Oil-Pulling, You Ask?


Oil-pulling is getting all kinds of attention. This particular post has been all over facebook and several folks ping’ed me to find out what the dealio is on the pullage of oilage. Now, this gal has a lovely blog but she’s not a trusted Ayurvedic source so it can be hard to know what to believe.

Ok, I’ll make it simple and trusted.

There are two daily practices in Ayurveda to help nourish and purify the mouth, called gandusa (filling the mouth with oil and holding it) and kavalagraha (swishing oil slowly between the teeth and gargling = oil-pulling). The ancient texts call for sesame oil, but you can also use ghee or coconut oil for high pitta types. I searched online and ALL I see is to use coconut oil (from non-Ayurvedic sites)…and that worries me because it might not be the best for everyone. And if everyone tries it and it doesn’t work, they are going to blame our lovely Ayurveda, when it was just incorrect instructions.

Since I was concerned about wrong messaging and also certain that sesame is the oil of choice (I like to worry and be right=vata-pitta), I emailed my dear trusted teacher to be sure. My dear trusted teacher (I can’t share his name cause last time ya’ll started emailing him. Nice going.) said this: The best oil or ghee treatment is arimedas. It is a formula specific for this. You cannot get it in the States :( Sesame: very rich and heating…good for vata and kapha and okay for pitta except high pitta imbalance then use coconut which is also good but may not be that good for vata except in mid-summer. You can also use olive or sunflower for most people. And yes, sesame is traditionally the oil of choice unless you can get “arimedas” — Monica’s Teacher Ji

Mwaahahaha, I was mostly, kinda right. So, please: Vatas use sesame oil. Kapha use sesame oil too. Pittas can also use sesame unless their pitta is very high, then they should use coconut oil or ghee.

Got that? Easy? Ok good, carrying on.

How do you oil-pull as a daily practice?

• Wake up
• Scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper seven times to get off any night crud, check for ama. If there is ama, do not put oil in your mouth. Head straight for warm water and ginger tea. Drink up and do not eat until your tongue turns pink, try again tomorrow.
• Brush teeth
• 1 Tblsp sesame oil in your mouth.
• Slowly swish between the teeth 10 minutes and do not swallow any of it. Note: It’s not vigorous mouthwash swishing. Think of it like sucking and spitting between your teeth.
• When done spit in sandwich baggie or toilet
• You might use your finger as a fingerbrush to get any remaining out, wash hands well afterwards
• Quick rinse/one swish with water

Benefits include:

• Really white teeth
• Strong, healthy gums and teeth
• Strengthens bones of the face and jaw (may help TMJ)
• Better breath
• Prevents dryness of the mouth and lips
• Purification of the mouth, if sesame is used
• Gives richness to the voice
• May help to relieve sinus pressure/aches
• May help relieve neck tension and headaches (cause it’s all related: tight face, tight neck, tight head. see?)

All this said, there are many, specific herbal mixes practitioners cook up with the different oils and use it as medicine! But that’s unique to each person and each condition just like everything else in Ayurveda. One size does not fit all. At all, at all. Ok? There is lots of magic in Ayurveda, but there are no blanket statements. And not really magic either, it’s really logical actually. But it’s so logical that it smacks you in the face with magic. I digress…

Other reliable resources

1) If you are the sciencey type and curious about text-book info about oil-pulling, check out this post from Todd Caldecott. He just posted this so he’s probably trying to clear up misconceptions too.
2) Dr. John Douillard has a great video and article about it.
3) The most trusted and ancient text of Ayurveda, Charaka Samhita, says (from Dr. Douillard’s article): 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.

See? Traditional oil-pulling does not claim to do anything crazy. It’s just a part of Ayurveda’s daily health practice for prevention – which is AWEsome! **waving pom-pons for prevention** But maybe not newsworthy. Or maybe that is newsworthy?* I don’t really know. I will say that your teeth get SUPER white. And heck, if you are going to either oil-pull or buy whitening strips, save your dough and your poor sensitive teef and go with the sesame pull! :)

HOHkay. Who has all kinds of questions? What do you want to know? Btw, I’m totally not answering any questions about cancer or chronic illnesses, mmmkay? LOVE YOU and your swishy teef.

*If you have a suggestion that would be newsworthy, do let me know and I’ll write about it. I want Ayurveda to be in the news! Ok thanks.

46 Responses to Oil-Pulling, You Ask?

  1. Shivani says:

    Nice article! I have been oil pulling for a while now and my mouth does feel much cleaner on days I oil pull. Also everything in the mouth feels stronger and more ‘integrated and together’ if that makes sense. Just one thing, I cheat a little bit – I put the oil under my tongue straight from the bottle and swish it around in my mouth, keeping it away from my taste buds cuz otherwise it makes me gag. Do you think it still does a 100% job of pulling toxins? I do it for about 10 min.

