Oil Pulling: Never Again

Have you heard of oil pulling? It’s one of those things that’s all the rage in natural-living circles right now.

If you read up on oil pulling, you’ll hear that this traditional Ayurvedic oral care technique naturally detoxifies, whitens teeth without chemicals, strips teeth of plaque, kills harmful bacteria that have taken up residence in your mouth, sweetens the breath and on and on and on.

The idea is, you put a tablespoon of raw-pressed oil (coconut or sesame are frequently mentioned) in your mouth and swish it around your mouth and suck the oil in and out of your teeth for twenty minutes, then spit out the now bacteria-infused oil and rinse your mouth out.

My reaction: “Swishing oil in your mouth for twenty minutes? Sounds weird. I have to try it.”

I’m not squeamish but my brief foray into oil pulling was one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever encountered. And guys, twenty minutes? Are you kidding me? I didn’t even make it two minutes. I am a total oil pulling failure.

Oil Pulling: Never Again

Here’s what happened.

As many internet folks suggested, I tried to swish coconut oil. My house is 61 degrees, fifteen degrees colder than the melting point of coconut oil. So I got a spoon and carved a big blob of fully solid coconut oil from my giant Costco tub.

Fact: you cannot swish a solid.

I chewed the coconut oil until it melted in my mouth. It was at this point that the urge to be doing anything else but chewing coconut oil overtook me. The feeling of the hard oil squishing down into the ridges of my molars was the oral equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.

The coconut oil melted unevenly. Little bits of solid oil clung to the grooves of my teeth while the rest coated my mouth and tongue in a viscous evil. I could feel my stomach starting to object to this sensation in the most effective way it knows how and I was profoundly grateful that there was a sink nearby.

I persisted, thinking of all those benefits to mouth detoxification and gum health. As instructed by the natural living experts, I sucked the oil back and forth through the gaps in my teeth. This is where the “pull” in oil pulling comes from, because forcing the oil through my teeth was indeed like playing tug-of-war with my tongue. And not in a sexy way.

These people who manage to pull oil for 20 minutes? They are the Olympic athletes of jaw, tongue and mouth muscles. I would have thought that 34 years of chewing, often for intermittent stretches lasting far longer than 20 minutes (I call these training sessions dinner) would be sufficient preparation for the act of oil swishing. Au contraire, mon frère.

After twenty seconds I was orally fatigued by the plunger-like force required to squish the coconut oil all around my mouth. Ok, I thought, this is like Crossfit Oil Pulling: I’ll have to tabata this shit. Twenty seconds work, ten seconds rest, eight rounds. Three, two, one, go! You can do this.

No, no I could not. Not even close.

In the end, I oil pulled for about a minute and spit before I gagged – a very real and close possibility at that point. I ran upstairs and brushed my teeth, mouth and tongue with straight baking soda, which was like giving my mouth a healing massage after the violation of the oil pulling.

If you love oil pulling, fantastic.  Many people do.

On my Facebook page, oil pulling advocates assured me it gets better and easier, and also recommended different oils, like sesame, which are a little easier to swish. I don’t know. In the interest of a fair assessment I might try this miracle technique again. Maybe. But probably not, and certainly not any time soon.

But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the idea of uber-gargling for health altogether.

If the idea of spending twenty minutes in the morning gargling with oil turns your stomach too, there’s good news! Very limited studies have suggested that it’s the swishing more than the oil that reduces plaque and oral bacteria.

“All participants showed a massive (80 percent) reduction in the amount of bacteria they carried in their mouth after nine days of oil or water pulling, respectively, with both groups showing near-identical results. While the coconut oil users did show a slightly greater reduction in the harmful bacteria, the advantage was too small to be statistically significant, i.e. did not allow the conclusion that it was the coconut oil that made the difference.”

Source: Water pulling as effective as oil pulling for teeth and gums?

So if you are interested in some of the advantages of oil pulling without the oil, try vigorously swishing mineral water.

I’m wondering if the best alternative to oil pulling for folks who can’t tolerate the oil might be a salt-water pull.

Salt water as a mouthwash has a long record of reducing oral bacteria load and inflammation. One  study says,

“Saltwater rinses are a very archaic, yet effective, way of killing the bacteria in the mouth. The efficacy of saturated saline rinses lies in the scientific concept behind a diffusion gradient, which leads to dehydration and death of bacteria. Saltwater rinse is a commonly used age-old antibacterial measure. Long prescribed by physicians for sore throats, saturated saltwater rinses have never truly become mainstream, probably because of the unfavorable taste. A recent investigation by White and Armaleh found significant reductions in salivary bacterial counts with daily saturated saline rinses in adults.”

