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Oil pulling: New Yorkers trade Listerine for this Ayurvedic detox method

woman rinsing mouth at sink

Would you rinse your mouth out with coconut oil?

Turns out many New Yorkers are trading their Listerine for a 10-minute swish with the viscous stuff. The practice is called oil pulling and it’s a (decidedly unusual) Ayurvedic detox method.

Recently the centuries-old medicinal mouth-washing ritual has resurfaced and is getting a lot of lip service for its health-and-beauty perks.

Part of the possible allure? The cleanse doesn’t require juice delivery or even a sweat-inducing workout—just a daily rinse with coconut oil. (If you can stand it.)

WHAT IS OIL PULLING?

Scott Gerson, MD, PhD, medical director of the National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine, describes the practice like a colonic for the oral cavity.

Swishing with a mouthful of oil “absorbs undigested and partially digested products of food and desquamated cells out of the oral cavity. These contain bacteria, a toxic substance for the body,” explains Gerson, who calls the practice by its Ayurvedic name, Gandusha.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil: You're cooking and baking with it. Why not rinse your mouth with it?

WHAT ARE ITS HEALTH-AND-BEAUTY BENEFITS?

Wellness mavens cite beauty perks from the swish-and-spit routine, like healthier gums, whiter teeth, and glowing skin.

Kat Feldhouse, 29, a writer in Brooklyn, started rinsing with coconut oil about a month ago, after bumping into a friend who was “bursting with energy and glowing skin thanks to oil pulling.” “Within three days of trying it herself, Feldhouse started to see results: “My hands, face, and scalp were way less dry. And my gums had a rosy pink color and finally stopped bleeding after flossing,” she says.

Yvette Rose, the creator of Joulebody Kickstart Cleanse, isn’t surprised. She’s been recommending oil pulling to clients for an extra-cleansing boost, suggesting its benefits might go beyond beautification. “Any type of bacteria or inflammation in our mouths can compromise the immune system, making it work overtime to clean up everything,” says Rose. “When our immune system isn’t able to keep up, these toxins contribute to excess fat and disease.”

DOES IT WORK?

Others swear that, in addition to cleaning up dirty mouths, oil pulling has helped their digestion, hormonal issues, migraine headaches, joint pain, and even fatigue. Studies have proven oral hygiene’s link to heart disease, say these fans, so why not other ailments?

But Dr. Gerson isn’t exactly swallowing it. While he’s seen oil pulling improve tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums, weak teeth, and TMJ joint disease in his practice of 30 years, “there are no scientific studies yet that support the claims beyond its positive impact on oral health,” Dr. Gerson says. (Though he’s heard countless anecdotal accounts of ailments improved by oil pulling.)

THE TAKEAWAY

It looks like oil pulling gets the same results as (chemically laced) mouthwash in the oral-care department, plus the possible perk of glowing skin. Why not try it since you’re already using it for cooking and baking? —Jennifer Kass

Pulled, pushed, or drawn to try it? Let us know in the Comments, below!

Or read the how-to article, here.

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30 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. March 6th, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Hi–there isn’t a link to the How-To. I’m interested!

  2. March 6th, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Thanks for letting us know, ap! We added it in—you should be able to click through now.

  3. March 6th, 2012 at 11:14 am

    are we sure it wont produce tooth decay considering it is for 10-25min?

  4. March 6th, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Ok, I’m intrigued. I’ve recently incorporated coconut oil into my routine (RMS Raw Coconut Cream for eye makeup remover and organic oil for cooking) and so far I’m loving it. The benefits of oil pulling sound like it may be worth a try. I like the smell and the feel, so I’ll just have to see about the taste!

  5. March 6th, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve become extremely interested in Ayurveda recently and have been reading lots and incorporating different things into my lifestyle. I also read that sesame oil is wonderful for oil pulling as well as chewing on a handful of sesame seeds in the morning (as an added bonus, sesame seeds are an awesome source of calcium too!) Ayurveda has made an immense positive impact on my life and what I love most is that it is so empowering to take control over my own health and well being.

  6. March 6th, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I add Coconut oil to my warm water that I drink either through the night or first thing in the morning, but I haven’t left oil in my mouth, seems simple, beacuse I wash my face with the stuff as well.

    Will try it. 10minutes you say?

  7. March 6th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I like the idea of this, but it says to swish it in your mouth for at least 10 minutes building up to longer. I have tried, but gag after about 1. It seems a little undo able at that amount of time.

  8. March 7th, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I have been using Sesame oil for oil pulling also with great results.

  9. March 7th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    is there an alternative oil that works just as well? i am allergic to coconuts.

  10. March 8th, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Anita, sesame oil works well, as long as it’s organic, and unrefined. I find that it takes some time to work up to 10 minutes, try doing it in the shower to be efficient!

  11. March 8th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Hey! Super cool article and thanks for shining some light on the healing benefits of Ayurveda.

