Oil pulling may be an effective way to clean your teeth and gums very thoroughly by swishing a spoonful of oil around your mouth so that it absorbs bacteria and toxins, then spitting it out.

It’s believed to be an Ayurvedic practice for detoxification that can help you to have clearer skin as well as a cleaner mouth. 

However, according to Dr Claudia Welch there are two traditional Ayurvedic practices which involve oil in the mouth, but neither have much in common with oil pulling as we know it today.

Kavala Graha involves using a small amount of edible oil for gargling, not pulling or swishing as in the contemporary oil pulling practice.
Gandusha recommends holding a mouthful of edible oil without moving git around the mouth before spitting it out. There are four kinds of oil mixtures used for gandusha which are tailored to particular purposes.

These practices could be incorporated into an extensive Ayurvedic daily routine known as Dinacharya दिनचर्या . Dinacharya is a health-promoting series of recommendations based on natural daily cycles intended to help to balance your doshas दोषः (bodily humors).

Dinacharya practices can apply to the times that you wake up and go to sleep, elimination, massage, exercise, bathing, meditation and prayer, meals, study, work, relaxation and of course, hygiene which is where oil pulling comes in.

Ayurveda has been practiced in India for two thousand years as documented in classical Ayurveda texts including Charaka Samhita, and Sushruta Samhitawhich tells of the original medical knowledge transmitted from the gods to sages, and then to human physicians (and make no mention of oil pulling).

Ayurveda medicine flourished in India and throughout South East Asia for centuries and may have had some influence on Chinese, Arabic and European doctors until the emergence of evidence-based modern medicine.

Ayurvedic medicine was often brutally suppressed under British colonial rule. There were instances where Ayurvedic doctors had their fingers amputated to prevent them from continuing to treat patients.

When India regained independence in the 1940s, Ayurvedic medicine began to be practiced more openly and today is part of the nationalist, cultural renaissance in India, though it continues to be condemned by the mainstream medical establishment.

Ayurveda has been adapted for Western consumption since the 1970s but Dr Welch argues that oil pulling is not part of authentic Ayurvedic training.

The origins of oil pulling as we know it can be traced to 1990s and a mysterious Russian Dr. F Karach. Today you’ll see oil pulling recommended on social media by all sorts of health influencers, sometimes with reference to Ayurvedic origins and other times shared with no context.

Despite these ambiguous origins, and only minimal scientific research, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence and that the contemporary practice of oil pulling may help improve the oral health of some people.

However, oil pulling is not safe for everyone and should always be practiced with caution.