Oil Pulling: Not Just for Oral Health?

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on February 5, 2015

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for oral health and detoxification. It involves the use of pure oils as agents for pulling harmful bacteria, fungus, and other organisms out of the mouth, teeth, gums and even throat.

Oil Pulling Benefits

The most effective oil pulling is done by placing around a tablespoon of cold pressed organic sesame oil into the mouth and swishing the oil around the mouth for approximately 10-15 minutes and then spitting it out.

Other oils such as extra virgin cold pressed coconut, sunflower and olive oil have been used, although sesame oil is considered one of the best oils for this practice. I recommend alternating oils every couple of days to get the full benefit. Putting high quality organic oils into the mouth has a multi-effect outcome.

First, the oils mix with the saliva, turning it into a thin, white liquid. Lipids in the oils begin to pull out toxins from the saliva. As the oil is swished around the mouth, teeth, gums and tongue, the oil continues to absorb toxins, and usually ends up turning thick and viscous and white. Once the oil has reached this consistency, it is spit out before the toxins are reabsorbed.

What does oil pulling do?

Multiple scientific studies show the efficacy of oil pulling therapy. One study [1] shows that oil pulling with sesame oil can boost overall oral health. Specifically, using sesame oil as an oral health agent helps to reduce the amount of S. mutans (germ) count in both teeth plaque and mouth saliva. Scientists believe that the lipids in the oil both pull out bacteria, as well as stop bacteria from sticking to the walls of the oral cavity.

Oil pulling may also increase saponification in the mouth, creating a soapy environment that cleanses the mouth as vegetable fat is an emulsifier by nature. Most interesting is perhaps the ability of oil to cleanse out harmful bacteria, as well as reduce fungal overgrowth. These oils also possibly help in cellular restructuring, and are related to the proper functioning of the lymph nodes and other internal organs.

Other possible benefits of oil pulling for oral health include:

  • Overall strengthening of the teeth and gums and jaws.
  • Prevention of diseases of the gums and mouth, such as cavities and gingivitis.
  • Prevention for bad breath
  • Potential holistic remedy for bleeding gums
  • Prevention of dryness of the lips, mouth and throat.
  • Possible holistic treatment for TMJ and general soreness in the jaw area.

Benefits Beyond the Mouth?

Ancient Ayurvedic health practitioners believed that oil pulling could reduce more than just diseases of the mouth and throat. Today, many holistic practitioners tout its use for a variety of health concerns. It is believed that these oils help the lymphatic system of the body as harmful bacteria are removed and beneficial micro flora are given with a healthy environment to flourish. Because of this holistic perspective, oil pulling has been used as a preventative health measure for many other conditions.

Other possible benefits of oil pulling for overall health include:

woman covering mouth
  • Migraine headache relief
  • Supporting hormone imbalances
  • Reducing redness and swelling in bones and joints
  • May help with gastro-enteritis
  • Aids in the reduction of eczema
  • Helps support normal kidney function
  • May help reduce congestion
  • Some people report improved vision
  • Helps promote normal sleep patterns
  • Reduced hangover after alcohol consumption
  • Aids in reducing discomfort
  • Helps detoxify the body

Scientific Studies on Sesame Oil and Oil Pulling

Sesame oil is particularly high in the antioxidants sesamol, sesamin, and sesamolin. It also holds a high concentration of Vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These antioxidants have been found to stop the absorption of negative forms of cholesterol in the liver. Multiple studies have shown the antibacterial capacities of sesame oil. These studies support the use of oil pulling in the prevention of dental cavities and gingivitis.

A 2007 study [2] looking into the effect of oil pulling (with sunflower oil) on plaque and gingivitis on oral soft and hard tissues. Results found that after 45 days of oil pulling, subjects showed a statistically significant reduction in gingivitis.