  2. Jody says:

    Hi Monica
    I have been interested in trying oil pulling for a while now and found it very interesting to know that certain oils are better for different types of people. I don’t know much about Ayurveda and would like to know how to find out what type I am so as to know what type of oil to use.
    I am also interested to know if it may help with the prevention of cold sores as I suffer from them occasionally. Thank you.

    • Monica says:

      Hi Jody! Take the dosha test :) http://heymonicab.com/dosha-test/
      For cold sores, I’m not sure what your diet/lifestyle is like so that is hard for me to advise with specifics. Cold sores are essentially a sign of trapped heat. If there is a season you get them most often, manage the heat in your body by limiting tomatoey foods, acidic or fermented foods, alcohol, intense exercise, and stress. Following a pitta-balancing diet around that time might help.

  3. Aneet says:

    oilve oil works perfectly

  4. Milobie says:

    Dear Monica,

    I have a question.
    I just started(3 weeks now) with oil pulling and i heard from everyone that after 20 minutes pulling the color should be white and when not you didn’t pull long enough. I tried longer and longer but it stay’s yellow, what do I do wrong…?


    • Monica says:

      Hi Milobie!

      Interesting. Are you pushing/pulling the oil between your teeth like a slow swish forward and backward (a little hard to explain without showing it to you)? It is at least kind of frothy?

      • Milobie says:

        Yes Monica, it is definitely frothy…
        The only thing I can think of is that I have not so many own tooth left and maybe people who do have their own tooth still will have more resistance by pulling the oil trough…? Does it work or still helps when it comes out yellow…?

        Thanks for replying me, Milobie

      • Monica says:

        Ohhh I bet that’s why. If you don’t have many teeth left perhaps the oil doesn’t get broken down as much as you pull. Maybe that’s it! If you are getting nice results from the pulling, then don’t worry about it being yellow and just keep doing it! Everyone is unique :)

      • Milobie says:

        I forgot to say tha I suffered from big hairless because of a thyroid problem and the hairless is gone after starting with the oil pulling with coconut oil. I don’t know if it is a coincident but it does feels pretty good.

        Thank you and by for now


  5. simba says:

    There is a web site that says it sells the arimedas oil. they call it Arimedas Thailam.
    Not sure if it is legitimate but if you wanted to check it out…and maybe ask the professor if it looks like the real stuff.

  6. […] ♥ Oil-Pulling, You Ask? – Love, Love, LOVE MonicaB and her straight forward, sassy, fun, knowledgeable approach.  She covers and explains oil-pulling and the basics that I haven’t seen before.  Love learning new things.  Ayurveda rocks! […]

  7. Joyeaux says:

    I have a friend who does oil pulling in the shower so the time passes quickly and she can spit right in the shower.
    I love this idea because (as a vata-pitta) the idea of standing in front of the sink (like listerine commercial) sounds EXTREMELY boring, and walking around the house feels weird/irritating….

  8. Christina says:

    Am I the only one that has tried this & literally almost puked?!! I mean, I really wish to continue for the benefits. But the taste is revolting!! Am I able to mix it with something to distract from the awful taste?

    • Monica says:

      Hi Christina, here’s what. You don’t have to do it. If you don’t like it, just don’t do it :) The taste is part of the therapy/healing – so don’t worry. Ayurveda shows up when people are really ready for it – and if now is not the time (or ever), that’s OK!!! :)

  9. Jane says:

    Hello dear,

    I luv your article so much and planning on starting oil pulling.

    I wonder if I can use coconut oil one morning and sesame oil on the next. Is it possible?

    thank you for your help

    • Monica says:

      Hi Jane! I don’t think switching would be harmful necessarily, however for consistent results for your dosha, I would suggest to stick with one oil. When seasons change (example: summer you use coconut) you could use an oil that is balancing for your dosha and that season.

  10. Karen says:

    Hi Monica- very informative post, thank you! Is it better to use refined or unrefined organic sesame oil for pulling??

    • Marie says:

      Hello, I’ve read that you need to use unrefined oil, only. Because refined has no those good properties.

  11. Mary says:

    Hi Monica,
    I’m confused about why you would skip oil-pulling if there is ama. Isn’t the oil purifying somehow? Also, have you seen the whitening effects on yourself? Do you practice oil-pulling regularly? Thanks for this post; it’s really interesting and I trust your site.

    • Monica says:

      Hi Mary! Ah. Great question. Oil is purifying but only if there is a pure surface to penetrate. Oil does NOT get rid of ama, it makes it much worse because the oil will be blocked by ama. It’s like putting thick oil down a clogged drain. **blurp** It won’t go anywhere and THEN you have to get through the oil AND the ama to clean everything out. So! When you have ama, we have to CLEAN the ama out first, then oil/purify. That help? YES! I did the pulling before my wedding in 2010 and my teeth were amazing. I don’t pull daily, but I do it a couple times a week. Thanks for writing and let me know if this makes sense!

