The Ayurvedic Practice Of Oil Pulling

If you’ve never heard of oil pulling, the term itself may give you pause as you try to figure out what it could be. However, knowing that it’s the practice of swishing oil in the mouth for several minutes may also make you wonder why a person would do it.

Oil pulling (gandusha) comes from Ayurveda, the Indian traditional medical system. Ayurveda is thousands of years old. And like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it’s based on subtle energy that flows through the body. Prana or life force can become blocked and cause illnesses including emotional problems.

Ayurveda is a multifaceted system that also emphasizes the mind-body connection, the interconnectedness of all things, and includes body typing (doshas). Some practices of Ayurvedic medicine include herbal medicine, yoga, nutrition, meditation, nasal cleansing (neti potting), and others.

“‘Ayurveda advises oil gargling to purify the entire system; as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organs such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similarly to reflexology and TCM.'”[i]

Benefits of Oil Pulling

While there are not many studies on the benefits of oil pulling on the body’s system, there are several studies show that it’s useful for preventing plaque, gingivitis, and that it helps with bad breath. Chicago dentist Jessica Emery says that oil pulling helps bad breath because single-celled microorganisms in the mouth have a fatty membrane coating. When the fatty membrane encounters the oil’s lipid cells, they bind together.

Clinical results in a report on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website showed that coconut oil pulling was as effective as the mouthwash disinfectant chlorhexidine in killing Streptococcus mutans, a microorganism that contributes to tooth decay.

Other benefits of oil pulling are anecdotal and based on the thousands of years of traditional medicine in India. Here are some different ways that oil pulling is said to help.

  • Heal chapped lips
  • Strengthen gums and jaws
  • Soothe dry and sore throat
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent heart disease
  • Improve acne
  • Heal bleeding gums
  • Whiten teeth
  • Boost immune system

Directions for Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is very simple:

  • Oil – 1 Tablespoon sesame, coconut, or sunflower oil. Coconut oil contains lauric acid. According to Dr. Emery, lauric acid is anti-microbial making it more beneficial for binding mouth microorganisms to the oil. Research also has suggested that coconut may help prevent tooth decay.
  • When – Oil pull first thing in the morning before eating or brushing your teeth.
  • Swishing – Gently move the oil through the mouth by swishing it all through the mouth and pulling it over the teeth. If your jaw starts to ache, you are swishing too aggressively.
  • Time – While the recommend time to swish is 20 minutes for maximum benefit, it’s usually too long for most people. Benefits can be obtained from rinsing for five to ten minutes.
  • Spit – After sloshing the oil through the mouth, spit it out. Do not swallow it. While oil pulling, if you find you have too much liquid in your mouth, spit it out and use less oil. Spit the oil into a trash receptacle and not down the drain. Oil can clog drains.
  • Rinse – After swishing, rinse your mouth with water or salt water.
  • Brushing and Flossing – Brush and floss teeth normally. Oil pulling does not replace both practices; it’s to be used as a complementary therapy.
  • Repeat – It’s suggested to oil pull about 3 to 5 times a week.

Oil pulling has been used successfully in India for its many health benefits. Western science is just beginning to investigate its benefits starting with how it can help keep the mouth healthy.


Axe, Dr. Coconut Oil Pulling, Benefits & How – To Guide. Retrieved from

Kaushik, M., et al. The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash. Retrieved from

Oakley, Colleen. Should You Try Oil Pulling? Retrieved from

YJ Editors. Oil Pulling: The Ayurvedic Health Technique You Should Try. Retrieved from

[i] Axe, Dr., Coconut Oil Pulling, Benefits & How – To Guide. Web.

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