Another study [3], conducted in 2008 found a “remarkable reduction in the total count of bacteria” in the mouth, and an overall marked reduction in susceptibility dental cavities. The antibacterial activity of sesame oil was also studied and found to have an effect on the Streptococcus mutans in the mouth. In fact, these studies showed an overall reduction of bacteria from 10 to 33.4% in participants, and after 40 days of oil-pulling, participants were found to show 20% in average reduction in oral bacteria. Moreover, half of all participants in this case study showed a drastic reduction in susceptibility to dental caries.

Have you ever tried oil pulling? If so, please share your experience in the comments below.


  1. Asokan S, Rathan J, Muthu M S, Rathna Prabhu V, Emmadi P, Raghuraman, Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry. 2008. vol 26 issue 1, [[/12-17.
  2. HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of oil pulling on plaque and gingivitis (PDF). J. Oral Health Comm Dent. 2007. 1(1):12-18.
  3. T. Durai Anand, C. Pothiraj, R. M. Gopinath, B. Kayalvizhi. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria (PDF). African Journal of Microbiology Research. 2008 March. vol.(2) pp.063-066,

  • Kelly Cee

    What soap were you using?

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.goldenne.56 Katherine Goldenne

    YES BEEN SWISHING BOUT 2 MONTHS NOW…just had 12 extractions today getting dentures this month wish it happened sooner but miricle my gums are wonderful and no bleeding thankyouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.goldenne.56 Katherine Goldenne


  • Sharon

    Haven’t. Tried this yet although very interested. I’m in Germany now but as soon as I return to the states, I will try. Considering doing some before and after pictures of my teeth. Looking forward to a cleaner and fresher mouth, and the energy benefits.

  • Amy

    From what I read you are supposed to do it on an empty stomach which is why it is recommended to do in the morning before eating or drinking.

  • Lisa L

    I think this is a normal reaction when you cleanse and detox your body. It is a reaction to the toxins being released by your cells and is a temporary condition which will probably subside in a few days. It is called a healing crisis, and happens with other types of cleanses as well. Some people are more prone to this reaction than others.

  • Lisa L

    It will be beneficial, as braces tend to increase oral germs and decay

  • Zara Whitaker


  • angie sink

    I have been using oil pulling for my sinus pain and pressure caused by congestion for the last year. This method really works for me. Previously I had been researching natural remedies for my sinusitis, and am very grateful to have discovered this simple procedure, if I have severe congestion, I still use my other remedies: saline rinse with a nettie-pot, massaging facial area over the sinus cavities, in addition to oil pulling. Also, just went to the dentist, and he could not find any cavities, another wonderful benefit of oil pulling.

  • Jeroen Deva Geetesh

    You can find the studies below the article. Obviously there are only a few studies since oil pulling is commericially not interesting. Those selling mouthwash and those drilling teeth have only to loose from any study that proves that oil pulling works.

    Be a light onto yourself and try it out. You have a lot to win and nothing to loose.

  • Sally

    My dentist slowly replaced all my metal fillings.

  • ghc_health

    With mercury free, right??

  • Elizabeth

    i’ve been oil pulling for quite a while, although i used raw virgin coconut oil instead. i’ve had great results, my teeth got much whiter, my ulcers dissapeared and my bad breath went away. I defenitly recommend oil pulling.

  • ghc_health

    Excellent! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Elizabeth!
    -Dr. Edward Group

  • ghc_health

    Hey Sharon, have you given it a try yet? Let us know how it worked for you!

  • ghc_health

    None reported!

  • Linda Uliana

    I am going through chemo, which is causing sores in my mouth, someone recommended oil pulling. I will try anything to improve this condition, does anyone have experience with this?

  • yusuf

    what would be effectiveness of using black seed oil for oil pulling?

  • ghc_health

    Might be worth a look.

    Check out this article on the subject-


  • ghc_health

    Ugh, I feel for you, Linda. I have witnessed that terrible side effect. We’ve heard that some people have good luck using O2-Zap, an ozonated olive oil for this problem. It is organic olive oil that is maxed out with oxygen.

