The Ayurvedic Habit of Oil Pulling: Benefits and How-To

Western medicine and Ayurveda both look to the health of one’s tongue and mouth as an important indicator of one’s overall health. In addition, many studies have demonstrated that good oral health does more than keep your teeth and gums healthy. It may also prevent serious illnesses in the body.

Ayurveda emphasizes disease prevention versus disease treatment. This approach gives way to a number of different habits that can help the body maintain health and wellbeing before things go south. Oil pulling–the act of swishing oil around your teeth and gums in a similar way you would use mouthwash–is one of these useful ancient habits that has been used for thousands of years to prevent disease.

Oil Pulling & Ayurveda

Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic oral health habit that is becoming more and more popular in the west. Also known as “gundusha” or “kavala” in Sanskrit, oil pulling originated in India and was first mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts several thousand years ago.

Mouth pulling highlights the importance of oral health in the science of Ayurveda. For thousands of years Ayurveda has drawn a link between oral health and the overall health of the individual. Ayurveda believes that overall health is determined by the strength of one’s digestion, and good digestion begins in the mouth.

Ayurveda also believes that issues in the mouth can cause problems in the deeper organs and tissues of the body. In Ayurveda the tongue is believed to share an energetic connection with the body’s vital organs, like the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, small intestine, and colon.

In short: the tongue has a greater connection to the entire body than we often realize.

How Does Oil Pulling Work?

One important aspect of good health is having clean teeth and gums. Our mouths are filled with bacteria. In fact, each tooth contains as many as 1,000–10,000 bacteria. Many dental problems are caused by bacteria that feed on food that gets lodged between the teeth.

The fluidity of oil allows it to easily get into all the different crevices of the mouth. Oil and bacteria both have a fatty outer coating, making it easy for bacteria to stick to the oil. When the oil hits your teeth and gums while being swished around, it collects microbes and bacteria that a toothbrush may not be able to reach.

Brushing and flossing aren’t as effective on their own. Similarly, oil pulling offers the greatest benefit when done in addition to other oral health habits like brushing and flossing and isn’t intended to take their place.

Why Should You Pull Oil?

Oral health impacts the entire body. Bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream and cause infection and inflammation in other parts of the body. By caring for your teeth and gums, you’re also supporting your body’s ability to ward off serious diseases down the road. 

Oil pulling is a great way to boost your morning and evening oral health routine. With dental care often not covered by insurance, it’s important to do all we can to maintain our oral health. Along with brushing and flossing, oil pulling can kill bacteria in the mouth and improve dental health, among many other benefits. Unlike chemical-based mouthwashes, oil pulling offers natural healing benefits and is less harmful to the body.

Benefits of Oil Pulling

  • Support of overall oral health and hygiene
  • Helps to remove toxins from mouth
  • Moisturizes the mouth
  • Alleviates bad breath
  • Helps maintain normal mouth pH
  • Keeps teeth and gums healthy
  • Maintains facial tissue and muscle tone (by activating muscles of cheeks and face)
  • Can reduce plaque
  • Enhanced sense of taste
  • Strengthened digestion
  • Improves oral flora
  • Supports healthy sinuses
  • Assist with the body’s detoxification process
  • Can support healthy digestion

What Oil Should You Use?

Sesame and coconut oils are most commonly used for oil pulling. However, it’s not uncommon to use sunflower or olive oils instead. You can also mix oils. Regardless which oil you choose, it’s important to look for oil that is unrefined and organic.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic practices and has a rich nutrient value. This oil’s penetrating effects and its abundance of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties make it a great choice for swishing. Sesame oil in particular can be helpful for removing plaque, and it contains an antifungal substance known as Chlorosesamone.

Coconut Oil

Another popular option is coconut oil due to its antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It also contains lauric acid that reacts with the alkali substances in saliva, assisting with the cleansing process. Lauric acid contains antimicrobial properties and helps to kill bacteria. Coconut oil is especially great during the summer because of its cooling effects. If you use coconut oil, look for virgin coconut oil.

zWISH CBD Mouth Pulling Oil

Our zWISH Full Spectrum Mouth Pulling Oil offers an especially powerful and refreshing oil pulling experience that can naturally reduce inflammation, moisten your mouth and freshen your breath. zWISH combines sesame oil with CBD-rich hemp extract and fennel, peppermint, and clove essential oils for a refreshing and healthy oil pulling experience.

Clove and fennel oils contribute additional antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while peppermint oil leaves the breath feeling and smelling fresh. Our full-spectrum CBD also offers additional anti-inflammatory and healing benefits.

How To Pull Oil:

Oil pulling is best done in the morning on an empty stomach, or in the evening before or after brushing your teeth. It’s easiest to pair oil pulling with other oral habits that you already have in place. The key to oil pulling is doing it long enough to experience its benefits.

  • Measure about a tablespoon of oil of your choice
  • Swish the oil back and forth between and through your teeth like you would with mouthwash
  • Ayurveda suggests pulling for 15-20 minutes to receive the maximum benefit, but you can start with 5 minutes as your jaw muscles strengthen and you get more use to pulling. 
  • Spit the oil into the trash or outside to avoid plumbing problems. Don’t swallow the oil.
  • After, rinse your mouth with water and feel the refreshing and cleansing effects of the ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling.

A few tips:

  • It’s not uncommon to initially feel queasy from the texture or taste of the oil–it gets better overtime!
  • As you work toward pulling for a longer amount of time, it can be a great thing to do while performing other morning activities like showering, fixing your hair, or cooking breakfast.

Oil pulling isn’t Ayurveda’s only oral health practice. Ayurveda also encourages tongue scraping–the use of a tongue scraper to loosen and clear bacteria from the mouth.

An ideal Ayurvedic oral health routine includes scraping the tongue upon waking, swishing oil in the mouth, flossing, and brushing. Oral health isn’t based on what habits we do today, but what we do over a long period of time to maintain cleanliness.

The importance of oral health, the benefits of oil pulling, and the simplicity of doing it make it hard not to adopt as a new habit. Ayurveda teaches that good health is never far from reach. In fact, it’s rather simple. All we have to do is return to nature and accept the great gifts she provides, like a simple tablespoon of oil.

Samantha Case is a writer, yoga teacher, and student of Ayurveda. She guides women toward conscious living by helping them cultivate self-awareness through meditation, yoga, mindfulness, introspection, and connection to nature Explore her offerings at


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