What Is Oil Pulling and Does It Really Work?

by Natalie on April 11, 2013

A very bizarre practice sweeping the world of natural health as of late (actually, it may have been around for ages and I’ve only just cottoned on) is the controversial Oil Pulling Therapy. I had heard whispers of it here and there but it wasn’t until I recently watched an entire Oil Pulling segment on one of my favourite medical shows that I realised – a) there might just be some solid evidence that this concept works, and b) if it has already gone mainstream then I seriously need to catch up. So I figured I’d do some research to see whether I should consider swishing oil around in my mouth every day and if it would be worth my while. Here’s what I found out…

What is Oil Pulling?

Quite simply, Oil Pulling is an ancient detoxing ritual that involves swishing oil (anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon) in the mouth for roughly 20 minutes and then disposing of it. The oil is worked from side to side, back and forth, through the teeth and all around the gums. The idea of this is that as the oil is travelling around it is ‘pulling’ toxins, bacteria and waste from inside the mouth and body and collecting it in the oil so that it can be eliminated.

What Are The Health Benefits of Oil Pulling?

One of the most widely acknowledged benefits of Oil Pulling (even recognised by some dentists) is its ability to improve oral health. Daily Oil Pulling can help to get rid of bacteria in the mouth, eliminate bad breath, and can treat and prevent things like gingivitis and gum disease. It has even been known to whiten teeth! So it’s basically like a mouthwash and whitening gel mixed in one, minus the harsh chemicals.

Aside from dental health, the more debatable issue is the ability of Oil Pulling to cure a large number of other health ailments. Apparently it can assist in the treatment of everything from; skin conditions like eczema and acne, digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and joint pain, insomnia, hormone imbalance, sinus infections, thrush, and many more. It is hard to say whether Oil Pulling has a significant effect on these conditions, but I’m definitely intrigued after learning that there are some really strong arguments for it and that most health gurus are giving it a big thumbs up… so I’ve already started pulling!

There’s a good book here that tells you everything you need to know about the theory of Oil Pulling and exactly how it can benefit your health - Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing.

What Oils Can be Used?

Oil Pulling is best carried out early in the morning on an empty stomach before eating breakfast. This is also the time when your mouth contains the highest level of bacteria. Most vegetable oils that are organic, virgin, and cold-pressed can be used during Oil Pulling and you’ll most likely have some already lying around in the cupboard so you won’t need to spend any money. You can either choose one oil or use a combination of different types but try not to use refined, processed or tainted oil, as it should be as pure as possible. Here are some oils that are believed to be most effective:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Caster Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Flax Seed Oil
  • Oregano Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Hemp Oil
  • Sesame Oil
  • Grape Seed Oil

Are There Any Side Effects?

The act of Oil Pulling is completely harmless and doesn’t have any adverse side effects. Some people find that on their first few attempts, holding the oil in their mouth triggers the gag reflex and makes them feel a little queasy, but this sensation normally subsides and the more you practice the more your body becomes accustomed to it. You should be really careful not to gargle or swallow any of the oil as it will have gathered toxins throughout the swishing process and the idea is to remove them, not re ingest them. You should always thoroughly wash your mouth out and brush your teeth after every oil pull. It is also a good idea to spit the oil in the bin or toilet rather than your sink as oil residue can build up in the drain.

It might sound difficult to find the spare time to sit and complete this exercise, but you can be Oil Pulling while doing most other activities or chores around the house. Try taking a shower, reading a book, watching the morning news, making breakfast, or preparing your lunch for the day while you’re pulling ;)

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Hannah April 12, 2013 at 6:04 am

I must admit I’ve been wondering what oil pulling was! Do you think you can notice any short term improvements yet Nat?


Natalie April 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’ve only been doing it for the last few days Han. So I’ll give it a couple of weeks and let you know how it goes!


Lauren April 17, 2013 at 6:24 am

So intrigued by this method! Think I’ll give it a go.


Natalie April 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

Definitely try it Loz :) I found it hard to last the full 20 minutes at first, but it gets easier!


Koko April 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I have tried this before, but not consistently enough to see results. I should give it another go!!


Natalie April 20, 2013 at 4:45 am

Koko I’ve been doing it for over a week and seeing some results. I’d be interested to hear what you think!


Natalie April 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

This is VERY interesting. Part of me wants to try it but I do not want to throw up lol


Natalie April 20, 2013 at 4:47 am

Hi Nat! I don’t think you would actually throw up it’s just a strange sensation having oil in your mouth so the first time makes you feel a bit off. Let me know if you end up trying it ;)


Ana May 16, 2013 at 4:33 am

I tried it for about a week and I had horrible headaches that would last off and on all day long. I was using an organic ev-coconut oil. Since I stopped doing it the headaches are gone. Has anyone else had this same experience? I’m wondering if I should change to sesame oil. Any suggestions?


Natalie May 17, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Hi Ana! I have never heard of this happening before? especially with the organic cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil. You could always give it another go using a different oil. A lot of people are loving the oregano oil so you could try that.

Let me know how you go


perla oloarte June 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I had headaches the first 2 weeks… now I am feeling great! It ‘s a detox sign!


Ana May 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I am going to try doing it with organic ev-sesame oil. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks for responding! :)


Nancy May 23, 2013 at 3:53 am

I have done oil pulling with great success. I was having sinus headaches every single day. Well, the oil pulling got rid of the headaches so I quit the oil pulling. The sinus headaches have now started again. I am sure it won’t be long before I have a sinus infection and have to go to dr. So why did I quit? Even though it pulled yucky looking stuff out of me, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how it does that, I have now heard that if you have a certain kind of fillings in your mouth, the end result could be much worse than a sinus infection or whatever you were oil pulling for in the first place. I can’t ask my dr about this because he doesn’t believe in all this kind of stuff. Also, according to what I read there is such thing as detoxing too much also, which could dangerous.


