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Pulling Toxins with Oil  ---Hoax or Health?
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Last updated March 29, 2017 (originally published July 15, 2016)

By Ariadne Weinberg, Featured Columnist
Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our panel of
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members
of our Editorial Board.

Pulling? Pulling what? Well, the idea is to pull
toxins out of your
body. Some would argue that that's what your organs are there
for, but this traditional Ayurvedic technique that's thousands of
years old has come into fashion again.

Pulling was first popularized in modern times in 1992 by Ukrainian
oncologist Dr. Fedor Karach. Dr. Karach introduced the natural
cleanse practice at the All Ukranian Association of the Academy of

Some people swear by it
. Others say it's marketing nonsense.

How do you pull? To try it, take an oil, any oil (coconut, sesame,
olive, sunflower, etc.) and swish it around or hold it in your
mouth for 20 minutes. In theory, oil pulling works by dissolving
toxins in your mouth which are soluble in oil.

20 minutes? That's a long time, much longer than any
mouthwash.  Beginners can start out at 5-10 minutes per day, but
the suggested optimal time is 20 minutes.

The next question you have to ask yourself is, “Is it really worth
it, though?” There are still conflicting opinions, but it has been
claimed by some as a cure-all. According to science writer Mike
Rothschild from the Skeptoid podcast, “Oil pulling is said to treat
chronic pain, insomnia, cavities, allergies, thrombosis, diabetes,
asthma, bad breath, gingivitis, digestive issues, meningitis, low
energy, heart disease, kidney disease, ‘toxic bodily waste,’ PMS,
leukemia and even AIDS. Oil pulling, it would seem, is truly a life-
changing medical miracle.”

Given the name of the podcast, Mike probably doesn't believe that
himself, but has clearly read the literature.

Okay, okay. Calm down, here, people. Is pulling the solution for
everything? Let's take a look at what it's good for,what it's bad
for, and what it won't hurt.

Oil Pulling: What Is It Good For?

According to recent studies, the answer is actually not,
“Absolutely nothing.” The answer is, “Your teeth.”

Dr. O. Gbingie and colleagues from the University of Oxford in the
United Kingdom wanted to evaluate whether pulling was effective
in dental hygiene.

In 2016, they looked at clinical trials from several sources,
including Medline, embase, Amed, Cinahl, and Cochrane Library,
up to February 2015. They examined studies that made a
comparison between conventional cooking oils and a control
intervention, and checked carefully for biases.

Gbingie and researchers found 26 valid studies, 5 in which a total
of 160 participants were included. From these five studies, three
reported no significant difference in the post-intervention plaque
index scores between oil pulling and the control group
(chlorhexidine mouthwash). The other two reported no
significant differences in the post-intervention modified gingival
index score (also between oil pulling groups and chlorhexidine
mouthwash groups).  If you're counting, the score would be zero
out of five studies ---no studies at all were found by the UK team
which showed that pulling is effective to improve your dental

In one specific study, conducted in 2016 by M. Kaushink and
colleagues at the Department of Conservative Dentistry and
Endodontics College of Dental Sciences in Telangana, India, they
investigated the effect of coconut oil pulling on streptococcus
mutans count in saliva, in comparison with chlorhexidine
mouthwash. Their hypothesis was that it would have no effect
whatsoever. They were pleasantly surprised.

A total of 60 subjects were selected, and split into 3 groups.
Group A: oil pulling; Group B: Chlorhexidine; Group C: control
group of distilled water.

Group A rinsed their mouths with 10 ml of coconut oil for 10
minutes; group B rinsed with 5 ml of chlorhexidine mouthwash
for 1 minute; group C rinsed with 5 ml of distilled water for 1

All this occurred in the morning, before brushing their teeth.
Saliva samples were collected and cultured on the first day, and
after two weeks. Colonies were counted to compare the efficacy
of coconut oil and chlorhexidine with distilled water.

There turned out to be a statistically significant reduction in S.
Mutans count seen in both the coconut oil pulling group and the
chlorhexidine group.

So, swishing that oil might kill some mouth bacteria. Plus, you can
save on mouthwash. Use coconut oil for cooking, and your dental
hygiene routine (although coconut might not really give that same
“clean” feeling as mint, it could be an option if you're strapped
for cash).


Swishing sesame oil in your mouth is more effective than
commercial mouth washes in reducing plaque, a 2009 study from
India found. The study, from scientists at Meenakshi Ammal
Dental College, Chennai, India, examined the effect of swishing
sesame oil on the oral health of 20 boys who had gingivitis (gum
disease that causes bleeding gums.)

Compared with a chlorhexidine wouthwash, oil pulling with
sesame oil was more effective at reducing "plaque index, modified
gingival scores, and total colony count of aerobic

Oil Pulling: Is It Good for General Health?

Most experts say no. The claim that Pulling is effective to cure any
health condition at all (other than use as a mild mouthwash) is...
drumroll...false.  The claims simply haven't been sufficiently
backed up. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence, but not a lot of
scientific evidence. And most doctors say the same, which is
basically, “Yeah, use it for your mouth, but don't use it for
anything more serious.”

For example, Nancy Guberti, a biomedical nutritionist and
functional medicine specialist who studied at Iona College in New
York, confirmed, “Yes, coconut oil pulling works great for
whitening the teeth but also acts as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral —
meaning it works on detox, sinuses, strengthens gums, and teeth.

Where we see it may not work is when one is not treating their
gastrointestinal issues and are bloated from candida overgrowth,
intestinal parasites and imbalance of good bacteria.
 Basically, oil
pulling works nicely but we cannot assume that it's the end all
and be all.”

Pulling also doesn't solve the biggest fear of the 21st century:
diabetes. According to Lyla Blake-Gumbs, a physician with the
Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine:

“There's absolutely no data whatsoever that shows diabetes can
be treated or prevented, or that heart disease can be. It's not a
new practice — it's been done thousands of years — but there
were no real records kept. So I can't go to any objective, well-
run clinical trials to look into the other claims."

Oil Pulling: What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Okay, so we know that oil pulling does not treat health
conditions, other than perhaps as a mild mouth wash fro your
teeth. But, does it hurt anything to use it? Are there dangers to
using oil pulling?

“If I do this every day, could it have consequences?” Those of us
in the health/nutrition professions know the rule of moderation,
and oil pulling is apparently no exception. There haven't been
many reported cases, but the cases that have been reported seem
relatively serious.

According to M. Koroyama at the National Hospital Organization
Toneyama National Hospital in Toyonaka, Osaka, in 2015, there
were two reported cases of exogenous lipoid pneumonia, a rare
disease caused by the aspiration or inhalation of oily substances.

One 66-year-old male had a dry cough and one 38-year-old
female presented with shortness of breath.

Both had ground-glass opacities on the computed tomography,
and were subsequently diagnosed with lipoid pneumonia based
on the confirmation of lipid-laden alveolar macrophages.

Both patients had regularly performed "sesame oil pulling",
nasally or as a mouthwash several months prior to their diagnosis.

In the first case of the man with a dry cough, it was treated with
a combination of steroid therapy and bronchoalveolar lavage. In
the second case, no intensive therapy was needed.

So, basically, there's a small chance of anything serious
happening to you from giving oil pulling a try. Just don't expect it
to turn your life around. But hey, if you want to spruce up those
teeth and eliminate some bacteria, give it a whirl.

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Life
Pulling toxins using oil can improve dental
health but its other health claims are not
backed by science.
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