Source: Comparative evaluation of the effects of an alum-containing mouthrinse and a saturated saline rinse on the salivary levels of Streptococcus mutans

What do you think? Do you oil pull? Is the oil necessary for effective oral swishing or might other liquids be just as good? My friend The Crunchy Chicken teased me by suggesting bourbon pulling, but I would never waste good bourbon like that.


  1. says

    Oil pulling sounds vile. It’s bad enough having greasy burger feeling in your mouth let alone straight oil coating every crevice. Salt water = far better recommendation and your rationale for using it makes sense.

  2. John R says

    I have never heard of “oil pulling”, but do you think there would be any advantage of soaking my dentures in the oil?

  3. says

    UGH – I’m with you! I tried oil pulling with coconut oil once. Luckily for me I lived in a subtropical environment at the time, so there was no chewing involved. I think that’s what saved me, frankly.

    I’ve tried it with just water and a little peroxide in it and that went muuuuuuch better. I have friends who LOVE oil pulling and I’m glad it works for them, but yeah. No. Not going there again. Non-Oil Pullers Unite! ;)

  4. says

    You totally have a way with words, I laughed out loud reading this!! Thanks! However, I have been oil pulling with coconut oil now for about 10 days and I dont’ think it is bad…. I only use 1 teaspoon and after a week I added in 2 drops of essential oils. The first 3-4 days my teeth were sensitive but they got past that point now. Thankfully, or I would have had to quit. I do it for 10-15 minutes.

    I also use a salt water solution (Himalayan Pink salt). but I swallow that :)

    I think I will continue. But, I live in Panama (central America) so coconut oil is a liquid here. The average temperature of my kitchen is 85 degrees. Liquid coconut oil is a lot easier to manage than solid!!

  5. says

    I’m inconsistent with oil pulling, but I do it every so often. I’m more likely to do it in the summer when my coconut oil is liquid. I’m with you on the “chewing” of the solid oil.

    Do NOT try it with sesame oil. Straight sesame oil is VILE. If you though coconut oil would make you gag, you won’t make it past the first 10 seconds with sesame. Trust me on this! :)

    I will have to try the salt water pull next. As the daughter of a dentist I would suggest you stay away from putting peroxide in any mouth rinse; my mother would roll in her grave if I put peroxide anywhere near my teeth. It’s damaging to the gums and to the enamel even in small quantities.

    • says

      I’ve been brushing my teeth with OTC hydrogen peroxide for about 15 years and I’ve suffered no damage to my teeth or my gums. My dental hygienist remarks that I do a good job flossing my teeth. I flavor the H2O2 with a concentrated mouthwash solution from my food co-op–just a splash in a small bottle I keep filled with H2O2 and use 2-3 times a day. I do also floss. I haven’t tried oil pulling, but many of the descriptions sound to me how my own teeth feel from being treated with hydrogen peroxide.

      My sister has been mixing up food grade hydrogen peroxide with water and drinking it for almost a year. She swears it has made her more healthy. I have no idea how that works. . .

      • Lynette says

        Please don’t ingest H2O2. External use is fine, but it can be harmful if swallowed. “Food grade” is 35% and can cause vomiting, severe throat and stomach burns, etc. Your sister is diluting hers, but it’s still NOT a good idea to ingest it.

  6. Sheri says

    As a child my parents only took me to the dentist 2 times. At the age of 17 I had to start paying for my own dentist. Needless to say my gums are not healthy but at the age of 56 I still have all my teeth, for now. At bed time, I put my coconut oil in a clean jar and submerge the jar in hot tap water in the sink. It just takes a few minutes to melt. I brush my teeth, rinse, then do a final swishing with the coconut oil. Then I put on my mouth guard that was made-to-fit in my dentist office. This grinding activity is actually healthy for your teeth roots and gums and the mouth guard helps to keep your teeth in alignment as you age. I’ve actually had people ask me if I have false teeth, but no, their still all mine and I’m trying so hard to hold onto them for another 20 years.

  7. Barb says

    OMG! I haven’t even read through the article yet, but holy shit! Your house is only 61 degrees. You need to get another sponsor girl, so you can turn the heat up! :)

  8. MQ says

    I so agree–oil pulling is awful. However, salt water swishing is fine and much less painful and nasty tasting than listerine. I haven’t ever swished the full twenty minutes, though. Speaking of minutes…
    Have you ever tried a ten minute groan? I read somewhere that when you wake up feeling growly, a ten minute groan will cure you. I’ve never made it more than a couple of minutes before laughing at myself, though. Who knows, twenty minutes could be pure euphoria.