    One thing, use sesame oil instead of coconut. I’m an Ayurvedic practitioner and sesame oil is the standard for oil pulling in Ayurvedic training, therapies and in the ancient texts :)

  12. March 8th, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    thanks Michael :)

  13. March 22nd, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    [...] Oil-pulling: New Yorkers trade listerine for this Ayurvedic detox method [...]

  14. April 13th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Oil pulling is great. I would recommend unrefined sesame oil. That is what they use in India.

    The one thing I would mention is that this practice might loosen crowns or fillings. So be aware of this. It is rare but possible.

  15. April 17th, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    my dad’s been oil pulling for years now, except he uses sunflower oil. he’s living proof that oil pulling improves oral health. sorry i can’t provide evidence in medical context, but let’s just say that after a few weeks of daily oil pulling, his dentist appointment for surgery (root canal/tooth decay or something along those lines) was canceled and the doctor was incredibly shocked. my dad never told him about oil pulling…

  16. May 9th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I have tried oil pulling to help improve my dental health. I worked to keep the cavities away, plus fresh breath and healthy gums. It’s really easy to do and also very relaxing.

  17. July 5th, 2012 at 12:45 am

    [...] can wreak havoc on hair (as can a lot of shampoos and dyes). A simple solution? Coconut oil, the hardest working condiment in your kitchen, makes an amazing leave-in hair-conditioning treatment, says natural makeup artist, [...]

  18. August 28th, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I love c.o.p., btw, no one here has mentioned that it is very important not to swallow any of it because then you’re swallowing some pretty undesirable bacteria that you’ve been releasing from the pulling. I also wanted to mention one word of caution. This, btw never happened to me, but both of my sisters individually reported having their teeth start to ‘grey’ after a while, though, again I never noticed this issue. One of those sisters was going overboard doing it more than once a day, the other was using sesame oil and I can’t say for sure if it was the proper oil, (unrefined, organic etc). That said, I am picking up the practice once again because I loved the way it made me feel!!! And I never experienced this “greying” of the teeth. Btw, for those who were curious how to pull, I watched it on youtube, my favorite video was this one:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQe8etKJ9a4&feature=fvwrel, I liked the way she added extra little things you need to know, like don’t spit it down your drains, and how the enzymes are working their magic, etc, her’s is an informative video, I watched a few. I don’t know her in any way, btw so my suggestion is not biased or paid for etc, just an fyi, you be the judge.
    Cheers.

  19. September 19th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    [...] out that your oil pulling practice may need a tech upgrade. According to a recent study presented at the Society for General [...]

  20. February 5th, 2013 at 7:10 am

    You mention unrefined sesame oil as an alternate to coconut oil yet, the coconut oil pictured is refined. Does it matter for coconut oil? How many parts water to coconut oil should you swish with?

  21. February 14th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Does Oil Pulling help alliviate TMJ pain?

  22. August 21st, 2013 at 10:51 am

    [...] Would you trade your regularly scheduled Listerine for coconut oil? [...]

  23. August 22nd, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    [...] Oil ($6) On a recent trip to Soukya, a holistic health spa in India, they taught me the ancient Ayurvedic technique of oil pulling. It rids the skin of toxins, cleans the teeth, and the breath. The end result: healthy glowing skin [...]

  24. August 29th, 2013 at 12:01 am

    [...]   Health Tips Oil pulling: New Yorkers trade Listerine for this Ayurvedic detox methodWould you rinse your mouth out with coconut oil? Turns out many New Yorkers are trading their [...]

  25. October 17th, 2013 at 9:46 am

    […] Still, you might want to try it out in your own bathroom lab, or rinse your mouth with coconut oil (it’s called oil pulling!) for its other wellness […]

  26. October 19th, 2013 at 11:26 am

    […] Talk to some people and you may come away believing that adding coconut oil to your diet will turn you into a superhuman braniac immortal stud. The previously maligned oil is having a moment in the nutrition spotlight (and that’s on top of its reputation as an uber multitasking beauty product and a dental health heavyweight.) […]

  27. January 8th, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    […] Solution: Oil pulling , an Ayurvedic technique that involves rinsing your mouth with coconut oil. Supposedly it whitens […]

  28. January 9th, 2014 at 5:16 am

    […] Solution: Oil pulling , an Ayurvedic technique that involves rinsing your mouth with coconut oil. Supposedly it whitens […]

  29. January 13th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I suggest using a scant TEASPOON in the beginnning. A tablespoon creates too much volume and activates the gag reflex.

  30. February 9th, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    LOVE oil pulling. I wrote about it recently and since, nearly all of my readers + social circle have started doing it. I posted a poll last week to tally effects and results as it varies so much per individual.
    (E.g. I don’t drink, so have much less “excess” to pull.) Clean mouth and teeth are the most immediate and recognizable benefits though there are so many more. :)

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