What is Oil Pulling and What Does It Do for You?

What is Oil Pulling and What Does It Do for You?
Many who follow natural and holistic methods of living use the oil pulling method on a daily basis. But what is it and what is it supposed to do for you? In this post, I'd like to answer these questions and talk about my own experiences with oil pulling.

What is oil pulling?

From my online research, it seems most are in agreement that oil pulling is a natural, ancient Ayurvedic remedy aimed at improving one's overall health. Put simply, it is the act of swishing and pulling oil though the mouth to draw out toxins in the body.

Some reports say the oil helps pull out bacteria and keep it from sticking to the walls of the mouth, as oil is a natural emulsifier. However, I have not been able to find studies on how oil also helps successfully draw out other toxins and impurities already inside the body through the mouth, as some claim it does.

Yet, a personal experiment of swishing water instead of oil proved that water really doesn't feel like it has the same effect as oil. Specifically, my mouth didn't feel as clean pulling with water as it did when pulling with oil, and my gums didn't feel as strong either. Perhaps oil seeps into the nooks and crannies of the mouth better than water does.

What are the benefits of oil pulling?

Many people claim a number of beneficial results from oil pulling, from better oral hygiene and stronger gums, to preventing sickness and disease by boosting the lymphatic system. Oil pulling has also been credited with curing or relieving the symptoms of a number of ailments including inflammation, allergies, migraines, hormone imbalances, digestive problems and even cancer.

Although oil pulling does in fact help with a lot of mouth-related problems, concrete scientific studies have yet to be conducted on whether oil pulling helps with other sicknesses. However, if numerous testimonials are to be believed, oil pulling can be a natural alternative remedy for a large number of illnesses.

What are the side effects of oil pulling?

The most common complaint from people who first try oil pulling is nausea. For those who aren't used to the method, swishing oil around in their mouth can trigger their gag reflexes.

Other complaints from those who have tried oil pulling for an extended amount of time include general malaise and an increase of mucus and phlegm. Some say this is due the body reacting to the toxins being drawn out, and that you simply need to continue oil pulling to get through this phase until most or all of the toxins are completely removed from the body. This could take days or even weeks.

How do you oil pull?

You'll Need:
- virgin coconut oil (that's my preference, although many are comfortable with using olive oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, among others) 
1. I've read that this method works best if you do it first thing in the morning after you wake up, before brushing your teeth or consuming any food or drink. However, I feel more comfortable doing this before I go to bed. You'll eventually figure out what time of day works best for you, but if you're new to oil pulling, I recommend starting with an empty stomach. 
Take about a half a tablespoon of oil into your mouth. As you become more accustomed to the process you can increase the amount for future sessions. 
2. Start swishing the oil around in your mouth, making sure to push it through the front and back for your mouth, through your teeth and under your tongue. It helps to simulate a chewing motion so that you are really pulling the oil through all the areas of your mouth. However, DO NOT gargle. You do not want to push the oil into the back of your throat or accidentally swallow it. You will want to do this for at least 20 minutes. If this is difficult for you to accomplish at first, start by doing it for only 5-10 minutes, or with smaller amounts. It takes some practice. 
3. After you're through, spit out the oil. It should be a mostly white color with a thin consistency. 
4. Brush your teeth as you normally would, remembering to brush your tongue as well. Afterward, your mouth should feel significantly cleaner, even if you don't use toothpaste. The surface of your teeth should also feel different, perhaps smoother.
What is Oil Pulling and What Does It Do for You?

Does oil pulling work?

I can only speak from my own personal experience of oil pulling. Others may have had more success than I have, other's less. I suppose this method varies from person to person.

The very first time I attempted oil pulling, I did it once a day in the evenings for 20 minutes every day. I didn't notice immediate changes except that my mouth overall felt cleaner, my teeth almost instantly became whiter and my gums definitely felt stronger. However, after about a week of carrying out this procedure every day, I began to notice a definite increase in the amount of phlegm built up in the back of my throat, especially after waking up in the mornings and while I was oil pulling in the evenings. I also began to develop pain in my underarms, and I noticed numerous lymph nodes in these areas were noticeably swollen to about the size of peas. I figured this was the stage of toxins being pulled out of my body that I had often read about (although I don't actually know if that was the case). After another week, the lymph nodes under my arms became so painful that I decided to stop. After a few days my lymph nodes were no longer swollen and the pain was gone.

I took a break for about two months before trying oil pulling again. Again, I started oil pulling for 20 minutes a day, every day. However, this time I did not feel any discomfort or swollen lymph nodes, even after several weeks. I wondered whether if it was because on my second attempt at oil pulling, I was also generally living a healthier lifestyle of eating better, exercising more regularly and drinking more fluids. Perhaps there were fewer toxins in my body to draw out, which is why I did not experience any of the uncomfortable side effects of oil pulling the second time around. I suppose I'll never know.

I consider myself a generally healthy person, so I'm not sure whether oil pulling has helped improve wellness of my body even further or drawn out any toxins that shouldn't be there. I have no previous discomforts or ailments that needed curing to make a comparison. I am, however, absolutely sure that oil pulling has helped maintain the health of my teeth and gums. I only floss and brush my teeth with water twice a day, no toothpaste, and I still have never suffered a cavity in my life. My dentist confirms that my mouth is one of the healthiest she has ever seen. So for that alone, oil pulling remains a part of my regular regimen.

If you're interested, I've previously written a more thorough account of how oil pulling has affected my teeth and gums.


I haven't oil pulled in months (because I'm lazy), but recently went back to it because I wanted to brighten up my smile a little bit, and experienced a whole host of other side effects that I didn't go through the first or second time. I thought this warranted a short update to this post.

I began oil pulling again one evening before bed, and the day immediately following the I began to experience slight symptoms of the flu. I had a minor headache, all my joints were a little sore, my nose was constantly running with clear liquid, and I had a general feeling of malaise. These symptoms only worsened the second day, with the added bonus of a sore throat, although that could have been due to post nasal drip from my running nose. I wondered if it was due to my oil pulling or if maybe I coincidentally caught a virus, I guess we'll never know.

What was interesting was that although I felt "sick", I didn't feel ill enough to be bedridden or stay home from work. I simply fell rather unwell, but still rather energized.

Another interesting thing I've noticed is how deep I've been sleeping since I began oil pulling again, and how vivid my dreams have been during my sleep. My dreams are so incredibly vivid and interestingly complex that I almost don't want to wake up in the morning. Every night is like going to the movies, and I'm always eager to find out what happens next during my slumber. However, I still feel well-rested in the morning and this doesn't seem to impair my ability to wake up properly.

It is day four after I began oil pulling again, and my flu symptoms have largely abated, and I'm still sleeping soundly during the night and feeling energized during the day.

Oh, and my teeth are much whiter now and my breath is fresher as well, of course.


  1. Interesting article. I had nearly an identical experience. 2 years ago I tried oil pulling every morning when I awoke. After a few days a developed very sore and swollen lymph nodes. It was painful so I quit pulling and a couple days later the swollen nodes were gone. It actually worried me so I haven't done it since. Recently I have been thinking of doing it again and I didi a search on swollen lymph nodes and oil pulling- hence, coming to your site. Thanks for the great info.

    1. Happy to help, Jason! Feel free to comment again to let me know how your second try goes.

  2. I have swollen glands. Out of desperation I looked up oil-pulling hoping it will help...


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