It seems to be everywhere lately — people swearing by the miracles of oil pulling.
Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Shailene Woodley, health enthusiasts and those just plain curious have jumped on to this health-conscious bandwagon, but does it really work?
Considered an alternative form of medicine, or an Ayurvedic practice, oil pulling reportedly has many benefits, including relieving headaches, migraines, allergies and halitosis on top of whitening teeth and strengthening gums.
Oil pulling is supposedly beneficial because the oil is able to draw out and collect bacteria and plaque that collects around the teeth and on the tongue.
The oil pulling routine includes taking a half or full tablespoon of any type of vegetable-based oil (such as sesame, sunflower, coconut or olive oils) and swishing it in the mouth for 20 minutes, focusing on pulling the oil through the teeth to pull out bacteria and toxins.
According to Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit Training Systems based in Los Angeles, New York City and Toronto, oil pulling is highly effective and she often recommends it to her clients.
“This is a great technique and it’s very much in vogue right now,” the 43-year-old Ayurvedic practitioner said. “I’ve been doing it for a year with coconut oil a few times a week. It pulls out a lot of impurities, freshens breath, whitens teeth, improves gum health and gives you extra energy.”
Claiming to run the largest yoga school in North America, Shaw offers 100 hour certification programs for those wanting to learn Ayurvedic techniques and practices. Oil pulling is just one of the many procedures used to aid overall wellness through Ayurvedic methods.
“You can see improvements from oil pulling within the first three times using it,” she said. “We also find that people who take medications that leave a metallic taste in their mouths find relief from that with oil pulling. Overall benefits are enhanced in conjunction with tongue scraping and using a neti pot and cleaning out the sinuses.”
Most people prefer to use cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil since it has a light coconut taste and is more pleasant to use than stronger oils, such as sesame oil.
Coconut oil has also been highly regarded for its antibacterial properties due to the lauric acid and monolaurin it contains.
After 20 minutes of light swishing, it is suggested to spit the oil out into a trash can and brush the teeth immediately to remove any excess oil. Spitting the oil into a sink is not recommended because the oil could lead to clogged drain pipes.
Also, it is advised not to swallow the oil, as it will have expanded from drawing out toxins and collected bacteria-infested saliva that isn’t suitable to be introduced back into the body.
Oil pulling may have originated 3,000 to 5,000 years ago in India as a traditional folk practice, according to USNews.com. Although sesame oil was the most commonly used oil, coconut oil became the preferred oil upon the practice’s spread into the Western world due to its lighter flavor.
As reported by The National Center for Health Research, it is still unclear whether oil pulling is an effective method of removing bacteria from the mouth and the long term effects oil pulling has on oral and overall health remains unknown.
According to some testaments from oil pulling users, it is easy to incorporate the practice into a routine by replacing traditional mouthwash with oil pulling instead.
Some negative aspects include the time it takes for the practice (20 minutes) and the consistency of the oil in the mouth that can seem unpleasant to some.
As with most kinds of Ayurvedic practices, the result of oil pulling varies from person to person and has no scientific evidence to back up the benefits.
Oil Pulling Steps:
1.) Measure out a half to one tablespoon of extra virgin, cold pressed coconut oil and let melt in mouth.
2.) Swish melted oil around mouth gently for 20 minutes, focusing on pulling the oil through the teeth.
3.) After 20 minutes, spit oil into a plastic container or bag and throw away in trash can.
4.) Rinse mouth out and brush teeth to remove any excess oil.
5.) Repeat the process daily, or at least three times a week for best results.