Oil Pulling_ An Ayurvedic Ritual For Oral Health

By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.

Email: fihealthie@gmail.com

Oil pulling is the practice of swishing or holding oils from plants in the mouth for long periods of time to produce health benefits. Some popular oils used in oil pulling are sunflower, coconut, sesame, olive and palm. While coconut is one of the most popular pulling oils, it becomes a solid below 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 Celsius), creating a chunk that is hard to swish around in the mouth.

Oil pulling also is known as “Kavala Graha” or “Gandusha,”. Gandusha and Kavala Graha are traditional pulling practices that have different processes. In Gandusha, the mouth is filled with oil, which is held in the mouth for three to five minutes and then spit out. In Kavala Graha, only a comfortable amount of oil is placed in the mouth. Then, the oil is held inside of the mouth for three minutes, gargled and spit out. 

In the Ayurvedic health care tradition, doshas are bodily energies that determine a person’s prakruti, or one’s physical, physiologic and mental character and disease vulnerability. Factors such as stress, unhealthy diet, weather and strained relationships can all influence the balance that exists between a person’s doshas. These unbalanced energies in turn leave individuals more susceptible to disease. Oil pulling is also used for dental purposes. Many claim that it strengthens gums, whitens teeth and eliminates plaque (1).

How To Do Oil Pulling

  • In oil pulling, a tablespoon full of oil is swished around the mouth in the early morning before breakfast and in empty stomach for about 20 min.
  • The oil is ‘pulled’ and forced in between all the teeth by swishing it all around the mouth.
  • At the end of this activity if the procedure is done correctly, the viscous oil will become milky white and thinner.
  • Then it is spit out and mouth is thoroughly washed with clean warm saline water or tap water and teeth are cleaned with fingers or routine tooth brushing is performed (2).

Oil Pulling for Oral Hygiene

Ayurveda believes that a healthy mind and body begins with a healthy mouth. Oil pulling is an important aspect of Ayurvedic health routines and can help support and maintain good health. From an Ayurvedic perspective, bad oral health can be the cause of many health problems. Accordingly, it is important to practice oil pulling in order to detoxify your body and stay healthy (3).

According to the study on “Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis” it was been observed that the clinical examination was tested for all the days of assessment and the inter-examiner reliability was found to be substantial to good. The Kappa coefficient scores were in the range of 65-92. The mean gingival index was 0.91 and the plaque index was 1.19 at baseline. In comparison to the baseline values both the gingival and the plaque indices substantially reduced during the period of assessment. There was a steady decline in both the plaque index and the gingival index values from day 7. The average gingival index score on day 30 was down to 0.401 and the plaque index score was 0.38 (4).

Anand et al in their study observed 20% reduction in bacterial count upon 40 days of oil pulling using sesame oil. Also they observed reductions in the severity of dental caries. Sesame oil was observed to possess moderate antimicrobial activity against S. mutans and L. acidophilus. They mentioned that toxins and bacteria from the body may be removed through the tongue and get trapped in oil and thrown out from the body (5).

The Best Oil to Use for Oil Pulling

Some of the more commonly recommended oils for oil pulling include sesame oil, sunflower oil, butter oil, coconut oil and olive oil. Some of the benefits of these options include the following:

  • Sesame oil contains vitamin E and antioxidants, which can help prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol in the liver.
  • Olive oil has anti-viral properties.
  • Coconut oil can significantly reduce bacterial growth in your mouth (6).

Do’s and Dont’s Of Oil Pulling

  • DO swish a minimum of 5 minutes.
  • DO oil pull with an empty stomach, don’t even drink water beforehand, first thing in the morning is the easiest.
  • DO be aware of muscle aching.
  • DO practice your oil ritual several times a week.
  • DON’T swallow the oil.
  • DON’T try and talk during oil pulling.


  1. https://www.livescience.com/50896-oil-pulling-facts.html
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/sj.bdj.2009.772
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/sj.bdj.2009.772
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4382606/
  5. https://academicjournals.org/journal/AJMR/article-full-text-pdf/21CA7A911094
  6. https://www.copperh2o.com/blogs/blog/the-complete-guide-to-oil-pulling#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20oil%20pulling%20has,as%20from%20your%20lymphatic%20system.

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