  12. Jo says:


    Quick question – I love oil pulling and it has really helped me with a lot of issues, I believe, not just the dental stuff.
    Anyway, I have had in the recent past quite a lot of problems with a back tooth which led to having a filling as well as a dental inlay. They are both white composite/resin. Do you know if there is any chance that oil pulling (I use sunflower oil) will cause loosening of the filling/inlay so that they fall out? I’m not entirely sure what they were sealed in with. But after all the drama that I’ve had with this one particular tooth, I really don’t want to have any more issues as dentist has said that if these fillings fall out again I will have to have a crown fitted :(

    Thanks for any insight!

    • Monica says:

      Hi Jo! Someone else asked me about crowns and I just don’t know. I mean…I suppose they COULD pull out fillings or loosen crowns. Perhaps then just hold the oil in your mouth instead of swishing it. Hmmmmm…I’m not sure your dentist would know either. You will still get the oleating benefits if you hold the oil in there. It’s a great question for sure – I’ll see if I can find out the answer for all! xo!

      • Anonymous says:

        Ah sorry Monica, I missed that comment first time around!

        Would be grateful if you can find anything out – I’ve seen a lot of conflicting anecdotes on the interweb, but nothing particularly conclusive!


  13. Adrienne says:

    What great timing!
    My gums get very dry b/c I do a lot of mouth breathing, so they bleed when I brush my teeth- ick. So I have been rubbing sesame oil on them with my finger. This has only helped a little bit. But today I read your post and tried it! OOF! it was like a lovely moisturizing massage for my mouth. Feels great!

    Thanks Monica!

  14. Susan says:

    Hi Monica!
    I am so glad you posted this!
    I also have been raising my eyebrows at the recent spate of “OIL-PULLING FOR EVERYONE” posts and asked my teacher-ji about it. He mentioned that for people with high-ish fat content diets, kavalagraha with triphala might be a better choice. I was thinking about 1-2 times per week of oil kavalagraha and 1-2 times of triphala (full disclosure: I’m a meat-eater :-). Anyway, thought you might be interested. And also, just to say, since I live in Europe and most of my students/clients are of European descent I super *heart* olive oil for most oil needs (full disclosure #2: I’m a pitta girl ;-) My 2 1/2 year old son has had some mild skin issues since birth and abhyanga with sesame is too heavy for him, but olive works like a dream.

    • Monica says:

      LOVE your thoughts and thank you for sharing your experience, Susan!! So…the ONLY reason why olive oil is not written about in ancient Ayurvedic texts is because…olive trees are not native to India :) So they simply didn’t have them to write about! But olive oil is so great, thank you for sharing!! xo

  15. Veronica says:

    Thanks for this information Monica – love you blog by the way! One question: one of the articles you referenced mentions the need to “cure” the sesame oil first by heating it. Is this necessary? If so, why? Thank you!

    • Monica says:

      Hi Veronica! Yes, so curing the sesame oil helps it absorb better into the body but it’s not necessary. See this Banyan post (in comments below, they say it’s not necessary either – and I trust them :).

  16. Kibby says:

    YOU are awesome, Miss Monica and I love your sense of humor! Keep on dishing it out. This is such an amazing post which clarifies so much for me. I’ll be sharing out, of course! Have a great day, dear!

  17. Sarah says:

    So crud on the tongue = ama?

    • Monica says:

      Hi Sarah! I guess crud is a little vague right? No not necessarily ama, but crud = the coating our tongue gets at night. If you don’t have ama, after scraping the tongue will be pink. If you HAVE ama, after scraping, the tongue will still be white. That help? :)

  18. Kimberly says:

    Is it bad if you have crowns? I’ve heard it can loosen them. Hmmm. Love the post. Thanks for all the great info. Keep ‘ear coming.

    • Tiffany says:

      Lovely post! I’ve been oil pulling for a few months now and never thought about skipping oil pulling when there’s ama. It makes perfect sense! Thank you :)

    • Monica says:

      Hey Kimberly! Hmmmmm. That’s a great question. I mean, it could get underneath there and loosen them I suppose. But I have to be honest, I don’t really know! Maybe on the safe side, just do the gandusa treatment of holding the oil in your mouth for 10 minutes. XOXO!

    • David says:

      I’ve been doing oil pulling with coconut oil for over three months now, and I have a mouth full of crowns, and haven’t had any problems with them. I don’t think the crowns would be very good quality if oil pulling was capable of loosening them. I think flossing would be more likely to loosen a crown than oil pulling, which, by the way has happened to me a couple of times.

      I didn’t know about all of these specific ayurvedic instructions before I started,so I’m not sure if I should have used another type of oil or not. The article that I read didn’t specify, but recommended coconut oil, and I guess wasn’t looking at it from an ayurvedic perspective. I think that it might have saved one of my teeth that I was having some pain with, after it was filled. The dentist recommended either extracting it or getting a root canal treatment for it.

      As far as the taste, or gagging goes, the taste of virgin coconut oil is really nice, in my opinion, and I didn’t have any problems with feeling nauseous.

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