Oil pulling: Not as gross as it sounds

Morning rituals vary from person to person. While others would check their phones first, some would drink a liter of water, and a few would swish oil around their mouths for 20 minutes or so. Yes, you read the last part right. Since our mouths are home to millions of bacteria, viruses, and other toxins – they are embedded deeply in the crevices of our teeth and gums – the oil acts like a cleanser, taking out all the nasty stuff before it spreads throughout our bodies. Since most toxins in your mouth are oil-soluble, no amount of water-based mouthwash will kill or pull it. This process is called oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic ritual dating back to 3,000 years. It is also known as “kavala” or “gundusha” and it involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth right when you wake up (you must have an empty stomach upon doing it) for around five to 20 minutes before spitting it out. Be careful not to swallow the oil as it will mean swallowing the toxins that you are trying to pull out; and don’t spit into the sink as it will block your pipes – it is important to spit it out in the trash can.

Some popular oils used in oil pulling are coconut, sunflower, sesame and olive – coconut being the most popular because of its strong antibacterial properties. I remember passing by a store in Rockwell that was selling coconut oil and the salesperson mentioned that their coconut oils are perfect for oil pulling. I’ve tried doing it using this oil, but unfortunately it didn’t last more than a week as it was too strong for me and made me feel like gagging. My friend who has been oil pulling regularly the past year advised me to use sunflower oil as she does. Honestly, I have yet to try it as I haven’t found the oil just yet. Since I only tried oil pulling for a week, I must admit I didn’t really notice any change or benefit in my health or body. But then again, these things take time, and you can’t expect changes in a week, right?

Marvy Schuman, from Eugene, Oregon, told me that when she started oil pulling more than a year ago, she noticed changes after three months of doing it; the most obvious being the absence of plaque (or an obvious lesser presence) in her teeth when she had her dental appointment. Others say this habit also strengthens gums and whitens teeth, aside from the aforementioned elimination of plaque.

Aside from its dental benefits, here are more reasons why you should try oil pulling:

Reduces headaches – since headaches and migraines usually occur when the body is under toxic stress, eliminating some bacteria from the body by oil pulling may help you avoid feeling malaise.

Helps clear the skin – no toxins in your bloodstream (that came from your body) means clearer, glowing skin. People with rashes and skin issues claim that their skin problems have dramatically improved after oil pulling.

Increase in energy – when our immune system is no longer working hard trying to fend off toxins from our bodies because we have removed it from the get go, the amount of work our bodies have to do to function is lowered and makes us feel more energized for other things.

Best way to detoxify the body – since we are killing the germs that cause disease and illness right at the source (the mouth, which is the gateway of these toxins), they no longer have the chance to spread and therefore helps detoxify!

Balances hormones – hormones are sometimes thrown off balance when having to compete with foreign substances. Without having toxins to deal with, our hormones can function better without being thrown off balance.

For your oral hygiene (not just dental) – tooth cavities and bacteria cause bad breath, so oil pulling will be greatly beneficial for those suffering from halitosis.


If and when you do try oil pulling, remember to be gentle as you swish it around your mouth and not be aggressive with it. Remember that since you are doing it for  five to 20 minutes, the oil will multiply its size as it draws in not just the toxins, but saliva as well. Make sure not to swallow anything and spit the oil out into the trash when you’re done. After which, you may gargle with some warm salt water; brush and floss your teeth and carry on with the rest of your day, feeling fresher and cleaner each day.


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