A 5,000-year-old Indian medical remedy is making news as a possible tool to improve a variety of ailments.
Oil pulling is a technique where you swish a tablespoon of vegetable oil — like sunflower oil, sesame oil or coconut oil — in your mouth for about 10 to 20 minutes. Advocates of the practice claim that the technique can whiten your teeth, improve your skin, prevent bad breath and even protect against heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The idea behind oil pulling is that by swishing the oil, toxins are pulled out of the body, and then removed. Oil should be disposed of into a trash can rather than a sink drain, because when the oil hardens, it can clog pipes.
Of course, the jury is still out on whether this technique is actually effective. A small study revealed that oil pulling, particularly with coconut oil, could decrease plaque and gingivitis when done over a long period of time. It can also kill the bacteria that cause bad breath. One study claims that people who suffer from receding gums saw improvement after oil pulling, too.
Currently, there are no known adverse effects … as long as you don’t accidentally swallow the oil. Consuming too much oil could cause diarrhea or an upset stomach. Some oils are solid at room temperature and gradually melt in the mouth.
It may take a while to get used to, though. The amount of liquid in the mouth will nearly double as the oil mixes with saliva. Users had to learn how to tolerate a mouthful of oil for more than 10 minutes of active swishing.
Advocates claim there are many uses and benefits to oil pulling.
But for now, even though some users say the practice has given them whiter teeth or healthier gums, dentists still recommend brushing twice a day and flossing over ancient remedies.