitosis (link)

Study 3 - Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque Induced Gingivitis: A Randomized (link)

Study 4 - Mechanism of Oil-Pulling Therapy - In Vitro Study (link)

Study 5 - Effect of Oil Pulling on Streptococcus Mutans Count (link)

Study 6 – Short Communication: Oil Pulling Therapy (link)

Study 7 - Ask Dr. Weil: Is Oil Pulling a Realistic Remedy? (link)

Oil Pulling Reduces Oral Bacteria Associated with Plaque Formation

Source: J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2008;26:12-7 (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Dental Health, Food and Drink

3 Comments & Updates to “Oil Pulling Research”

  1. Cynthia D'Auria Says:

    Hello JP
    Very interesting article and well worth a try.This is a good preventative for us to use,
    Once again,
    Thank you very much

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia! :-)

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: Oil pulling “works”, but it requires motivation to stick with it …


    J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Nov;8(11):ZC18-21.

    Comparative efficacy of oil pulling and chlorhexidine on oral malodor: a randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND: Oral malodor affects a large section of population. Traditional Indian folk remedy, oil pulling not only reduces it but can also bring down the cost of treatment.

    AIMS: To compare the efficacy of oil pulling and chlorhexidine in reducing oral malodor and microbes.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: Three week randomized controlled trial was conducted among 60 students of three hostels of Maharani College of science and arts and commerce and Smt V.H.D.College of Home Science. The hostels were randomized into two intervention groups namely chlorhexidine group, sesame oil and one control (placebo) group. Twenty girls were selected from each hostel based on inclusion and exclusion criteria. Informed consent was obtained. The parameters recorded at the baseline (day 0) and post intervention on day 22 were plaque index (PI), gingival index (GI), objective (ORG1) and subjective (ORG2) organoleptic scores and anaerobic bacterial colony (ABC) count. Intra and inter group comparisons were made using Kruskal Wallis test, Wilcoxan sign rank test, ANOVA and student t-test.

    RESULTS: There was significant reduction (p<0.05) in the mean scores of all the parameters within sesame oil and chlorhexidine group. Among the groups significant difference was observed in objective and subjective organoleptic scores. Post hoc test showed significant difference (p<0.000) in mean organoleptic scores of sesame oil and placebo and chlorhexidine and placebo group. No significant difference (p<0.05) was observed between sesame oil and chlorhexidine group.

    CONCLUSION: Oil pulling with sesame oil is equally efficacious as chlorhexidine in reducing oral malodor and microbes causing it. It should be promoted as a preventive home care therapy.

    Be well!


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