Does TikTok’s ‘navel oiling’ trend work? A doctor weighs in

This millennia-old practice has been the subject of much discussion.

Does TikTok’s ‘navel oiling’ trend work? A doctor weighs in
‘Navel pulling’ has recently gained traction on TikTok (Picture: Getty Images)
‘Navel pulling’ has recently gained traction on TikTok (Picture: Getty Images)

With the hashtag gathering 23.0M views on TikTok alone, ‘navel oiling’ has been the centre of much discussion.

Proponents have boasted its supposed varied benefits, which they claim range from weight loss to period cramp relief, but medical professionals have expressed concern that these might be misleading.

So, what is the truth? Does ‘navel oiling’ have any health benefits? Let’s dive into it.

What is ‘navel oiling’?

Also referred to as ‘navel pulling’, ‘navel oiling’ refers to the practice of massaging a few drops of castor oil into the belly button. Though presented by influencers as something shiny and new, it’s been around for centuries, based on Ayurvedic methods employed in India for millennia that preach the benefits of applying oils like caster, peppermint and ginger to the belly button area.

Ayurveda originated in India approximately 3,000 years ago, and to this day, it continues to be used in parts of the Eastern world alongside modern medicine.

However, as influencers take to TikTok to promote this millennia-old navel oiling practice, it’s important to highlight that many are being paid a commission to advertise certain products.

‘To the Ayurveda, the belly button represents the origin of life and a powerful energy centre. It is said that the belly button has an abundance of vessels and pathways and this is why it’s thought that navel pulling can be super beneficial, one proponent of navel oiling claims.

‘I personally just apply a few drops within the belly button and massage gently in a clockwise motion.’


Replying to @that_girl905 castor oil navel pulling: why and how do I do it and the benefits it’s said to have! #castoroil #castoroilpack #castoroilbenefit #greenscreenvideo

♬ original sound – Dr. Lindsey Schmidt

Are there any health benefits to ‘navel oiling’?

Despite the online hype, there are currently no proven health benefits to ‘navel oiling’ or ‘navel pulling’ – and it could be dangerous to suggest that the practice promotes things like weight loss.

Dr Sarah Jenkins, a GP offering expert guidance in women’s wellness and aesthetics, warns that she has ‘not seen anything’ convincing her that the practice ‘delivers what it claims to’.

‘It potentially could be down to a placebo effect that slows us down and makes us relax while applying the oil and encouraging mindfulness as we lay and massage the oil into place,’ Dr Jenkins explains of any unfounded health benefits purported by influencers.

‘The belly button is a healed remnant from the attachment to the placenta. It is a skin landmark and nothing more. Every area of skin is well perfused by arterioles and veins which return the blood from tissue to the heart.’

Does ‘navel oiling’ promote weight loss?

Again, there’s no medical evidence that indulging in navel oiling does promote weight loss despite the suggestions of a myriad of influencers.

‘Weight loss is all about energy input and output,’ Dr Jenkins adds. ‘This is a highly complex pathway and depends on the age of a woman and what kind of exercise is normal for them. The only proven way to lose weight long term and keep it off is actually by gastric sleeve or bypass if your BMI is over 35. As we age, our insulin resistance changes and it’s more difficult to shed the pounds.

‘There is no such thing as a miracle therapy. It’s good to be open to evidence-proven methods to improve health, however saying navel oiling will improve weight loss is irresponsible.

‘In my medical opinion, these claims are unfounded. There is NO medical evidence that navel oiling can achieve anything it claims to.’

If navel oiling is part of your heritage and helps you to relax and feel better, that’s great. But don’t believe influencers unqualified to give health advice – or anyone who makes you feel like you have to lose weight.

We left that diet culture behind in the noughties for a reason.

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