EHS Buzz MagazineComment

The Twelve Days of Oil Pulling

EHS Buzz MagazineComment
Alexa Grazio, Senior

In spirit of the recent holiday season, I’ve decided to do a 12-day test of a recent health/beauty trick I've come across-- oil pulling. 

What the heck is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is ancient Ayurvedic medicine tradition that has been passed down through the ages and is still around today. So it can't be too awful, right? Ayurvedic medicine is a system of Hindu traditional medicine of Vedic tradition, it’s native to India, and it is a form of alternative medicine. 

Courtesy of

Practicing oil pulling

Swish oil around in your mouth once or twice daily to improve overall oral health. Doesn’t sound too complicated so far, just like using mouthwash. Well, the swishing lasts for 20 minutes. Twenty whole minutes of moving oil around in your mouth without trying to spit it out or swallow it? I know, I know... TEDIOUS. Well, before you stop reading and call me crazy, just listen to the benefits of this time-tested practice. 

The science behind oil pulling is that “like attracts like.” The oil in your mouth attracts lipid (fat) lined bacteria that is swimming around in your mouth (ew, right?). Your mouth is used for talking, eating, breathing, laughing, smiling, etc. so it’s often open and in use, leaving it vulnerable for unhealthy bacteria to enter your body. The bacteria in your mouth has a clear path into your body to wreak havoc. The best times to oil pull is first thing in the morning, last thing before you sleep, or both. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine believe that the mouth is the center of all bodily health. If the mouth and digestive system are healthy then the whole body will follow suit. 
I have yet to decide whether it will be 12 days of torture or if I will actually conquer gingivitis and whiten my teeth. 

Twelve Days Later

On day one I trekked to my local Walmart in search of vegetable oil. Most “oil pullers” use coconut oil because it has natural antibacterial properties, but any vegetable based oil works (like sunflower or olive). Coconut oil is a bit pricey for my thin wallet, so I purchased sunflower oil. I found sunflower oil has a surprisingly nice taste, but it did little to make the 20 long minutes fly by. There’s a lot you can do in 20 minutes though. Over the 12 days I found I could take a shower, read a book, do last night’s homework, or dye my hair to pass the time, but there were times I felt like my lower jaw would break off if I didn’t spit the oil out after 10. I vigorously swished the oil for another minute and spat it out. You can still receive benefits if you can’t reach the full 20 minutes, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in having to spit it out early. Like they say, it's the thought that counts, really. After 12 days I am still continuing my routine and would definitely recommend this to you. My teeth feel lovely and clean, so go get yourself some oil and start pulling. New year, new you, right? 

Interested in learning more? Check out: 
A book: Oil Pulling Therapy by Dr. Bruce Fife 
A blog:
A scholarly article: