What the Health!?! Oil Pulling

Warning: This post gets sort of gross….Recently I added oil pulling into my daily hygiene routine. It’s an Ayurvedic folk remedy that cleans your teeth and leaves you smelling sort of like a salad. All you have to do is gargle with oil for 15 minutes first thing in the morning.

Oil pulling first piqued my interest because I like my mouth hyper fresh. I floss everyday. But on top of oral cleanliness, Ayurvedic practitioners say the habit removes toxins from your body and cures just about everything shy of general insanity and psychotic jealousy.

This is because your tongue is supposedly mapped by organ locations, which means that each section of the tongue is connected to a different part of the body–heart, kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver, intestines, colon, etc, and by removing toxins from the tongue you are also detoxing the correlating body part.

Here is a list of some of the different ailments oil pulling is supposed to cure, improve, prevent, etc.:

- Headaches
- Eczema
- Ulcers

- Insomnia

- Sinus congestion
- Asthma
- Allergies
- Acne
- Arthritis
- Inflammation
- Bronchitis
- Premenstrual pain

On top of cleaning your teeth, oil pulling is also supposed to whiten them, improve the health of your gums, make your breath fresh, oh and regulate menstrual cycles! There is no traditional science that supports any of this—just a bunch of holistic mumbo jumbo, which I’m into.

Mumbo jumbo aside, I am really boring and most of the excitement in my life comes from sticking vegetables in my juicer in search of the perfect shade of “Gag Me” green, so gargling with oil in hopes of cleaner, whiter teeth seemed like a great thing to do for 15 minutes of my day.

This foam was the highlight of 2012...

This foam was the highlight of December, 2012…

Also, I have had temperamental skin since going off of the pill 2 years ago, and am always looking for natural ways to make it lovelier. I figured I would give oil pulling a shot.

First, you have to pick your oil. There is some controversy over which oil to use. Some claim only sunflower and sesame are effective. Others say any veggie oil will do. I’m gonna let these opposing oil parties duel it out in terms of effectiveness, but I went with olive oil because it was all that I had, plus my NAME is on the bottle and this makes me feel extremely self-important.

Vanity!

Vanity!

Vanity aside, I switched to sesame oil the next time I went to the store. Sesame oil tastes a lot better, and when you’re tonguing something for 15 minutes, you want it to taste good. (Flavor aside, I noticed zero difference between the two oils.)

If you have a heavy gag reflex, you may not want to do this at all, because it feels pretty nasty—sludgy, even.

Oil pulling is most effective first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. Take 1 tablespoon (an unobtrusive gulp) and swish it around in your mouth. Pull it through your teeth. Swish swish swish. Pretend you’re obnoxiously savoring something delicious.
When I first started oil pulling, my jaw would tire after about 8 or 9 minutes, and when this would happen I would just let the load chill in my mouth for a bit and then continue the swish-a-thon. The first several times, I had an overwhelming urge to swallow, and my throat began to feel a bit tight.

Whatever you do, do not swallow! You just drew out a bunch of nasty toxins–or, in the least, last night’s dinner remnants–and it would be kind of pointless to swallow. After 15 minutes, or 20 if you’re super ambitious, spit it out.

You may be thinking “what kind of life are you living where you have the time to toss a 20 minute mouth salad first thing in the morning?” I know that makes my life sound pretty luxurious. Please try to hold your jealousy. I pop the oil in my mouth before I hop in the shower, because I am a busy girl and get excited when presented an opportunity to multi-task.

Since I was spitting the oil down the shower drain, I never really got a good look at it. One morning, about two weeks into my experiment, I spit my oily mouthful into my sink, and the nasty color against the white porcelain was really jarring.

Instead of the original golden color, the oil had this brackish white/yellow hue, and the texture was different. I don’t want to say creamy, but maybe viscous? It was sort of horrifying, and made me want to continue pulling for the rest of my life just so all that gunk wouldn’t be incubating in my mouth. After that, I stopped spitting the oil down the shower drain just so I could review the daily damage in the sink, because I am really disgusting.

From the very first time I pulled, my mouth felt fresher, and I kept running my tongue over my teeth like I just had my braces removed. My teeth and gums felt post-dentist clean, and when I stuck out my tongue, there was less of that nasty build-up back there that I normally scrape off with my tooth brush.

Now that I have been doing it for just under a month, I don’t notice my teeth being any whiter (my coffee habit probably makes that impossible) but they are shinier and feel smoother overall. I also have less plaque, both on my gums and tongue. As for inflammation and skin issues, although my skin has been nicer for the last two weeks, I am not going to give total kudos to oil pulling, because my skin is an unpredictable conniving bitch I can’t trust. Kidding! Love you skin. Please don’t get pissy with me, I want to feel pretty this weekend.
Have you ever oil pulled? Did it do anything for you? Can someone please share a miracle story about how it treated paralysis and made them walk again, or something?

About the author  ⁄ Zoe

Zoe writes about food and sex on SexyTofu.com.

6 Comments

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013

    A new one on me! Never heard of such a thing….Also DON’T SPIT, POUR OR DISPOSE OF ANY OIL DOWN YOUR KITCHEN OR SHOWER DRAINS! Horrible for your house’s plumbing!

  • Reply
    Devika Srivastava
    January 29, 2013

    Hey! Wonderful post!! Some of my aunts and other family back in the homeland (India) do oil pulling in addition to a lot of other Auryvedic/ Hindu practices. But I never knew someone in the U.S doing it and ignorantly (and ethnocentricly) labeled it as some kind of health/ old time indian healing advice that may or may not be good for you but seemed to nasty to try… But I never really knew about how the experience FELT and the somewhat immediate results (the visual nastiness that’s apparently removed). Anyway, after reading this, (and remembering my old aunts and homeland familia), I’m gonna give it a go…thanks Zoe!! (*^_^*)

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013

    Curious, so curious… I had heard of this, and was considering it since my teeth are in terrible shape. One of my biggest insecurities, if you can believe it, is how wretched my smile is. Still a little bit grossed out in spite of myself, but encouraged to hear that it has some merit. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2013

    I’ve been hearing about this a lot and haven’t gotten the courage – but I think I’m gonna try it with coconut oil. Do you brush your teeth after? Or is that, like, redundant?

  • Reply
    Jane
    January 30, 2013

    I have oil pulled in the past. Do not spit down the drain. I recommend the trash. You don’t want to mess up your plumbing. I have heard the benefits of oil pulling as long as you are consistent with it. I have commitment issues. Ha!
    Good luck!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2013

    I am extremely intrigued! Must try this ASAP.

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