  • Linda Uliana

    Thank you- I’ve been doing the oil pulling – and the sores that were in my mouth have healed. I had another chemo treatment and have started with another sore – but it’s not nearly as bad. I will look for that product, and continue with the oil pulling.

  • BH

    Why do left-brainies always need a study for everything? What about instinct? What about testimonials? Studies done by scientists are always biased in favour of drugs and against natural remedies anyway so I don’t really take them seriously.

  • ghc_health

    Right on! Thanks for sharing.

  • shawn

    I am interested in trying flaxseed oil for pulling. Thoughts?

  • Lorenzo Hoboken

    Can you please cite a single US study or medical journal?

  • beth

    can I just use regular sesame oil? what is pressed sesame oil?

  • TJ Green

    Anyone have experience with OP and adding a bit of ozonated olive oil?

  • Megatron

    Are you unable to find this information yourself or is your question a roundabout way of cleverly insinuating that oil pulling is bogus?

  • chanel

    I’m using avocado oil and im loving the results

  • jrchellew

    I have been oil pulling for exactly one week and I love the results!! I received my Nutiva Organic Unrefined Coconut Oil last Tuesday and got started right away. I noticed (15 minutes into swishing) an urge to clear my throat because I felt my sinuses draining. Immediately after spitting it out, I realized the sensitivity I usually experience while rinsing with cold water was almost non-existent!! This was a big problem for me and one of the reasons I dreaded brushing my teeth because it hurt so bad… After one week of oil pulling every morning for 20 mins, I have noticed: My teeth are whiter & softer, my breath is a lot more pleasant, increased energy during the day, I sleep better/easier at night, reduced nasal congestion, the joint pain in my knees has gotten significantly better, and my skin looks healthier(less pimples and decreased dryness). I also have noticed a visible improvement in my tinea versicolor (a skin condition that looks like tons of lighter-colored spots on my back, chest and arms that also causes itching and flaking skin). My skin feels softer and I haven’t even needed to use lotions for it this whole week!! Psyched about that whether it’s because of the oil pulling or not!!! Oil pulling has also lead to an increased awareness of my dietary habits throughout the day. It’s a good habit to start the day with because it helps me stay focused on my overall health!! I think everyone should try this and see how it improves their health!!

  • BG

    Your situation sounds similar to mine. Have had gum and teeth problems all my life. I have learned to manage infection and pain with Grapefruit Seed Extract. Three drops in about one third cup of water every night before retiring. Swish in mouth for a couple of minutes and swallow. I have become very interested in oil pulling. I started and then read something about reactions with metal. I have spent thousands and a lot of misery with failed implants. I still have left over metal posts and have suffered from so much pain from dentist, I am terrified to go back. I would love to know if it is safe for me with my situation to do the oil pulling.

  • BG

    It sounds like it might be difficult, but it’s not (unless you get the urge to sneeze or cough. I controlled that problem with a paper towel in a glass handy just in case. Then you can spit and start over if you need to.

  • Dawn Fornillo

    it is perhaps the best habit I have ever had! It has helped my sinuses and cleared up what I believe to be a type of skin cancers in 2 spots, not to mention that my gums are healthy and never hurt anymore. I suggest this as an aid for general health improvement. It is an easy thing to do every morning and well worth the results!

  • Ya ya

    I hand wash my dishes while I am oil pulling. Keeps my mind and hands busy. I really don’t think about swallowing but dry swallow if I need to. I just started OP with coconut oil, so this is all new to me.

  • http://www.dachia.com Dachia

    I have been reading about OP for a little bit now, and am interested for myself (healthy mouth) and for my brother (lots of mouth issues). I have priced Sesame and Coconut and they are pricey. What is the schedule for all this? Is there a difference in that between healthy mouth and unhealthy mouth? Is one brand better? Are we looking for certain titles such as “extra virgin” etc? Do we do this every day for a certain period of time and then take a day off or two? Or do you just do this every day for the rest of your life? Or do you do it a full week and then again in a couple months? Again, difference in that for healthy vs unhealthy mouth?