Cindy June 4, 2013 at 3:59 am

I’m currently on a trip and got a terrible, terrible toothache several days ago that was so painful that it took over my whole mouth–it kept me awake most of the night and made eating nearly impossible. In hopes of buying myself some time to finish my trip and see my regular dentist when I get home, I decided to try oil pulling after reading about it online. I mean, who wants to sit through a root canal when you’re supposed to be enjoying a vacation by the beach? I was skeptical about the oil pull but since I had some olive oil on hand in the cupboard at our vacation rental I figured “why not?” I did it before I went to bed and I slept that night without waking up in pain as I had done all night the night before. There was still a lot of pain but not as intense as before. The next day I did 3 oil pulls: 1 upon waking up in the morning, 1 around the lunch hour and 1 before I went to bed. Amazingly, most of the pain is gone now except for some tenderness right around the bad tooth. No big deal. I can still eat normally and it’s only a slight ache now. Not only that, my sinuses seem clearer than they’ve been in months! I also seem to have more energy these last few days since I started doing this. Even after this tooth is taken care of, I’m definitely sold on doing regular oil pulls! I can tell that it’s doing more good things for me than just relieving that horrible tooth pain. What a pleasant surprise!


Ana June 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm

I’m glad it helped you! It’s amazing what a little bit of oil can do. :-)


Ana June 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I started using sesame oil to pull in the mornings and it has been great! I have not developed any headaches like I did before with the coconut oil. My only complaint is that I prefer the taste of the coconut oil. If everything continues to go well with the sesame oil I may try going back to the coconut oil. We’ll see :-)


sharon kaill July 4, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hey Natalie,
Are you still oil pulling? Have you noticed any effects yet?


Natalie July 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

Hi Sharon! Yes I try to do it at least a couple of times each week. I’ve noticed that my teeth are looking a little whiter which is great :) I’d love to hear your experience with it.

Thanks for stopping by!


sheena July 5, 2013 at 10:43 am

had a link threw fb been readying up on it and will try, tho maybe not cocount oil as really is far to much for a smalll amount in the uk. will let you know


mike July 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I have lots of health issues that weakend me but ever since I tried it
I’ve seen a big boost in my energy and I feel graet


Sashank August 7, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Actually, according to Ayurveda Acharyas (the great teachers of ancient India who have written the ayurveda sutras, and who have written about oil pulling) sesame oil is one of the best oils for the body….I have been doing oil pulling with sesame oil and my teeth have become amazingly whiter and have become stronger. After the third day I started doing it, I felt my teeth with my tongue and they just felt like a string of pearls…the feeling was amazing. I am not sure if coconut oil is recommended in the original scriptures.


Mary November 19, 2013 at 6:56 pm

My Coconut oil is organic, white and thick. It only becomes liquid when I heat it. Is this the same you use, and does it liquify in your mouth or do you use some other clear coconut oil?


Natalie November 20, 2013 at 3:06 am

Hi Mary,

Coconut oil solidifies in cold temperatures so you’ll need to melt it first before using it to oil pull. If you place the jar in a bowl of hot water it will liquidize.

Hope that helps!



Mary November 20, 2013 at 11:25 am


Thanks for your reply. I didn’t see this until after I already did the oil pull this morning. I just put a spoon full in my mouth first thing this morning and my natural body temperature warmed it and it became liquid in about a minute. Thanks for the reply though.


Gaby January 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Hi: I am 15 weeks pregnant and wondering if I can do the oil pulling technique while pregnant. Do you know if it’s safe? I have a stuffy nose (pregnancy rhinitis) and if it helps with the sinus it would be great!!! I am a clean eater and did a massive detox just before becoming pregnant, so I am familiar with superfoods and only use coconut oil to cook. Thanks!!!


Natalie January 7, 2014 at 8:35 am

Hi Gaby! I know oral health can sometimes decline during pregnancy but I’ve heard differing views on whether oil pulling is safe to do while pregnant or nursing. Maybe just check with your doctor or naturopath. X


Julie March 31, 2014 at 6:50 pm

I’ve been oil pulling for approximately 1 week and I just LOVE IT!!!! My teeth have never felt this clean. I have more energy and also am sleeping better. I did feel sick the first couple days, headaches, and a flu like feeling, but I’m sure that’s just the detox working. I’m sticking with it……will keep you posted.


BC April 13, 2014 at 1:55 am

what about spearmint, peppermint, and almond oil?


Natalie April 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Hi BC,

I’m not too familiar with these oils. As long as they are food grade organic oils that are extra-virgin and cold pressed then I don’t see why they wouldn’t work. Maybe do a little more research on those ones before trying.

Hope that helps :)


Nancy May 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Hi, I have been pulling for just about two weeks and I have has several results.
First my teeth feel so clean and are whitening. Second I am diabetic and since I have been pulling my blood sugar has gone down drastically. My Dr. doesn’t think this is the reason but I have had very high sugar readings and since first day of pulling and there after they have been down over 100 points. But as of yesterday I have started to ether have sinus issues or starting of a cold, not quite sure yet, so I will continue oil pulling with coconut oil.


Michelle September 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Ive been oil pulling for about a month now and i love it also!! I have so much more energy, sleeping better, clearer skin and dramaticly better oral health… My guns were extremely sore before… Also helps with pms symptoms! Thats what i have experienced so far. Id recommend it to anyone!!!


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