How Does Oil Pulling Work?

yogaimage-200x130Would swishing oil in my mouth make me more sexy to my boyfriend? Or help me be smarter at work? Or speed up my weight loss?

Claims like these seem to be all over the media these days, and I am receiving a ton of email questions about oil pulling. I figured I’d write up a quick post to help fill all you Freedom Junkies in on this cool Ayurvedic practice, and what its most likely benefits are.

In oil pulling, you swish oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes a day, typically with sesame or coconut oil. I prefer coconut oil as it is a bit lighter than sesame, but to each his/her own! Traditionally you can also use oil that has had herbs infused in it for a more medicinal effect.

Ayurveda seems particularly obsessed with oil – especially ghee and sesame oil – and in Ayurveda, we stick oil in all sorts of places – ears, nose, mouth…hey now!

So how can oil pulling have so many benefits other than making your mouth all smooth and silky-like? I mean, people talk about oil pulling helping with arthritis/joint pain, thyroid issues, and even diabetes and heart disease!

Dr. Douillard shared this quote from a traditional Ayurvedic text:

“Keeping of oil gargle provides strength in jaws and voice, development of the face, maximum taste and relish of food. One does not suffer from dryness of throat, lip cracking and teeth become firmly rooted. The teeth do not ache or become sensitive and can chew the hardest food items.”

Nada about the rest of the body.

Modern studies have shown fairly good evidence for oral health with oil pulling – control of bacterial overgrowth that can contribute to gingivitis, as well as improved plaque control. Same as the ancient texts! And many people also claim whiter teeth.

We also now know the connection of dental health to the rest of the body. For example, over my career as a nurse midwife, it became cleat the oral health, and periodontal disease in particular, is linked to pre-term labor. We also know that when people with certain heart diseases like abnormal heart rhythms or artificial valves receive dental work, they need to receive antibiotic prophylaxis (prevention) because unhealthy oral bacteria can adversely affect the heart and cause grave consequences for those peeps. So if you think about it – even if you don’t have a heart disease or aren’t pregnant, there is a clear association between oral health and the rest of your body.

Which means the benefits of oil pulling on the rest of the body can make some sense, eh?

So why oil?

Well, Ayurveda LOVES using oil for detoxification because somehow, way back when, they knew that many toxins were bonded by oil and pulled out by the oil from the body. So it is smeared on the skin, swished in the mouth, and consumed in considerable quantities during active detoxification.

These days science has shown us that many toxins (like pesticides, heavy metals, certain hormones etc) are lipid soluble – so they will like to dissolve into/attach to oil in the body, like your fat cells (ew!).

Dr. Douillard of LifeSpa writes, “This use of oil as a detox accelerator or “pulling” agent has been recently studied. In one study, the external use of sesame oil in massage and the ingestion of ghee were found to reduce lipid peroxides or free radicals in the blood. The researchers concluded that the lipophilic effect of the oils helps pull free radicals and toxins out of the blood.” He also mentions other studies that support the same effect.

Translation: oil applied to the skin decreased levels of certain toxins in the blood.

Our mucosa – which lines our nose and mouth and GI tract, for example – is known to allow very good access to our bloodstream. Hence the popularity of snorting through the nose as an effective way to get drugs like cocaine into the system. In fact, in terms of delivering many drugs – recreational or not – the nasal and oral mucosa allow some of the most direct access to our inner bodies second to only injecting straight into the blood stream! So it makes sense that using oils and herbs like tumeric in the mouth can have decent access to our inner body and with pulling toxins from our systems, for fat-soluble toxins.

 How to Oil Pull

  • I like to do it in the morning after I scrape my tongue, floss and brush my teeth and drink some water.
  • You can heat up sesame oil by placing your bottle of oil into some hot water for a few minutes, or with coconut oil it melts easily in the mouth. You can use 1-3 tsp. of the oil. Coconut oil is lighter in texture than sesame oil.
  • Hold the oil in your mouth or actively swish it through your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Some people are actually able to meditate with the oil in their mouth. That would be awfully convenient, but I’d drool oil all over my face if I tried that. I tend to make tea, gather my belongings for the day, pick out what I’m going to wear etc as I swish the oil around.
  • When you’re done, you can spit it out, preferably into the trash so that you don’t clog up your drains with oil.
  • Rinse with water

If this is a bit much for you (some people get nauseated or just grossed out) try using less oil at first, or if you’re using sesame try coconut oil, of vice versa.

Oh – and BTW, if you are pregnant, you may not want to oil pull because you technically don’t want to release toxins rapidly when you are pregnant. Pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding are their own kind of detox alltogether;)

So there you have it! Pull on!

Have you tried oil pulling? What was your experience with it? Are you wanting to try it but are hesitant? Let me know below (and I’ll see if I can help you out if you have questions!!.

If you’d like to learn more about Ayurveda, detoxing, and oil pulling, check out my Ayurveda Spring Cleanse starting in April! It’s based around Dr. Douillard’s Ayurvedic Colorado Cleanse, which totally rocks! You can join us as late as April 7th, 2014, but we start prepping together April 1st – so come to the partay as soon as you can! Check out