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.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

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

8 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!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 06/16/15:


    Niger Med J. 2015 Mar-Apr;56(2):143-7.

    Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis – A preliminary report.

    BACKGROUND: Oil pulling or oil swishing therapy is a traditional procedure in which the practitioners rinse or swish oil in their mouth. It is supposed to cure oral and systemic diseases but the evidence is minimal. Oil pulling with sesame oil and sunflower oil was found to reduce plaque related gingivitis. Coconut oil is an easily available edible oil. It is unique because it contains predominantly medium chain fatty acids of which 45-50 percent is lauric acid. Lauric acid has proven anti inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. No studies have been done on the benefits of oil pulling using coconut oil to date. So a pilot study was planned to assess the effect of coconut oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: The aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of coconut oil pulling/oil swishing on plaque formation and plaque induced gingivitis. A prospective interventional study was carried out. 60 age matched adolescent boys and girls in the age-group of 16-18 years with plaque induced gingivitis were included in the study and oil pulling was included in their oral hygiene routine. The study period was 30 days. Plaque and gingival indices of the subjects were assessed at baseline days 1,7,15 and 30. The data was analyzed using paired t test.

    RESULTS: A statistically significant decrease in the plaque and gingival indices was noticed from day 7 and the scores continued to decrease during the period of study.

    CONCLUSION: Oil pulling using coconut oil could be an effective adjuvant procedure in decreasing plaque formation and plaque induced gingivitis.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update 07/14/15:


    Anesth Pain Med. 2015 Jun 22;5(3):e25085.

    The Effects of Topical Sesame (Sesamum indicum) Oil on Pain Severity and Amount of Received Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Patients With Upper or Lower Extremities Trauma.

    BACKGROUND: Most patients with trauma experience different levels of pain. Due to side effects as well as economic burden of drugs used for pain relief after trauma commonly, it is important to use low-cost methods independently or combined with drugs to alleviate pain.

    OBJECTIVES: Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the effects of topical sesame oil on pain severity and frequency of received NSAIDs of patients with trauma.

    PATIENTS AND METHODS: This randomized clinical trial study was conducted on 150 patients with upper or lower extremities trauma in Dezful Ganjavian Hospital, Ahvaz, Iran, in 2014. Data was collected by a researcher-made questionnaire and Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Patients were divided into two groups of control (n = 75) and intervention (n = 75) randomly. In the intervention group, patients applied topical sesame oil beside the routine cares, while in the control group patients just received routine cares. Severity of pain and frequency of received NSAIDs was assessed in the first, third, seventh and tenth days after the intervention in the both groups. Data was analyzed by SPSS19 software using descriptive and analytic (Chi-square and independent sample t-test) statistical methods.

    RESULTS: Based on student sample t-test, there was a significant difference between intervention and control groups regarding the pain severity in the first (P = 0.06), third (P = 0.001), seventh (P = 0.001) and tenth (P = 0.001) days after the intervention. Besides, the frequency of received NSAIDs in the intervention group and the control group showed significant difference in four days after the intervention (for four days P = 0.001).

    CONCLUSIONS: Topical application of sesame oil could reduce pain severity and frequency of received NSAIDs in patients with upper or lower extremities trauma. Therefore, it is recommended to use this oil in complementary medicine for pain relief due to low cost, easy usage and lack of adverse effects.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Updated 11/12/15:


    Note: Maybe add a drop or two of lemongrass oil?

    J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 Oct;9(10):ZC13-7.

    Efficacy of 0.25% Lemongrass Oil Mouthwash: A Three Arm Prospective Parallel Clinical Study.

    BACKGROUND: Chlorhexidine mouthwash has earned eponym of gold standard to treat and/or prevent periodontal diseases. However, the present study was carried out to explore an alternative herbal mouthwash.

