Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: The “pull” of oil

After over a year of delving into the world of woo, I had been starting to think that my ability to be surprised had disappeared. I mean, just think about it. After dealing with things like DNA activation, quantum homeopathy, the Healing Broom, Healing Sounds, and, of course, colon cleansing and liver flushing, I thought I had seen it all. However, another thing I’ve learned is that the most amusing woo is not necessarily the battiest. Sure the DNA activation guy and Lionel Milgrom can put out some woo that is so unbelievably out there, so bizarre, so amazing over the top that rational, scientific, and skeptical people have a hard time believing these guys are serious. They’re on such a different wavelength from people dedicated to skepticism and evidence-based medicine that they might as well be from a different planet.

Come to think of it, maybe they are, but that would be a topic for another Friday.

Sometimes, however, I am actually surprised by the simplest woo. Last week, it was a guy claiming that all you had to do to cure all sorts of diseases is to drink lots of water. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. True the fevered explanations for how woo like that “works” are usually still pretty convoluted (or simple and mind-numbingly wrong), and usually they never achieve the truly sublime battiness of things like quantum homeopathy. Still, simple woo is not without its own pleasures, particularly when wild claims of cures for various diseases are made for something as simple as drinking a lot of water or using a soap (whose formula is claimed to have been provide by God Himself, of course). Perhaps my newfound fascination with simple woo comes from my disbelief that anyone could fall for it. Maybe it’s just the elegant simplicity and woo logic of it all. (Simple woo for simple minds, I guess.) I don’t know. But I do know that I just found another one.

I hereby present to you Oil Pulling: A Wonderful Therapy:

Dr. F. Karach, M.D., presented a paper before the All-Ukrainian Association. The meeting was attended by oncologists and bacteriologists belonging to the Academy of Science of the USSR. Dr. Karach explained an unusual simple healing process using cold-pressed oils

The results of this therapy invoked astonishment and doubt concerning the contents of his report. However, after further examining the workings of the oil therapy, one has but to then test it on oneself to prove its validity and effectiveness. It is most astonishing that such results can be achieved with this absolutely harmless biological healing method. This simple method makes it possible to effectively treat the most varied diseases, in some cases enabling one to avoid surgical intervention and the taking of medications that can have harmful side effects.The exciting factor of this healing method is its simplicity. It consists of swishing cold-pressed oil in the mouth( Sunflower or Seasme, Pl. note you don’t need to go for organic oils only, A normal refined sunflower oil bought from any supermarket proven to be effective in many people). The healing process is accomplished by the human organism on its own. In this way it is possible to heal cells, tissue and all organs simultaneously; the body itself gets rid of toxic waste without disturbing the healthy microflora. Dr. Karach says human beings are living only half their life span. They could potentially live healthy to be 140 to 150 years old.

That’s right. That’s all there is to oil pulling. All it is is taking sunflower oil, olive oil, or some similar oil and swishing it in your mouth for a defined amount of time, and all the wonderful health benefits described above can be yours. Heck, you might even be able to live to be 140 or 150! Naturally, when I heard of this wondrous technique, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how it works. Good woo-meister that Dr. Karach is, he was only too happy to tell me. First, here’s how you do oil pulling:

The healing process: Get refined sunflower oil (or peanut oil or distal oil). In the morning before breakfast you take one tablespoon of the oil – but donot swallow it. Without great effort or speed, you wash and suck the oil inside the mouth, pull it through the teeth and all that with closed mouth for 15 to 20 minutes.

You really chew, move your chin and (like in the Mayr diet) a lot of saliva is drawn; that means mouth – digestion. Obviously, the poisons are drawn from the blood through the mucous membrane of the mouth. That is why, in no case, the oil should be swallowed because it has become poisonous. First, the oil is viscous, but more and more it becomes liquid thin and white like wool. Then you spit it out. (As long as the liquid is still yellow you did not work with the oil long enough).

After spitting the oil, the mouth has to be washed intensely with water several times and the teeth need to be cleansed with brush; also the sink, because the liquid contains big amounts of bacteria and harmful material.

And here’s how it allegedly “works”:

If we would look at a drop of this liquid through a microscope, we would see all kind of moving fibers – those are microbes in the first stage of their growth. Pulling Oil pulls out disease elements from the system (body) and restores health.

It is important to say that during Oil-pulling, our metabolism is increased much and that is why the body remains in a persistent healthy state.

Holy guacamole, Batman! Sucking oil through your teeth for 20 minutes can do all that? I see how it might briefly speed your metabolism (although I can’t see how it could do it by much) if you put a lot of effort into pulling the oil through your teeth. I could even see how you could get a lot of microbe in the oil. After all, the inside of your mouth is loaded with bacteria, and it’s likely that swishing oil about your mouth might dislodge some of them into the oil. But it’s a major stretch to conclude that doing so pulls “disease elements from the system (body).”

