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Oil Pulling: Another Health Fad or is it Beneficial?

Updated on March 23, 2014

I recently heard about this new way of health optimization and I had to do my own research on it rather than go by hearsay. It seems the claims of health improvement get stranger and stranger every year. I thought it would be fair to get some background information on this topic and find out the claims involved before formulating my own opinion on it. Here it goes!

Olive oil is one of several oils used in oil pulling
Olive oil is one of several oils used in oil pulling | Source

What is oil pulling?

Historically known as oil swishing, is a process that involves gargling certain types of oil in the mouth as one would mouthwash or water. It is an Ayurveda practice that has been performed by Indians for many years. Oil pulling is one of the many treatment protocols described in the India traditional medicine book, Chakara Samhita.

Also known as Kavala or Gandusha, this practice was not a general way for everyone to heal their oral health problems. There were other factors to consider such as natural environment, pre-existing conditions and a person’s individual health habits. Ayurveda practices also promote other ways to maintain oral health besides oil pulling based on the natural supplements available in that environment. For instance, natural plants that grows in India such as licorice root is commonly used as an oral hygiene regimen. Oil pulling was never singled out as cure-all for dental health. Their way of life incorporates certain diet and day-to-day activity that contributed to their.

Have you tried oil pulling?

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Claimed benefits

Basic internet surfing shows that oil pulling cleans plaque and whitens teeth. The oil acts as a toxic remover of bacteria in the mouth, increasing oral health and eliminating other bodily ailments that can result from oral diseases. Further research shows the process can heal up to 30 systemic diseases such as:

  • Migraines
  • Dry skin
  • Gingivitis
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Dryness of throat

What most sites fail to show that oil pulling is used in certain instances and varies cases by case. One reason why the practice is used among Ayurveda believers is because certain oral problems prevent them from brushing their teeth. If there is an existing condition of mouth ulcers, indigestion, nausea, or problematic coughing, oil pulling is used to cleanse the mouth.

Why do the Indians include oil pulling as part of their health regimen? For one, it can prevent and cure many bodily ailments as mentioned. Ayurvedic practice also states that oil pulling is significant because of the tongue’s connection to the body’s organs such as the liver, heart, kidneys, intestines, stomach and colon – all which play a vital role in maintaining the body’s health.

Be knowledgeable about Ayuredic health practices to see if they can be used for your overall health regimen.
Be knowledgeable about Ayuredic health practices to see if they can be used for your overall health regimen. | Source

Other types of Ayuredic oral hygiene practices

Liquorice Root
fights plaque, prevents cavities
Bilberry Fruit
strengthens gum tissue
Amla Fruit
Restores oral health, effective as a mouthwash
Make sure oils you purchase are of quality or unrefined.
Make sure oils you purchase are of quality or unrefined. | Source


There are two methods to oil pulling;

  1. Kavala Graha – put a comfortable amount of oil in your mouth to leave room for gargling. Let the oil sit in your mouth for three minutes, then gargle.
  2. Gandush - fill the mouth completely with oil and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Release from the mouth

There are different types of oil used in this process which may or may not have different effects given the oil properties:

  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil
  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Vegetable Oil

Those who practice this technique have shown to have health improvements in throat dryness, cracked lips, halitosis, and vision. The quality of oil being used should be reviewed before incorporating oil pulling. Also be aware that many oils and products from holistic sources may be metal based, meaning the traditional purification process in Ayuredic medicine can involve exposure to mercury, lead and arsenic. This is with all holistic products associated with Ayuredic medicine.

Should you try it?

Before you jump onto the next health craze bandwagon, there are a few things to take into consideration. As mentioned earlier, oil pulling is not a single-handed cure all for ailments. Diet, way of life and use of other herbs should be considered as the people who practice Ayurveda held certain beliefs and way of life. The good thing is oil pulling can’t necessarily cause harm, so it doesn’t hurt to try it out. If you’re already practicing oil pulling and it’s working for you – by all means do what works for you. We just need to be wary of health claims that have lack of information and research to back it up. Be sure to do further reading on this process before diving into it.

Amla fruit.
Amla fruit. | Source

If you decide to try it, here are tips on practicing oil pulling:

  • When gargling and releasing oil from the mouth, do not release in the sink. Use a garbage can or any other outlet that doesn’t involve the drainage system in your home. Oils can solidify and cause clogging and back up in your pipes
  • It’s common to assume that traditional medicine products are safe and carry no risky exposures. Make sure the oils and other products you purchase are of healthy quality and do not contain dangerous levels of metals.
  • If you’re currently on other medications, be sure to consult with a health care provider on your use of oil pulling. Mixing the oils with other chemicals and ingredients can be dangerous to your health.
  • If you’ve had previous dental work – be sure to research this topic extensively and follow up with a dental health care provider for using oil pulling.


When it comes to new health remedies based on traditional medicine, many people tend to take one part of it and not think about the broader picture. Using one small aspect of a certain lifestyle doesn’t guarantee optimal results. There are other things being done in the culture that contributes to their health and well-being, so if you decide to start using a certain method such as oil pulling, I strongly suggest proper research before indulging yourself. The Ayuredic lifestyle has many entities to it, so it’s only fit that you make yourself aware and understand their concept of health. Fortunately, oil pulling hasn’t shown any adverse effects so it’s definitely worth looking into. Remember to consider your current health status and your way of living before doing so.


Singh, A. & Purohit, B. (2011). Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration. A review of holistic approaches to oral health. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 2(2), pp. 64-68. Doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.82525.


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