What is Oil Pulling?


Whether you have a good friend who swears by it or have seen the buzz all over the internet lately, you may be wondering, “What exactly is oil pulling?” This popular and ancient Ayurvedic detox technique seems to be gaining a lot of momentum these days, so let’s take a look at the benefits, the warnings, and how you too can give oil pulling a try.

What Is Oil Pulling? 1 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

So, what is it?

Oil pulling consists of moving oil (most popularly sesame oil, sunflower seed oil, or coconut oil) around in your mouth, like you would with mouthwash, for 10-20 minutes and then spitting it out. Lipids in the oil work to pull out toxins, resulting in whiter teeth, fresher breath, an overall healthier mouth, and a long list of other supposed health benefits. 

Oil pulling is believed to have originated from the ancient Ayurvedic Indian text on natural medicine, Charaka Samhita. In Ayurvedic medicine, the tongue is mapped with different organ locations, such as the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, stomach, colon, and spine. It is believed that oil pulling can eliminate toxins from throughout the whole body through the tongue.

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Benefits of Oil Pulling

While there has been some published research showing that oil pulling does reduce detrimental mouth bacteria, little to no scientific research can show the extended health benefits of swishing oil daily. However, it seems that there are thousands of devout oil pullers out there that claim the benefits extend far beyond a cleaner mouth. Here are some of the many health perks that frequent users claim:

  • Whiter teeth
  • Prevention of gum disease
  • Migraine headache relief
  • Correction of hormone imbalances
  • Reduction of arthritis
  • Cure a hangover
  • Acne relief
  • Eczema relief
  • Reduce symptoms of bronchitis
  • Helps support normal kidney function
  • Reduce sinus congestion
  • Ease insomnia
  • Reduces the symptoms of allergies

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You may want to steer clear of oil pulling if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have amalgam fillings. There seems to be conflicting information out there about the safety of oil pulling during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so it is probably better to just play it safe and avoid during that time. Some believe that the toxins being pulled out of your body can pass into the placenta or get into your milk supply. If you have amalgam fillings (tooth fillings made from a mixture of metals, including mercury), some believe that the oil will cause more mercury to leach out of the fillings and get into your blood stream. Again, there is conflicting commentary on this as well and appears to be no published research studies on the safety of oil pulling in any of these situations.

How To Oil Pull

Step 1:

First thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, take 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed organic oil of your choice and put it in your mouth.

What type of oil should you use?

The most popular oils to use when oil pulling seem to be sesame oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil. Sesame oil is a good choice to start with as it is more gently detoxifying compared to coconut oil which has stronger antibacterial properties. Sunflower seed oil has a mild flavor which some people prefer. If you want to give oil pulling a try, you may want to experiment with the different oils to see which one tastes the best to you and gives you the best results. Most importantly, select a high-quality, cold-pressed organic oil.

Step 2:

Swish the oil around in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. You may need to work your way up to that amount of time, so start with whatever you can handle. It helps to set a timer so you don’t lose track of the time.

Step 3:

Once the 20 minutes are up (or whatever amount of time you can stomach), spit the oil out – do not swallow it! The oil will be full of toxins (it should turn thin and white as evidence of this) so you want to avoid ingesting any. Also, it is best to spit it into the garbage instead of the sink, particularly if you use coconut oil, to avoid clogging your pipes.

Step 4:

Wash your mouth out thoroughly to remove any lingering toxins or bacteria. You can swish and spit with water or brush your teeth for an extra clean feel.

Oil pulling should be done daily for best results.

What Is Oil Pulling? 4 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families

Have you tried oil pulling? If so, what are your thoughts?

Check out our HEALTHY LIVING section for more natural and healthy tips & tricks.

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.

Photo Credit: Dreams To Do, Smile by Rupert Taylor-Price (CC)




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Ariel is a working mom of two (expecting baby #3 next July!) who is married to her high school sweetheart. When she isn’t at the office or playing with her young kiddos, you can find her writing on her personal blog, Dreams To Do. Ariel is a lover of inspirational words, photography, coffee, reality TV, and of course, her family. You can connect with Ariel on Twitter and Facebook.
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