“Oil pulling” is a term that you have probably heard celebrities discussing in interviews, but you may not exactly know what it means. Shailene Woodley cites it as one of the things in her natural routine, Miranda Kerr is a fan, and of course Gwyenth Paltrow does it. Even Kylie Jenner says she does it. To the uninitiated, it sounds like a new cooking method, or possibly some new trendy fitness craze. Oil pulling is related to health, but it actually involves your mouth.
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique that involves swishing (“kavala graha“) a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 20 minutes, ideally in the morning on an empty stomach. And you are not supposed to swallow it. The reason? It is meant to draw out the toxins in your body and improve oral health. The idea is that oil pulling can help fight gingivitis and the build up of plaque and bad breath. These cells are covered with a lipid (fatty membrane) so when they ome in contact with a fatty oil, they adhere to each other. It is not supposed to be alternative to brushing and flossing your teeth, but you every little bit helps, right?
You can use coconut oil, sesame oil and sunflower oil. Shailene is a fan of sesame oil, but coconut oil is a popular choice. You can mark it is one of the 123 things you can use coconut oil for.
Oil pulling sounds interesting, but it also sounds like it could be disgusting, especially given that you have to do it on an empty stomach and for 20 minutes. Nevertheless, I was intrigued enough to try it out. You can start off with smaller amounts of time, but I decided to go for the 20 minutes. The longer you oil pull, the more plaque you get off.
Miranda Kerr says that she puts some coconut oil in her mouth and has a shower, so I opted for her idea. If it is good for her, it is good enough for me. Plus, if I was suddenly feeling sick, I could just spit the coconut oil down the drain.
One of my first thought while trying it out, was, “Do I really need to use a tablespoon of coconut oil?” It seemed like quite a lot. For the first time, I decided to follow the guidelines. I opted to use coconut oil because that seemed to be the popular choice, and I already owned it. I debated about whether I should put it in my mouth as a solid or liquid, but decided it was easier to just measure it out as a solid and let it “melt” in my mouth.
When I first put the oil in my mouth, it felt like I had a huge chunk of butter on my tongue, with a very faint coconut taste. After a couple of minutes of swishing, the oil melted and the coconut taste went away.
Because I was in the shower, my mind wasn’t 100% focused on the oil pulling, which I think is one of the keys to success. I still remembered to swish it around, but I had other things to do to pass the time. Therefore, I wasn’t thinking about how I had a mouth full of coconut oil. I was actually surprised by how fast the time passed. I thought the first five minutes would go easy, and then things would get worse, but they did not. There was no retching or gagging.
After the 20 minutes was up, I spit out the oil and felt fine. I even felt like I could eat breakfast shortly, which I thought meant that the whole oil pulling thing was a success. My teeth may not have looked different and my mouth did not feel any different. However, it wasn’t a bad experience. I will have to wait until my next dental appointment to see if it makes a difference to oral health, but I may try it a few times a week to see what happens.
I tried oil pulling a second time using only half a tablespoon of coconut oil and found that to be just the right amount, so now I do not have to worry about stocking up on quite a big of jar of coconut oil.