Every morning for the past two weeks, I’ve been waking up so as to take a tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it around for 5-10 minutes. Sounds like an unusual beauty routine, but I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about this practice called oil pulling. I was curious, so I thought of trying it.
While this ritual has come off as a recent craze, thanks to celebrities who swear by it such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley, oil pulling is actually an ancient Ayurvedic folk practice. It dates back to traditional Indian medicinal remedies from 3,000-5,000 years ago.
Advocates claim swishing any type of oil in your mouth every day will whiten your teeth, reduce bacteria, strengthen your gums and jaw, improve your skin, clear your sinuses, prevent bad breath and even protect against chronic diseases.
Anecdotally, it works—at least to some extent. I’ve asked some friends and colleagues who do oil pulling, and everyone has said it is the best way to remove germs and bacteria from the mouth, especially since plaque is said to be fat-soluble.
Interior stylist and blogger Marilen Faustino-Montenegro says her mouth feels “cleaner” after two months of oil pulling. Katrina Holigores, ETC Channel Network development head, attributes the disappearance of a tooth cavity and having thicker tooth enamel with oil pulling every other day, while Myr Jao, a training manager at Estee Lauder, claims she’s had fewer breakouts and less mucus after regular oil pulling.
In my case, my teeth look a little whiter, and my gums look healthier after two weeks of oil pulling daily.
How to oil pull
The most effective oil pulling is done by placing around a tablespoon of cold pressed organic oil into the mouth and swishing the oil around the mouth for approximately 5-20 minutes and then spitting it out.
Cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil, sunflower oil and olive oil are the most recommended, although sesame oil is considered one of the best for this. Some websites also recommend alternating oil every couple of days to get the full benefit.
As you swoosh the oil in your mouth, lipids in the oil begin to pull out toxins from the saliva. As the oil continues to absorb toxins, it usually ends up turning thick and viscous and white. Once the oil has reached this consistency, it is spit out before the toxins are reabsorbed.
Oil shouldn’t be spit directly on your sink, as it will harden and clog your pipes. It is best to spit it on a tissue and throw it in the trash bin.
Oil pulling won’t cause any adverse effects, so long as you don’t swallow the oil. Doing so could cause diarrhea or an upset stomach. While there’s no evidence showing that oil pulling can cure specific health issues, experts agree that plaque in the mouth is associated with more serious problems, since the mouth is considered as the “gateway” to the entire body.
It is important to note that oil pulling does not take the place of brushing and flossing.
Another tip: I suggest gargling with salt water after oil pulling to remove the oil’s aftertaste.
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