SONY DSCOil Pulling, or simply mouth-washing with oil, has reentered the discussion in health circles.

Why do I say, reentered? Well the concept has been around for a very long time as its included in the Ayurvedic medicinal tradition, which itself dates back 5,000 years.

You may have heard of Oil Pulling on such websites as FoodMatters.TV, Authority Nutrition, MindBodyGreen, or even from celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow.

Q & A on Oil Pulling

What is oil pulling?

Oil Pulling is basically mouth-washing with oil, instead of mouthwash.  However, it is done for a much longer time–ideally about 10-20 minutes once a day.

Why would I want oil in my mouth for that long?!?

Proponents of oil pulling say it reduces harmful and smelly bacteria in the mouth, improves oral health, pulls toxins out of the mouth, tongue, and skin, cleanses the palate (for a renewed sense of taste), reduces bad breath, brightens teeth, loosens up mucusm and clears the throat and sinuses. Plus, you may have a cheaper dentist bill the next time you’re there.

Which oil should I use?

The most frequently recommended oils are sesame oil or coconut oil, definitely organic, cold pressed, extra virgin.

How do I do oil pulling?

First thing in the morning, take a tablespoon of your chosen oil into your mouth. Slowly swish and pull it around through your mouth, between your teeth, and just keep moving it around.

When you’ve had enough, or when the oil has turned a milky color, or after 20 minutes, spit it out into the trash or toilet.  You don’t want all the bacteria and oil clogging up your sink!

Follow with a salt water rinse, again spitting out the salt gargle.

Is coconut oil better than sesame oil?

My personal preference is for coconut oil, due to its price point (typically more affordable than sesame), taste, and anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-septic properties.

Ayurveda more commonly uses sesame oil.

Either will work.  Just choose what works best for your tastes and budget.

How difficult is it to keep in for 20 minutes? Do I really have to go the full 20?

Twenty minutes can be challenging, especially the first few times you try it.  But after that it’ll get easier.

For most busy people, even 3-5 minutes of oil swishing is enough to start to get some benefits. Start there, and if you have extra time and can hang onto it, go longer.

How often should I do it?

Ideally, everyday to see the most benefits and greatest brightening/whitening of the teeth. If everyday seems like overkill, on as-needed basis will work, too.  For example, if you’re getting a canker sore, can’t seem to get your mouth feeling clean with standard tooth-brushing, need to prevent a cavity, or after drinking, when regular brushing doesn’t seem to do the trick.

What’s the difference between this form of oil pulling and the Ayurvedic tradition?

Ayurveda gets way more specific.

First it separates the gargling / swishing action, called Kabala, from just holding the liquid in your mouth, called Gandhusa. 

Second, Ayurveda prescribes different liquids depending on the issues at hand. For preventative, gargling warm water is sufficient.

For treatment of excessive Vata, Arimedadi Oil is used. Arimedadi Oil is a sesame oil with the essence of numerous herbs steeped into it (See more about Arimedadi Oil).

To reduce excessive Kapha, a triphala decoction is used. See more about triphala.

Ayurveda recommends keeping either liquid in the mouth until the eyes begin to water, thus having achieved total penetration of the herbs into the oral cavity.

The therapeutic way includes a face massage and slight steaming of the face before swishing. The ayurvedic texts recommends kabala or gandhusa as a daily health-keeping practice.

What does the Ayurvedic method treat?

This procedure is trypically used to reduce and Kapha of mouth, including headache, tooth decay, mouth ulcers, stiff tongue, lack of taste, stiff mandible, toothache, plus diseases of eyes, ears, nose, and throat. It works by having the herb properties absorbed through the marma (similar to acupoint) on the soft palette, that is central point of the senses. For treatment of the above conditions, continue daily until symptoms subside. 

The ayurvedic method is contraindicated with fever, indigestion, and inflammation.


Have you done oil pulling before? What was your reaction? What were your results?