If somebody told me, "Wash your mouth with oil," I'd wonder what kind of insult I was being dished out. Not Suresh. A lonely Indian in Frankfurt, his teeth were rattling in his mouth sending shooting pains through his jaw and head, when he bumped into my brother-in-law Vijay. Nothing less than wholesale extraction, the dentist had told Suresh, the rot was too deep.
However, six months later, Vijay reports in amazement, there was Suresh grinning like a Cheshire cat, all 32 teeth intact. No extraction! He exclaimed gleefully. Just that he'd consulted an alternative therapist who prescribed sunflower oil as a mouthwash.
If you have no clue of what this oil therapy is all about, join the gang who thought Listerine was the last word. And listen to Dr F. Karsch, the brain behind this bite. "Rinse the teeth and gums very thoroughly with a tablespoon of any vegetable oil. Do it slowly for 15-20 minutes up to three times a day on an empty stomach," he advises.
Initially, the oil swishes viscously in the mouth, but, as our digestive juices dilute it, it becomes thin and milk-white in colour. Then, we spit it out and brush our teeth.
When Dr Karsch examined the gargled milk-white oil under a microscope with 600 magnification, he saw live organisms swimming in it. It's poisonous, so never swallow it, he warns. These poisons are bacteria-embryos, which, if not eliminated, cause diseases. Apparently, Dr Karsch cured his own chronic blood disease and 15-year-old arthritis.
The first sign of improvement is in the teeth-they become firm and white, he says. Other healing indications: fresh, relaxed feeling on waking up, disappearing dark pouches below the eyes, anew appetite and energy, better memory and deep sleep.
Dr Karsch swears by the mouth oil-wash for anything from organ-disorders, skin-diseases, menstrual problems, paralysis to every ache and it is in the human anatomy. You can gargle even when you have fever, he says, adding, it takes anything from two days to a year to cure a disease.
And if these claims sound exaggerated, he told a conference of Ukrainian cancer specialists, try out the process yourself.
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).
In modern dietetics too, dryness is discussed. For example, lack of Vitamin A (retinal) causes the outer lining of the eyeball to dry and wrinkle, and affects vision.
And as any dietician would tell you, all oils contain 960 micrograms of vitamin A per 10 gm (the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A per adult is 600 micrograms). So, it's possible that oil gargling helps in reaching the required retinal to the eyeballs and keeps them elastic and smooth.
Likewise, the Ayurvedic `purification of taste-buds' also has its equivalent in dietetics as `antioxidants'. Oxidation literally means `the putrefaction of body-tissues'.
And oil-soluble vitamins, A, C, D, and E are antioxidants that protect and prevent the decaying process and help maintain the integral functioning of cell membranes. That's why, many people are ingesting vitamin E pills to stem `aging' (oxidation).
Our staple Indian diet comprising of unseasoned cereals and pulses (the proverbial rice and dal or wheat and dal) meets our daily EFA requirements. EFA are essential fatty acids that have vitamin-like functions in the body — they help maintain the structure and productivity of cells.
Eating oil-cooking food only adds non-essential 100 per cent fat to our body. Whereas, gargling with oil keeps away excess fat-deposits, yet contributes towards purifying cells with its army of five to nine EFAs — palmitic, stearic, arachidic, bethenic, lignoseric, palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic.
According to radical healer Dr R. Ballantyne, who has studied Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, the tongue "is an indicator of what is going on in the body." A fiery red tongue depicts an irritated digestion; a pale shade, low digestion; and a purple tongue, a liver burdened with toxics.
While scraping the tongue with a U-shaped metal cleaner, and lighter, fat free food to detoxify the tongue and system are advised, I wonder if Dr Karsch's oil-massage would put the finishing cleansing-while-nourishing-and-healing touches to our taster.
Meanwhile, Vijay reports that his 80-plus parents-in-law have benefited — glowing faces and a feeling of well-being — after six months of oil-gargling. While Science needs to probe into this phenomenon, the anecdotal data is compelling. Besides, it's a great way to exercise drooping cheek-muscles.
The writer is the co-author of the book, Fitness for Life.