Of course, drawing “disease elements” out is just another way of invoking the favorite old woo trope of “cleansing” the body by “drawing out toxins.” Surprise, surprise, that’s what Dr. Karach claims oil pulling does:

Swishing activates the enzymes and the enzymes draw toxins out of the blood. The oil must not be swallowed, for it has become toxic. As the process continues, the oil gets thinner and white. If the oil is still yellow, it has not been pulled long enough.It is then spit from the mouth , the oral cavity must be thoroughly rinsed and mouth must be washed thoroughly. Just use normal tap water and good old fingers to clean.

Yep, just what I want to do, stick my fingers in my mouth after swishing oil in it long enough for it to mix with saliva and become thoroughly nasty. I’ll give this particular woo credit, though, for sheer simplicity. My only question is why it persists. It’s one of those things that would be hard to make much money off of. Of course, the same thing could be said of superhydration, but I suppose all it takes is a bunch of credulous people to keep something like this going. What’s really hilarious, however, is the claim that swishing oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes can remove much in the way of any toxins. The claim is that oil pulling “draws toxins out” through the large veins that run under the tongue, apparently like some sort of amazing hemofiltration or dialysis process through the mucosal lining of the mouth. Of course, the biggest problem with this concept is basic chemistry. Assuming that oil pulling could actually somehow “pull toxins” out of your bloodstream, what kind of toxins would it “pull”? Obviously it would have to be fat-soluble toxins. The problem is, fat soluble compounds tend not so circulate in the blood but to accumulate in the fat stores. So, even if oil pulling could bind toxins somehow, even drawing them through the skin, how, then, would it even get to them where they are in the fat stores? I suppose a woo-meister could counter that fat soluble toxins do slowly recirculate between the fat stores and the blood and that doing this procedure three times a day over time would leech out the toxins. However, given that given that there’s no physiological mechanism by which oil could “pull toxins” into the mouth through the oral mucosa, worrying about equilibration of these unnamed “toxins” between fat stores and the blood is a pointless exercise.

Of course, when it comes to woo, “pointless” seems to be my middle name.

But perhaps you would like more specifics about what oil pulling can do for you. Lots, it would appear:


y means of this treatment {Oil } it is invariably the result that diseases like migraine headaches, bronchitis, diseased teeth, arterio thrombosis, chronic blood disorders such as leukemia, arthritis and related illnesses, neuro physiological paralysis, eczema, gastro enteritis, peritonitis, heart disease, kidney disease, meningitis, and women’s hormonal disorders are completely eliminated from the organism. The benefit of Dr. Karach’s method is that the oil therapy heals the whole body in perpetuity. In terminal diseases such as cancer, Aids and chronic infections this treatment method has been shown to successfully replace all others. Dr. Karach has successfully healed a chronic leukemia patient with 15 years of harsh treatment methods behind him. Acute arthritis in 1 patient who was totally bedridden was removed from his body in 3 days with no inflammation apparent.

Wow! Maybe I should start a clinical trial to see if oil swishing can be used to treat cancer.


Really, I should just solicit testimonials, just like Dr. Karach.

Of course, you have to be careful with oil pulling. Like a lot of altie woo, apparently it can result in a “healing crisis”:

In the beginning worsening for patients who are suffering from more than one disease, it is possible that there is a worsening of their situation. It is even possible that during the cure one infectious region of the body influences another one, which may be, would have become later even a killing disease.

Donot stop when your state gets worse: says Dr. Karach. There is no reason to interrupt the treatment even when the body temperature gets higher (it is healing temperature). Mainly when these signs are there, you should go on without interruption. If you interrupt you should know, that the healing only is there during the time of oil pulling. I point out says Dr.Karach, that a worsening of your health state is a sign that your disease is disappearing.

Or it could be a sign that persisting in a useless treatment instead of evidence-based medicine is resulting in the deterioration of your heatlh. But, hey, that’s just the playa hata in me talking.

One thing that’s rather delightful about this particular woo is that it’s mostly harmless. It probably doesn’t do anything to hurt the people using it. The only way it can hurt anyone is in the way something like homeopathy can hurt someone, namely if it is used instead of actual effective treatment, allowing an essentially untreated disease process to progress.

Lest you doubt that this is nothing but the purest woo, I’ll let you know one more thing:

Interestingly, Ayurveda advises oil gargling “to purify the taste-buds and the entire system”, as explained by Dr Deepak Chopra in Perfect Health. According to this life science, the tongue is mapped by organ-locations — that is, each section of the tongue is connected to the kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver, heart, pancreas, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine.

Thus, an oil-mouth-massage soothes and stimulates the key meridians where taste meets organ. Simultaneously, as in any skin-massage, the inner skin and lining of the mouth, palate and tongue become warm and supple and the lubrication prevents dryness (the vatic effect).

Yes, if Deepak Chopra endorses oil pulling or something similar (oil gargling), that’s almost all I need to know to know that it’s nothing but the purest of pure woo.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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