Written by Dr. Richard Nahas MD
I first learned about oil pulling when studying Ayurveda in India. This traditional healing system, which is based on health through balance, has been practiced for thousands of years. Modern Ayurvedic physicians spend six years studying at accredited universities, but the teachings were once passed from guru to pupil. The Ayurvedic perspective of how the body works and how it heals should not be dismissed. It is based on centuries of careful observation of thousands of patients, by enlightened doctor-monks whose profession thrived in a stable, advanced civilization. It works.
Ayurveda is largely based on a classic Sanskrit text known as the Charaka Samhita. It is a massive seven-volume text larger than the King James Bible that is written in verse, like a long poem, that students once had to memorize to graduate. Oil pulling, or Kavala graha, is described in volume five, where it is highly praised as a way to purify the blood and cleanse the body.
Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for about fifteen minutes. The first benefits are most often seen in your mouth. Oil pulling usually improves dental health within a few days. Until recently, there was no scientific research done on this self-healing practice. Shennath Asokan, a dental researcher at Meenakshi Ammal Dental College in Chennai, India has conducted a series of controlled trials showing improvements in plaque, tooth and gum health after only two weeks of oil pulling.
It is best done immediately after you brush your teeth and tongue, and rinse out your mouth. Dental infections are one of the most overlooked causes of chronic illnesses, particularly those that involve the immune system. The pockets of infection that are left behind after root canal procedures and wisdom tooth extractions are the worst offenders, but receding and inflamed gums and tooth decay are almost universal.
Try oil pulling twice a day for two weeks, then once a day as part of your routine. Do it on an empty stomach, and feel free to do other things while you swish. Tilt your head back from time to time to ensure that the oil bathes your molars and the back of your throat, but don't swallow or gargle it. Find an oil whose flavor is not too strong, and plug your nose for the first few seconds if you are worried about the taste. It might seem unpleasant, but it really isn't all that bad, especially after those initial few seconds. Some advocate adding a drop or two of clove oil or oregano oil, but this is not necessary.
Although the oil is in your mouth, it can detoxify the entire body. This is because the entire digestive tract is one single organ, from the mouth to the anus. Toxins and nutrients flow through the lymphatic system and other channels in the body to get dumped into the GI tract. This may be why the tongue is such an important diagnostic tool in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Asokan's research has confirmed that the oil is filled with bacteria and other microbes, which is why the watery, whitish oil should be spit out into the toilet or the garbage.
The ancient practice of oil pulling was rediscovered by a Ukrainian medical doctor, who popularized its use after being healed by his own regular oil pulling practice. Before long, news spread to India, where a number of doctors enthusiastically encouraged their patients to start swishing. Internet forums are filled with positive feedback from people who started oil pulling, but it is still virtually unknown in integrative medicine circles. That will certainly change.
Online reports claim that oil pulling can help with arthritis, allergies, asthma, eczema, headaches, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and many autoimmune diseases. We can't confirm these claims, but they make sense based on our understanding of the absolutely critical role of the digestive tract in maintaining health and wellness. In addition to microbes, one would expect solvents, pesticides and many other fat-soluble toxins to be pumped out of the body during a vigorous swishing session.
The benefits are even greater with some professional help. We now prescribe remedies that promote lymphatic drainage to almost all of our patients, because many people with chronic illness have problems with drainage. Taking these remedies just before you pull oil is a great way to supercharge the detoxifying effect of the treatment. It is also useful to undergo energetic testing to find out which oil is best for your body. Sesame oil is most commonly used in India, but olive, coconut and nut oils also work, and some oils are better for some people than others. Food allergies can also prevent proper drainage, and it is wise to find out if you have a hidden allergy to gluten or dairy.
After two weeks of oil pulling, send us an email to tell us about the changes you have noticed in your health. Integrative medicine is rejected by the healthcare system because it is not proven by double-blind studies. Your story is not a double-blind study, but it is still evidence, and it will help move this medicine forward. So start pulling.