Oil pulling: Does it live up to the hype?

PHILADELPHIA - April 29, 2014

We wanted to find out if this ancient remedy is living up to its present day hype.

Some call it their morning oral exercise, a natural solution to better skin, clearer sinuses and increased energy.

"Everything feels a little clearer," Dana Linn-Greenhalgh said.

Dana is always searching for ways to improve her health. She learned about oil pulling from her certified health coach Lisa Foster.

"[When I first tried it,] I had a really bad toothache and the more I did it, as the week went on, the less the tooth hurt. And by the second week, I had no pain," Linn-Greenhalgh said.

Proponents of oil pulling say the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut and other types of oils help to pull toxins and bacteria from the mouth which can help sooth toothaches, allergies and acne.

Foster says it also clears the sinuses by draining mucus and stimulating the lymphatic system.

"It's gaining popularity because people are trying to get away from medicine," Foster said.

Foster suggests taking a tablespoon of high quality unrefined coconut oil on an empty stomach and swoosh it around until it liquefies. The goal is to oil pull for 20 minutes a day several times a week.

After you are done pulling, spit the oil into a trash can, rinse your mouth and, if possible, brush your teeth.

"Some people will see the benefits right away, some people need a few weeks to see the benefits," Foster said.

Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow endorse the ancient technique as a way to make the skin more supple and the teeth whiter and brighter.

But dentist Josh Stelzer says for oral health, stick to brushing and flossing.

"There's very little research, especially evidence based research, that tells you anything to its benefit," Dr. Stelzer.

Dr. Kathleen Boyle of Mainline Health says a few studies suggest the practice may help remove plaque, but as far as other curative claims, she say there's no truth to them.

Although she doesn't believe oil pulling will harm you, she says any holistic or alternative therapy must be under the supervision of a medical doctor.

"The danger does come when a patient does decide to do that in place of traditional medications," Dr. Boyle said.

But Dana says she has all the evidence she needs, whiter teeth, better skin and more energy. She's going to continue with her morning oil pulling routine.

Dr. Boyle attributes some of the reports of increased energy and clearer mind to a placebo effect.

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