  • Jaycee

    I have been oil pulling with Sesame oil for 2 weeks and I am completely amazed! I heard about it on Dr. Oz about a year ago, but never followed through. Then I met someone who had been doing it for a few months and was raving about all the wonderful things it has done for them, so I had to try it. They recommended Sesame oil, but also said that they alternate sometimes with Coconut oil and it seems to help both oils to work better! My teeth are so white!!! I have tried whitening products that never seemed to work all that well for me. I thought that the natural color of my teeth must just be more yellow because I’ve always had strong teeth and very few dental problems, but they weren’t very white. Wow!!! Gums look and feel amazing too! And as a side note, I am sleeping much sounder, not having to get up and use the bathroom 1 or 2 times per night! I’m 51 years old so that means a lot! Also, skin seems clearer, brighter. I don’t know what other benefits I may find over time, but so far I’m a believer!

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  • Dena Robins

    I have tried oil pulling for 3 weeks. Amazingly it got rid of inflammation in my left foot. I am losing weight because I combined pulling with my early morning exercise.

  • Kim

    Amazing difference after ONE oil pulling session. Used coconut oil for 20 minutes, then brushed & flossed. 2 hours later I looked at my tongue in the mirror and couldn’t believe my eyes. My tongue was pink and completely free of any coating!!! It has never looked like that in spite of numerous detoxes, liver cleanses, etc. I will do oil pulling every day from now and look forward to reporting further benefits.

  • InTheLight717

    They ask what you are doing, then dismiss it.

  • InTheLight717

    My son had stubborn plaque, probably due to his regular snacking…now kids eat 5x/day. Anyway, I finally made him swish oil, usually just 5 minutes but maybe twice at 10 minutes. He is 11 and had to work his way up…at first it was just 1 minute. We use coconut oil, organic but not unrefined. After 5 oil pulls, the plaque on the one tooth that always seemed to be covered in plaque (it was disgusting, but he has never had a cavity, and the other teeth were clean), that tooth was clean! Now we have slacked off for a while, but this weekend he agreed to another oil pulling.

    I think this morning I kept the oil in too long and reabsorbed some of the toxins. I will have to be careful not to go more than 15 minutes, maybe 2 separate pulls, 10 minutes each? I love coconut oil, so the oil pulling is not a problem. I do want to try sesame and olive oil as they each have different properties. I wish I knew about oil pulling 20 years ago. I have had a slightly swollen lymph node behind my right ear so obviously have some sort of systemic infection, but the Infectious Disease doctor I saw just dismissed the swollen lymph node, put me on LEVAQUIN for 4 weeks and I’m not even sure he washed his hands before seeing me or afterward. I swore I would never take levaquin after it sent my grandmother into cardiac arrest. Now I’ve learned that it is a fluoride-based antibiotic and can’t believe I caved like that…I knew better. Thank God for nascent iodine, and maybe the oil pulling will help with the lymphatic system drainage?

  • Pete

    This would be a good reason to change out your metal fillings. If simply swishing oil around your mouth may be able to do this, imagine what food can do! You can take them out, go to a good dentist who has experience with this. Get ceramics.

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  • Crystal

    You are supposed to pull in the morning before you swallow anything or brush your teeth. The idea is that while you sleep and aren’t swallowing, toxins are brougth to your mouth and when you swallow in the morning, you are then putting them back into your body. For this reason, as soon as you wake, your supposed to oil pull for 10-15 minutes, then brush your teeth and go about your day.

  • Terri Jensen

    I’m swishing as I read for the first time. Trying to get rid of my orange tounge. I’ll check back and tell you how it goes.

  • hazel horsford

    I just started op this week. Already my mouth is fresher, and teeth a shade lighter. i have a disease of the lymphatic system, so I am looking forward to my next set of lab work to see if I have made improvement there. I will keep you posted.

  • Gladys

    Have already tried the “mouth wash” with “Sunflower Seed Oil” for a few months. Obviously, my gum and sensitive teeth are better. Definitely, I would keep trying this method – mouth wash.

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