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What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling - swishing sesame or sunflower oil around the mouth without swallowing for 15 to 20 minutes every morning - is an Ayurvedic practice that is promoted as a way to prevent a host of health concerns related to the mouth. These include the prevention of:

  • Tooth decay
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Dryness of the throat
  • Cracked lips

It is also touted as a way to cure a host of other health issues. Unfortunately, I’ve seen no compelling evidence that it works. The only study I found that had actual, positive results was from an Indian dental study that evaluated the effects of oil pulling on bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) in plaque and saliva of children, comparing its antiseptic power with that of using a conventional mouthwash containing chlorhexidine. The researchers found a reduction in the bacteria count in the plaque and saliva samples in both the study and the control groups, and concluded that oil pulling can help maintain oral health. Based on this, I would suggest that oil pulling isn’t hazardous to your health, but I don’t see it as an effective means to improve your overall health. A good oral care routine that includes daily brushing and flossing, and regular visits to the dentist is a more sound and evidence-based route to choose.

Choosing High-Quality Olive Oil (Video)

Olive oil comes in a variety of forms, but Dr. Weil explains what makes a good-quality olive oil. The best olive oil is extra virgin, organic and cold pressed. It is important to protect olive oil because the compounds (polyphenols) in the oil break down when exposed to light and air, decreasing the health benefits it provides.

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Dr. Weil Recommends: The Healthiest Oil

Olive oil, once used in the U.S. primarily by immigrants from Mediterranean countries and adventurous gourmets, is now mainstream. In 2013, Americans consumed over 338 metric tons, about ten times the amount used in 1982. This is good news, as olive oil has multiple health benefits:

• It has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil.

• Quality brands contain abundant antioxidants - substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.

• If you're watching your weight, adding extra olive oil to your diet can help you feel full longer.

• Regular consumption of olive oil may help increase concentrations of a bone protective protein known as osteocalcin.

Plus quality extra-virgin olive tastes wonderful: the vibrant green treat has probably helped many Americans realize that there is no need to sacrifice sensory pleasure in pursuit of healthy eating. One easy way to get more olive oil is to use it instead of butter in low temperature cooking, on top of fresh vegetables or as a salad dressing.

When buying olive oil, choose small bottles of certified organic oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, or that of another organic certification body such as the USDA's green-and-white ORGANIC logo.