Ayurvedic Oil Pulling/Swishing

Life tips by Dr. Aparna B.A.M.S, M.D, Ph.D.

Gandusha and Kavala, popularly known as oil pulling, are specialized Ayurveda oral cleansing techniques to treat as well as prevent oral diseases.

In Gandusha, the oral cavity is filled completely with medicated oils or decoctions held for about 3 to 5 minutes, and then spat out. In Kavala, a comfortable amount is retained in the mouth and swished for about 3-5 minutes.

4 types of oil-pulling

Depending on the properties of medicines used for swishing, there are 4 main types: the lubricating or nourishing type, the palliative type, the purifying or cleansing type, and the healing type.

Materials used for swishing

Medicated oils or ghee, medicated milk, honey, meat soups, medicated fermented wines, herbal decoctions or warm water are used depending on the disease or desired therapeutic effect.


  • Swishing has proved to maintain oral pH.
  • It removes food debris, metabolic waste on the tongue, and superficial infective micro-organisms present in the oral cavity and this results in an antiplaque, antibacterial action.
  • Ayurveda texts mention that swishing liquids in the mouth prevents dental caries, bleeding gums, dryness of the throat and cracked lips.
  • It strengthens teeth, gums and the jaw, combats bad breath and exhaustion, improves taste perception, strengthens the vocal cords, averts anorexia and loss of taste, and delays wrinkling of the face.
  • Swishing is effective in diseases like sore throat, sinusitis, gum infections, mouth ulcers, candida, receding gums, headache, flu, halitosis, tonsillitis, oral abscesses, rhinitis, glossitis, lock jaw, trigeminal neuralgia, Bell’s palsy, tinnitus, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia and paralysis when done with a prescribed medicated medium.



As part of a daily regimen of Ayurveda, swishing can be done using the following method:

  • Half fill the mouth with sesame oil/ coconut oil and swish it around the mouth
  • Swish for 3 to 5 minutes
  • When swishing is complete, spit the oil out in the trash can
  • Use a tongue scraper to remove debris on the tongue
  • Rinse with lukewarm water
  • In mouth ulcers, gum infections, inflammation of the tongue, etc swishing can be done with a decoction of triphala (100 ml water boiled with 10 gms of triphala powder)
  • A decoction made with 5 grams each of licorice root powder and turmeric powder along with a pinch of salt is useful in sore throat, tonsillitis, etc.
  • For hypersensitivity of the teeth, 5 grams of sesame paste in 100ml of lukewarm water is beneficial
  • For bad breath or dental caries, two drops of clove oil or cinnamon oil in coconut oil or sesame oil can be used

If swishing is done for other therapeutic purposes, then it should be done with a prescribed medicated medium for a longer period of time under the supervision of an Ayurveda doctor after proper preparatory massage of the head, neck, and face and followed by a hot water fomentation.

Interested in an Ayurvedic detox program? Learn about Panchakarma at Oneworld Ayurveda

Aparna K. BAMS, MD, PhD

Aparna is one of the few specialists worldwide with a PhD in Ayurveda. Born into an Ayurvedic family which operates a traditional Ayurvedic Panchakarma hospital in Kerala, India, she grew up observing her father, the renowned Dr Padmanabhan.

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