You're on the internet, so I'm going to assume you've seen the latest life-changing promise floating around—oil pulling (a woman swishes oil around in her mouth, and what happens next will totally blow your mind!). There are those touting its amazing healing powers and others laughing at its over-the-top claims, but the one thing I know for sure is this: it isn't new. "Oil pulling" (and oh my god, isn't that a totally gross name?) is the ancient Ayurvedic practice of swishing an oil around in your mouth in an effort to cleanse the body of toxins. Commonly used oils are coconut, sunflower, and olive, and according to some sources, it's pretty much the answer to every question in the entire world, so we might as well tell those stupid scientists to just give up now and start a-pullin'.
According to Mike Rothschild of Skeptoid.com, "Oil pulling is said to treat chronic pain, insomnia, cavities, allergies, thrombosis, diabetes, asthma, bad breath, gingivities, digestive issues, meningitis, low energy, heart disease, kidney disease, 'toxic bodily waste,' PMS, leukemia, and even AIDS." Wow. All that, eh? I bet it'll stop me from aging, make me two inches taller, and I'll probably land my dream job if I start oil pulling tomorrow morning. Hang on, I'm just firing my doctor, dentist, allergist, gastroenterologist, cardiologist . . .
It goes basically like this:
Step One: Swish oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes. Or maybe it's ten minutes. And it has to be coconut oil to gain the full benefits. Or maybe sunflower, or even olive. Even the "experts" disagree on all the details of how to do this amazing procedure.
Step Two: Spit oil out at the end, because it's so full of dangerous toxins it has just magically pulled from your body.
Step Three: Gargle with salt water. Or don't. Whatever.
Step Four: Take over the world and live forfreakingever.
Forgive me here if I side with the skeptics, because beyond maybe whitening your teeth, and perhaps aiding in ridding your mouth of that morning breath stink, I can't see how this would pull any toxins from the body, much less cure allergies or AIDS, for pete's sake. And there are no solid scientific studies that demonstrate any of these claims to be true, not that that seems to matter anymore. I'm supposed to believe that science lives to make our lives harder by ignoring something this simple, am I? That all the research being done to cure disease is a conspiracy and total waste of time, because this ancient idea is the cure-all? Nobody knows why the practice works, but it does? Like a juice cleanse or magic berries or some other whackadoodle non-scientific cure for allergies? One article states that the swishing motion cleans out the lymph system and sinuses, and that the resulting mucous drainage could be the "cure" for allergies. Wouldn't a sinus rinse work in the same way?
Also, according to Rothschild, "It was unknown in the western world until the 1990s, when, as the story goes, a doctor named F. Karach gave a presentation to the All-Ukrainian Association for Oncology and Bacteriology on how he used it to cure his own blood cancer. Incidentally, I found no biographical information on Dr. Karach, and I’m not convinced he’s even a real person."
In 2008, a naturopath/nutritionist named Bruce Fife wrote a book called Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing, and the world took the bait. Even Dr. Oz climbed aboard that train, and you know when he starts touting things, it must be true. (Dr. Oz is quoted in this New Yorker piece as saying, "Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. You find the arguments that support your data and it’s my fact versus your fact.” Ah, so that's how science works, like religion? And maybe that's true—we certainly do not understand the same "facts" our ancestors did, and there is definite truth and validity in many ancient procedures, but is it too much to ask that modern science confirm the results?
I'm certainly no expert, but I do believe that no amount of oil swishing will detoxify your body. I side with science on this one, and feel that there's no way any of these fads are doing what they claim. And though I'm neither a doctor nor natural health practitioner, I urge you to not attempt to cure meningitis with this method. My bet is on no, it's no cure for allergies.
But hey, you let me know how it works out for you guys, ok?