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Areas of application, modes of action and implementation
Oil pulling is a method from folk medicine, known from India, Russia and Ukraine. We also call it oil sucking and chewing oil. This expresses what this action consists of: We suck vegetable oil into our mouths, chew it and pull it through our teeth and throat with saliva. This should serve to pull pollutants out of the body.
Oil suction - the most important facts
- When sucking oil, we pull oil through the mouth to flush toxins out of the body.
- Oil pulling is said to clean the teeth and help with various diseases - from kidney problems to thrombosis and bronchitis.
- We know oil pulling from Indian and Russian folk medicine, and they probably originated independently of one another.
- There is no scientific evidence for the medical effects of oil sucking.
Oil treatment to clean the teeth
Oil suction is supposed to clean the teeth and rid the oral flora of pollutants that stick to the oil. So it helps against
- Bleeding gums,
- Tooth discoloration,
- Dry mouth,
- chapped lips,
- Bad breath
- and plaque.
How does oil pulling work?
First, clean the tongue with a tongue scraper and spit out the residue. The scraping roughen the tongue and so the oil can penetrate into the pores. You now put about two tablespoons of cooking oil in your mouth, for example
- Sunflower oil,
- Rapeseed oil,
- Coconut oil
- or olive oil
use and pull it back and forth in the mouth for at least ten minutes, throughout the throat. Press the oil between your teeth and pull it through well. Also make sure to flush the oil through the mouth pockets in the back cheek area. You do not cover this area when brushing your teeth and this is where food residues, foreign substances and waste materials collect, which serve the bacteria as a food base. These bacteria cause bad breath. If these residues remain in the oil, the smell of your breath improves.
Do not swallow the oil, but spit it out into the sink. It is loaded with concentrated impurities. Many find it uncomfortable to keep the oil in their mouth for ten minutes and not be able to speak and swallow properly during this time. You can pass the time by listening to your favorite music, reading a book or chatting online. When you have spat out the oil, rinse your mouth with plenty of clear water. Then brush your teeth extensively with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Oil pulling has no directly harmful side effects. The vegetable oils used are food. However, some people show psychological reactions because they find pure oil in the mouth uncomfortable - then even a gag reflex can occur.
Teeth whitened by oil pulling?
Followers of the method see it as an inexpensive alternative to professional tooth cleaning at the dentist and swear that daily oil pulling leads to brighter teeth over a longer period of time. That is not excluded. The ugly, greyish-yellow coating on the teeth is caused by bacteria, food residues, tea and coffee consumption or smoking.
Oil may bind such a coating and can wear it off over time. But don't expect miracles. You will only see a possible effect, i.e. lighter teeth, if you pull oil for ten minutes every day for several weeks and also brush your teeth intensively with an antibacterial toothpaste. In addition to anecdotal reports, there is no evidence of such teeth whitening.
Oil suction - a long story
In India, oil pulling is already documented from the oldest script of Ayurveda medicine, in the Charaka Samhita. There the method is called Kavala Gandoosha. According to this 2000-year-old document, the oil treatment should be done with sesame oil and help against more than 30 diseases. In Russia and Ukraine, however, sunflower oil was the method of choice. At least in this form, the oil pulling could not have been ancient, because the sunflower only came to Russia with the conquest of America by the Europeans.
What should oil pulling help against?
The oil is said to draw pollutants out of the body via the tongue and oral mucosa by stimulating the salivary glands. According to the supporters, it is an all-round remedy against
- A headache,
- Acne and psoriasis and neurodermatitis,
- Bladder and kidney problems,
- flu infections,
- Menstrual pain,
- Menopausal symptoms,
- Stomach problems, gastrointestinal disorders,
- Heart disease,
- Blood diseases
- and liver problems.
What are the advantages of oil pulling?
An advantage compared to toothpaste is that the oil also travels through the spaces between the teeth, where foreign substances, food residues and bacteria settle. This also applies to oral care gels that have a similar consistency.
This does not scientifically prove that disease cures are possible. There are only a few studies according to which the ritual has a positive effect on dental health and is said to have a similar effect to dental plaque and gingivitis as an antibacterial mouthwash. However, these studies have methodological errors and very small numbers of participants, so they are not meaningful. However, this also applies to studies according to which oil pulling works worse than mouthwashes. Eight clinical trials ran for just a few weeks. In such a short time it cannot be tested whether oil chewing, as claimed by the followers, protects against tooth decay.
The detoxification advocates have also not been proven and also contradict scientific findings: toxins cannot be "pulled" out of the oral mucosa.
There is no research on the effects of oil pulling that are said to have, such as headache, rheumatism, bladder and kidney problems, osteoarthritis or skin problems.
Two studies looked at whether chewing oil protects against gingivitis. The oil pulling was compared with an antibacterial mouthwash, which contained chlorhexidine. Only 20 people took part in each of the studies. With such a small group, the results data fluctuate greatly.
Other studies should show how oil suction affects the amount of caries bacteria. The shortcoming: The number of these bacteria changes within hours, for example when we eat something or brush our teeth. The amount of bacteria on the teeth at the time of measurement therefore says next to nothing.
The applications are recommended by followers as "holistic medicine" to "detoxify and purify" the body. Behind this is a premodern explanatory model according to which toxins and "slags" accumulate in the body like in a coal mine and lead to illnesses. This idea was widespread in Germany in the late Middle Ages.
In the 18th century Enlightenment, however, it gave way to empirical research into the causes of diseases. With modern medicine, this imaginary danger was shelved with the discovery of viruses and bacteria as pathogens. Since there is no such "slag" in the body, there is nothing to purify - neither with oil, nor with fasting or meditation.
An ancient healing method?
In Ayurveda, oil pulling with sesame oil has been known as a healing method for 2000 years, but this may hide a much more practical reason why people in India suck oil for oral hygiene. Until recently, there was and still is hardly any industrially manufactured toothpaste available in many Indian villages. Oil pulling, no matter what healings of illnesses he was said to be, is first a method to clean your teeth, since oil, unlike toothpaste, was always available. In fact, larger particles can be pulled out of the mouth with the oil, so the oil care has a cleaning effect in any case. But there is a suspicion that a traditional Indian home remedy for oral hygiene has been discovered as the latest cry for the healthcare market in western countries.
Oil pulling - yes or no?
The medical effectiveness of oil pulling has not been proven and is also unlikely. In addition, hygienic mouthwashes contain antibacterial agents and spread a pleasant smell when exhaling. And for most people it is more pleasant to gargle vigorously with a mouthwash than to pull oil back and forth in the mouth for ten minutes a day, even if the oil is more gentle on the healthy oral flora. According to current knowledge, there is no medical reason to extract oil. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Saravana K Kandaswamy, et al, "Comparison of the Effectiveness of Probiotic, Chlorhexidine-based Mouthwashes, and Oil Pulling Therapy on Plaque Accumulation and Gingival Inflammation in 10- to 12-year-old Schoolchildren: A Randomized Controlled Trial", 2018, International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry
- Johanna Paungger, Thomas Poppe "Out of my own strength, being healthy and becoming healthy in harmony with natural and moon rhythms", Goldmann 1996
- Bruce Fife "Oil Pulling Cure - Detoxification and Healing of the Body through Natural Mouth Cleaning", Kopp 2014