Oil Pulling: How Do I Pull Oil?

Oil pulling originated in Ayurvedic practice of using oils to detoxify gums and clean teeth. The NCBI reports that oil pulling has been shown to have a positive effect on oral health. 

Image of a jar and small dish of oil

There are about a couple dozen disease conditions that oil pulling is claimed to help, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cavity protection
  • Eczema
  • Gingivitis prevention
  • Hangovers
  • Headaches
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Infections (esp. gum infections)
  • Jaw pain
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver problems
  • Psoriasis
  • Teeth whitening
  • Treatment for bad breath

There is only anecdotal substantiation for all the claims beyond oral health (which, granted, is still interesting and impressive) and surely arises from individuals who suffered from some ailment, used oil pulling and got better. This is just another situation in which you will have to be your own research scientist if you want to know if it will help your condition.


  • Use a good, organic oil like sesame, coconut, sunflower or safflower.
  • Put a tablespoon of the oil in your mouth and swish it around gently for about 10 minutes and then spit it out.  Probably best to spit it into the garbage rather than into the plumbing.  It should be thin and white when you spit it out.  You may feel nauseated if you do your oil pulling directly after a meal.
  • Do not swallow it. The idea is that the microorganisms you don’t want in your mouth are adhering to the oil and you want to get that out of your body and not into it.
  • Rinse your mouth with your favorite natural mouth rinse or plain water and brush as usual.
  • If you cannot tolerate 10 minutes, do it for five. Traditional Ayurvedic practices may have called for something more like 5 minutes with more oil and no swishing.

Coconut oil is recommended because it is anti-microbial. If you feel any unpleasantness with coconut oil, try sesame oil. Some people are allergic to coconut oil and may get headaches or feel nauseated.  Oil pulling is considered generally as a safe practice although the ADA has made cautions noted below.

The bottom line is that it probably does reduce the bacteria in your mouth, which in turn may help to heal infection and reduce cavities. If our mouths are healthy, that helps to support overall health. It’s like a domino effect. Everything we do for one part of our body has an effect on all parts of our body.


The possible but rare side effects might occur because of improper use of this technique:

  • Nausea or headache (caused by an allergic reaction to coconut oil)
  • Ailments due to impurities in the oil (use only fresh, organic food-grade oils)
  • Lipoid Pneumonia (caused from inhaling the oil particles—so don’t do that!)
  • Increased cavities (from using oil pulling instead of (and not in addition to) continuing to brush and floss—so don’t do that!)
  • Jaw stiffness (from swishing too vigorously—be gentle)