Unbelievable Benefits of Oil Pulling

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The use of oil pulling is a millennia-old practice that continues to deliver oral health benefits to millions of people around the world.

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is the process of swishing certain healthy oils in the mouth for an extended period of time, in an effort to improve overall oral health in various ways. Oil pulling began in India thousands of years ago, and there are a number of different oils that are commonly used for this practice. Many people wonder whether oil pulling is safe since there are so many fats (albeit, some healthy ones) in many oils, but experts agree that there is no harm in trying this practice. Oil pulling is known to strip the bacteria and toxins out of your mouth, however, so swallowing this oil after you’re done oil pulling should be strictly avoided. [1]

Some people choose to use oil pulling every day, as a more time-intensive alternative to mouthwash, but other people will do this once a week, or even once a month. There are quite a few oils that can be used for this practice, but the most popular are coconut oil and sesame oil. The former is better for whitening of the teeth, while the latter is known for its plaque-busting and bacteria-eliminating properties. While it does take more time than any other mouthwash routines, the anecdotal evidence for this remedy is well known and trusted around the world.

Flatlay view of a jar, toothpaste tube, two toothbrushes, coconut halves, and various dental equipment.

Proper dental care starts with using the right products. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How to Do Oil Pulling?

The process of oil pulling is actually quite simple and is basically the same as using regular mouthwash, except for it taking a longer amount of time.

  • Place 2 teaspoons of sesame oil into your mouth – do not swallow.
  • Swish the oil for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to let any oil run down your throat.
  • The consistency will thicken over time as the oil mixes with saliva and other compounds from your mouth. [2]
  • Spit the oil directly into the garbage can, as you don’t want to flush oil down your sink.
  • Rinse out your mouth with warm water, or even swishing with warm salt water to eliminate the oily taste.
  • Finally, it is wise to brush your teeth following this to clear off any excess bacteria.

Oil Pulling Benefits

There are many impressive benefits to oil pulling, including detoxifying the body, reducing headaches, promoting clear skin, eliminating plaque and bacteria, whitening teeth, and boosting energy, among others.

Teeth Whitening

The most common reason for using oil pulling is to whiten the teeth. With antibiotic and antiviral properties, it can help to cut through the layer of plaque and gunk on your teeth, eliminating those bacteria and unwanted toxins, leaving behind a bright and shining smile. [3]

Oral Health

When it comes to improving dental hygiene, oil pulling can literally “pull” the toxins and potential pathogens from in between your teeth, breaking down bacterial colonies in hard to reach places and making it easier to flush out your mouth and prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum diseases. [4]

Energy Levels

Although research on other benefits of oil pulling is somewhat lacking, there is plenty of anecdotal reports that this practice can also provide an energetic boost in the morning, perhaps because some of these healthy fats from coconut and sesame oil are absorbed by the tissues of the mouth.


Another great reason for trying out this daily practice is eliminating headaches; many people report that daily or weekly oil pulling sessions can help to reduce inflammation and prevent headaches before they start. [5]


While the oil is primarily kept in your mouth, some of this oil will enter your bloodstream, where it can help to improve liver function and boost the health of the kidneys. [6]

Hormone Balance

Research has found that oil pulling can have an effect on hormonal levels, which is good news for those who want to balance their hormones, or who suffer from hormonal conditions, such as thyroid disorder. [7]

Skin Appearance

The antioxidants that are found in things like sesame oil and coconut oil are well known for their effects on the appearance of the skin. By using oil pulling, some of these beneficial fats will be able to affect the skin of the face and body, helping to eliminate wrinkles, reduce the signs of aging, and improve elasticity. [8]

Oil Pulling Side Effects

Despite the diverse health benefits of this practice, there are some potential side effects of which you should be aware, such as dryness of the mouth and a higher risk of cavities, in some cases.

  • Mouth Dryness: The oil can cause dehydration in your mouth, and it may take some time for a normal hydrated balance to return, resulting in mouth dryness. Vomiting and nausea are also common complaints of those who swish with too much oil.
  • Cavities: There is some evidence that using oil pulling can increase your risk of cavities, particularly if you don’t completely rinse out your mouth.
  • Pneumonia: If you allow some of the oil to get into your lungs, it is possible to contract lipid pneumonia, which is quite a dangerous condition that will require medical attention.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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