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What Is Oil-Pulling?

While scrolling through blogs on the internet I have noticed a large amount of people raving about oil-pulling. I’ve seen people comment on how this new habit has changed their life and their health and that they’d never stop. Having no idea what this could possibly be, I decided to do some research of my own.

Oil-pulling is a routine that people have added to their lifestyle that calls them to spend 20 minutes swishing oil around in their mouths. Yes, you read correctly. They swish a tablespoon of OIL in their mouths for 20 minutes. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? I had to question whether this was just another fad being passed around or if this routine held actual benefits. People have claimed that it has helped them overcome health issues such as insomnia, Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ), and migraines. They’ve also noticed whiter teeth and better oral health. If this routine had been really effective, wouldn’t it have been talked about sooner?

Oil-pulling is said to have originated in India. It is also referred to Kavala or Gandusha in the Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita. The Charaka Samhita is a combination of two texts on traditional medicine in India that dates back to 300-500 CE. The most archaic text is divided into eight sections and gives information on healthy living, pathology, special therapy, the collection of drugs and their uses, remedies, diet, and duties of a physician.

So how does the process work? Well, the organic oil (sesame oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil) is placed in the mouth and first reacts with your saliva, creating thin, white lipids. These lipids in the oil then begin to pull toxins out of your saliva. At the end of your swishing the oil should feel and look similar to a viscous white substance. I don’t know about you, but reading how it should end up feeling in my mouth sounds rather unappealing. The theory is that when the oil is going around your mouth and picking up toxins it’s keeping the bacteria from getting ahold in your body.

To return to my previous question, are these benefits even real? Though it hasn’t been tested extensively, scientists have found a link between oil-pulling and an increase in oral health. Other claims of it relieving other symptoms and maladies have not been scientifically proven. In a 2007 study, scientists tested the effectiveness of oil-pulling with sunflower oil. Their data concluded that there was a “statistically significant reduction” in gingivitis among oil-pullers who tried the technique for 45 days.

In 2008, another study found that there was a “remarkable reduction in the total count” of mouth bacteria and “a reduction in susceptibility to cavities.” With the lipids in the oil pulling out the bacteria, it prevents the bacteria from sticking to your oral cavity. When mouthwash had been tested again in 2009, scientists found both the mouthwash and the oil reduced dental plaque. 

I'm a senior at Florida State University who loves her Seminoles (GO NOLES!), reading, and ,of course, writing while drinking a hot cup of Twining's Spiced Apple Chai and listening to classical music.
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