    AIM: To compare the anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis efficacy of a 0.25% lemongrass oil mouthwash to that of 0.2% chlorhexidine mouthwash.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: A double-blinded parallel designed clinical trial with 60 subjects was taken for the study. Baseline plaque index (PI) & gingival index (GI) score was recorded. Oral prophylaxis was done and the plaque score was set at zero. Then, subjects were randomly allocated into 3 groups (N=20 in each): 0.25% lemongrass oil mouthwash, 0.2% chlorhexidine mouthwash and oral prophylaxis only. Subjects were asked to swish with respective mouthwash twice daily for 21 days. Subjects were again re-evaluated on 14(th) and 21(st) day for GI and PI. Comparison of the mean difference among the variables was performed by parametric tests.

    RESULTS: Lemongrass oil mouthwash group showed highest reduction in GI & PI at both 14(th) and 21(st) day, which was statistically significant (p≤0.05).

    CONCLUSION: Lemongrass oil mouthwash can also be used as a good herbal alternative to chlorhexidine mouthwash, so further studies are needed.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 12/16/15:


    Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2015 May-Aug;8(2):114-8.

    Comparative Evaluation of the Effects of Fluoride Mouthrinse, Herbal Mouthrinse and Oil Pulling on the Caries Activity and Streptococcus mutans Count using Oratest and Dentocult SM Strip Mutans Kit.

    BACKGROUND: As the technological level of healthcare increases, it is important not to lose sight of the basics of patient care. No matter how sophisticated dental techniques have become, preventive dentistry still remains the foundation for oral health. Therefore, antimicrobial mouthrinses are developed to provide an effective means of preventing colonization by micro-organisms.

    AIM: The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the antimicrobial activity of oil pulling, herbal mouthrinses and fluoride mouthwash on the caries activity and S. mutans counts in the saliva of children, using Oratest and Dentocult SM kit.

    DESIGN: Fifty-two healthy children between the age group of 6 to 12 years were selected for the study and divided into four groups based on the mouthrinse used as group 1: fluoride, group 2: herbal, group 3: oil pulling and group 4: control. The estimation of caries activity and S. mutans was done prior to and after the subjects were instructed to use the mouthrinse twice daily for a period of 2 weeks.

    STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: The comparisons were made by applying paired ‘t’ test with the level of significance set at p < 0.05. Difference between more than two mean values was done by using ANOVA and Post hoc Bonferroni test was used for multiple comparisons. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: The efficacy of fluoride and herbal mouthrinses was found to be comparable while oil pulling did not provide any additional benefit to be used as an effective antimicrobial agent in reducing the bacterial colonization of an individual. Be well! JP

  8. JP Says:


    J Contemp Dent Pract. 2016 Jan 1;17(1):38-41.

    The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash.

    OBJECTIVES: Oil pulling is an age-old practice that has gained modern popularity in promoting oral and systemic health. The scientific verification for this practice is insufficient. Thus, this study evaluated the effect of coconut oil pulling on the count of Streptococcus mutans in saliva and to compare its efficacy with that of Chlorhexidine mouthwash: in vivo. The null hypothesis was that coconut oil pulling has no effect on the bacterial count in saliva.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: A randomized controlled study was planned and 60 subjects were selected. The subjects were divided into three groups, Group A: Oil pulling, Group B: Chlorhexidine, and Group C: Distilled water. Group A subjects rinsed mouth with 10 ml of coconut oil for 10 minutes. Group B subjects rinsed mouth with 5 ml Chlorhexidine mouthwash for 1 minute and Group C with 5 ml distilled water for 1 minute in the morning before brushing. Saliva samples were collected and cultured on 1st day and after 2 weeks from all subjects. Colonies were counted to compare the efficacy of coconut oil and Chlorhexidine with distilled water.

    RESULTS: Statistically significant reduction in S. mutans count was seen in both the coconut oil pulling and Chlorhexidine group.

    CONCLUSION: Oil pulling can be explored as a safe and effective alternative to Chlorhexidine.

    CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Edible oil-pulling therapy is natural, safe and has no side effects. Hence, it can be considered as a preventive therapy at home to maintain oral hygiene.

    Be well!


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