I’ve avoided oil pulling for a while. To be honest, some of the claims about it are just too crazy for me to believe. Recently, however, I decided that for 20 minutes a day, for one week, I’d give it a go. Why not try it and decide for myself what I thought? I eat coconut oil, I use it to remove my makeup and as moisture when my skin is particularly dry. Why not give this oil pulling thing a go?
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that involves putting a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and swishing it around for 20 minutes. You then spit it out and rinse your mouth with salt water. Ayurveda is an Indian health practice thought to be more than 3000 years old. However, just because something is old, doesn’t mean it’s good for us now. Sure, way back before toothpaste, coconut oil might have been the best thing for our teeth, but that doesn’t mean that scientific advances can’t improve that. (Also doesn’t mean science can improve on it, either.)
What does the research say?
The research on oil pulling isn’t life changing. The science I am on board with, is that this process can reduce the bacteria in the mouth and this may, in turn, reduce plaque and cavities. Fairly reliable research studies found a mild to moderate reduction in plaque accumulation after consistent use. The more far-fetched claims include coconut oil having the ability to “pull” toxins from your body via your gums and reduce a whole range of ailments ranging from acne to heart disease. I don’t buy that.
Dr Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle, and Oil Pulling Therapy (plus a heap of other coconut-loving books), says 20 minutes of swishing is the magic number because it’s long enough for the oil to break through the toxins and bacteria, but not long enough for it to be reabsorbed into the body.
I’m not sure about this idea it can pull toxins from the body and I couldn’t find any reliable science to back this. Medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil may kill a number of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and fungi in lab petri dishes. I’m not convinced at this stage this has a reliable transference to the human body. I’d love for scientists to keep working in this area as the real miracle cure probably lies somewhere between ancient techniques and modern medicine.
What’s oil pulling like?
The first few seconds of putting a lump of solid coconut oil in your mouth is pretty gross. As it melts you are supposed to swish it around and hold it in your mouth without swallowing it. This is not the most comfortable thing to do, and I regularly checked the clock to count down how much longer I had to put up with it. It was not impossible or intolerable as I’ve read many other bloggers state. I didn’t want to gag or throw up, it was just a bit uncomfortable. For 20 minutes, I told myself, I could probably do anything. It’s definitely a relief to spit it out and rinse the remnants away with salt water before brushing as normal.
My verdict? Holding liquid in my mouth for 20 minutes a day actually made my jaw hurt a little, so I’m not sure that’s ideal. My mouth definitely felt cleaner after oil pulling, so I’ll probably keep it as a “once or twice a week thing” rather than every day. I did find certain satisfaction from committing to do something for 20 minutes a day and achieving it. This has given me an idea about some ongoing “20 minutes a day for a week” experiments… Stay tuned for more on this.