Oil pulling: A health-enhancing practise

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oil pulling

Oil pulling refers to swishing oil in the mouth as a cleansing procedure, and is a form of natural oral hygiene that is way more powerful than simply brushing teeth, flossing and/or gargling. It is a simple and relatively inexpensive treatment that not only effectively combats yucky bacteria lurking in the mouth, but also simultaneously strengthens gums and whitens teeth.

This tried and tested biomedical method of intensive cleansing and detoxing has been enjoying a modern resurgence since the early 1990s when it was popularised by a Ukranian M.D., Dr Fedor Karach. However, I first became aware of this ancient practise, known as 'kavala' or 'gundusha', during my Ayurvedic healthcare training in 1995 and have been an advocate for the technique ever since.

Why oil pull?

Other than the points mentioned above, oil pulling is reputed to resolve a wide array of health imbalances and ailments – and all without the risk of adverse side-effects. For example, Dr Bruce Fife, author of 'Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing', writes about how the therapy is used to address nasal sinus problems. This is relevant since mucous drainage is traditionally considered one of the body’s primary detox processes. According to Fife ‘all disease starts in the mouth’, since mouths reflect the status of internal health. He postulates that oil pulling could therefore be the solution for a wide range of conditions. In this publication he also recommends making medicated coconut oil to enhance the effects and healing properties of oil pulling.

Where did it originate?

Oil pulling has its roots in ancient Ayurvedic medicine practise – the Indian form of naturopathic medicine that brims with wisdom, which has been around for over 5 000 years. While this practise has been used for centuries as a traditional Indian remedy for health, due to the mouth and tongue being integral to Ayurvedic treatment and diagnosis, oil pulling is also practised by other cultures.

How it works

There is nothing mystical about the way oil pulling works. It simply removes pathogenic microbes and toxins in the mouth that may contribute to illness. Most of the micro-organisms relating to oral ecology consist of a single cell with a lipid-layer outer cell. The postulation is that during oil pulling these lipidic/fatty membranes of the microorganisms are attracted to the oil. The process is helped along by both the enzymatic action of saliva, as well as the mechanical action of swishing or pulling the oil through the teeth, which loosens microbes lurking in the teeth, gums and oral mucosa (and gives it the name 'oil pulling').

Bugs in the 'beak' – so to speak

It’s no secret that several potentially pathogenic organisms reside in the mouth e.g. Streptococcus and Candida, which can cause illness if the immune system does not keep them under control. An Indian study conducted in 2008, relative to the effect of oil pulling and oral bacterial count, concluded that sesame oil [the oil used for this particular study] exhibited antibacterial activity against Streptococcus mutans, lactobacilli, as well as total oral bacteria.

What it does for health

Oil pulling guru, Dr Karach, claims oil pulling effectively treats/heals acne, arthritis, bronchitis, cracked lips, chronic blood disorders, encephalitis, eczema, gingivitis and bleeding gums, halitosis, headaches, heart, inflammation, intestinal disorders, kidney, liver, lung, nerve and stomach diseases, as well as nervous disorders, paralysis, sleeplessness/chronic insomnia, strokes, toothache, thrombosis, ulcers [gastric], and woman’s diseases. Quite an impressive list – all in addition to the standard claims of tooth and gums strengthening, cavity reduction and tooth whitening!

strong teeth

Oil Pulling - a heavyweight contender in the oral hygiene arena

While most of us wouldn’t dream of not brushing or flossing, this now common practise is relatively new and only became the modern norm in the early 1900s. Before that time, our ancestors cleaned their teeth with bits of chewed twig – if at all – and they sure didn’t all die as toothless wrinklies! Proof of this is evident, if the dental state of Egyptian mummies from about 3 000 years ago, is anything to go by. Obviously other factors like nutrition played an integral part in keeping their nashers strong and healthy during those times e.g. they ate very few refined foods – especially sugary food and drink, and tooth enamel destroying phytic acid-laden grains.

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