Oil Pulling: is it really good for you?

Facing the facts on the ancient fad of oil pulling.

 By Christina Marino

Photo courtesy of Olivia/shutterstock.com.


For those internet savvy people, you may have caught wind of the new trend oil pulling.

But what is it? Oil pulling is the process of filling your mouth with sesame, or sunflower, oil and swishing it through your teeth like mouthwash for as long as 20 minutes. Those that have either read about it or even tried it, you may have been left with a weird taste in your mouth, literally. But before you go trying it for yourself, let’s look at the facts to determine if this new fad is really all it’s cracked up to be.



Although oil pulling is a relatively new trend, it was in fact derived over 3,000 years ago from a culture in India. Ayurveda is an ancient remedy focusing on the healing processes of the body, mind and spirit.

This practice extends further then just oil swishing, some more popular health practices such as yoga and massage have roots in Ayurveda.

Dental care is considered to be individualistic in Ayurveda practice, since all outside sources are elements that can influence your doshas. According to The Chopra Center, dosha translates to “mind-body constitution.” Your doshas are broken into three different elements:  vata, pitta and kapha, which further determines your oral health issues.  


How to:

To properly oil pull one must follow a detailed regiment.

First, according to oilpulling.com, take one tablespoon of oil—recommended sunflower or sesame oil—to swish in the mouth preferably in the morning on an empty stomach. Swish it thoroughly in the mouth and through the teeth to activate the processes of drawing out the toxins.

Do not swallow because the spit from the mouth is now full of harmful bacteria. When finished, spit into the toilet as not to deteriorate your sink pipes.


Face the facts:

Two pieces were published at the The National Center for Biotechnology Information focusing on the effects of oil pulling and the benefits, if any.

The first, published in 2008, was a study that gathered a group of 20 adolescent males that were age matched and divided evenly into two groups. The “study” group used oil pulling with sesame oil and the “control” group used chlorhexidine mouthwash.

Both groups used these methods of mouthwash for 10 minutes every morning and were observed 24 hours, 48 hours, one week and two-week increments. The study found “Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health.”

The second is a review that focuses on data taken from other studies, including the 2008 study, and goes further in detail.

This review further supports the integration of traditional medicine into national health systems so that the general population can find confidence and see the benefits of participating in ancient practices.  


The verdict:

The NCBI review found oil pulling aids not just your oral health but “bad breath, dry face, dull senses, exhaustion, anorexia, loss of taste, impaired vision, sore throat and all kapha related imbalances.”

Taking care of your oral health helps in oral benefits but also supports the many other parts of the body that the tongue connects to such as: “the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon and spine.”

So, block out some time and feel free to swish with abandon, because this new fad turns out to be good for you.