  9. Marilyn Putney says

    Erica, I’m so disappointed to read this diatribe on what is at best your own personal yuck factor carried to the point of misrepresenting and dramatically overstating what actually happens in oil pulling. Do you really mean your readers should turn off to what turned you off? Would you go off on broccoli if you were one of those who has the notorious gene that makes its taste intolerable? How about sex?–fun as it is, you gotta admit verbalizing on it makes it sound pretty weird.

    I too keep my thermostat at 61; the melting point of coconut oil is 76, and the temperature in my mouth is reliably 98.6. The amount is not a “big blob,” it’s one level tablespoon; the swishing immediately stimulates saliva to flow, and by the time I spit–heaven forfend, thirty minutes later–into a shot glass, the amount of saliva is about equal to the coconut oil, which of course then rises in the glass and resolidifies. (And because I doubt the temperature of my plumbing stays above 76 I compost this.) Even your reader who says we should trust him on the taste of sesame oil should speak only for himself and maybe not at all!

    Watching what my old mama had to put herself through to swallow pills made me know that people differ a lot in what they can tolerate, and while some of that may be about the structure of the particular mouth and throat, a lot of it is also mental. If your jaws truly weren’t up to that much movement, here’s an idea: Pop the tbspful of coconut oil and immediately go to work on trussing up a grand loin of beef. The task at hand will distract your cognitive brain, and the exercise of swishing will get you in shape for the marathon of chewing to come.

    • says

      Of course this is about my own personal yuck factor. What else would it be? As you say, I’m only speaking for myself here. I’m not telling anyone not to oil pull or claiming it’s dangerous, but it was one of the more vile things I’ve ever experienced. Congrats on having the fortitude and jaw muscle strength – I’m glad oil pulling works for you. I’ll stick to brushing with baking soda. :)

      • Holly Moseley says

        As someone with a strong gag factor (hereditary), thank you, thank you, thank you! I also don’t like the taste of coconut, so was trying to find a way and you have blazed it – salt water pulling sounds great! Thank you, thank you, thank you! (and Godde bless!)

      • says

        I had issues with my jaw muscles, too. I found that if you pause every now and then and thus relax your muscles in between, it’s far easier to mae it through the 20min. It’s not a contest, so taking the time to carefully pull the oil through every spot is far more relaxing than to force it (especially when you have to pull solid pieces of coconut oil). I would suggest trying one more time with fluid coconut oil (someone already said it here, melt the oil before putting it in your mouth), make relax pauses and don’t pull to vigorously.
        I pulled with sesame oil (and found it not disgusting!).

    • says

      Wow, really, Marilyn? It’s Erica’s blog, of course she’s going to blog about things from her perspective. I didn’t see her say that everyone has to have her same opinions. In fact she specifically said “If you love oil pulling, fantastic.”

      Honestly I think you need to get over yourself a little bit and apologize for such a silly, childish rant.

      • Mary Ann says

        I agree 100% with Kara.

        Marilyn — you need to read Erica’s blog post again and apologize.

        Erica — please don’t let rants like this stop you from posting about YOUR experiences. You’re a gem. Please know that you’re appreciated.

        • says

          I know this is an older post, but I’ve got to comment. I read this blog because I WANT Erika’s opinion about things. I appreciate that she is honest enough to admit to the “yuck factor” of certain things (especially something as awful sounding as oil pulling). I don’t mean to be rude to anyone. I just wanted to to say that for some of us the world has become so wishy-washy that its nice to see a truthful opinion. Thank you, Erika. Also, you usually make me laugh. Double bonus!

  10. says

    I’ve been oil pulling with coconut oil on and off for the past year & I really love it. The key is to let the coconut oil melt in your cheek before you start swishing it around, and if your mouth gets farigued that quickly you are doing it wrong… It’s a really gentle swishing action. Also I just oil pull while I’m getting ready in the morning, I get a spoonful (a very tiny one, you might have had too much coconut oil… If you have a gag reflex I’m going to say you are using way too much) right before I hop in the shower, and by the time I’m done moisturizing the 20 minutes is over.

  11. Dan says

    I’ve encountered oilpulling many times, as I’ve been a dentist for 40 years. I’ve only had two patients of mine try it (certainly not my idea). I’ve run into all kinds of strange ideas, all the way from oil pulling to people who claim brushing and flossing might upset the normal bacterial populations in their mouths (well duh!) to those that think they only need to use Listerine to stay healthy. Why are so many people averse to good old science and common sense? For example, fluoridation is the most researched public health policy in history. It’s efficacy can not be dispelled, but certain people are convinced it’s a government plot or somehow dentists have a financial interest in its use. Then someone suggests that they rinse with sesame oil, or mineral oil, or whatever? And they do it, without question, and certainly without any real science behind it. The only scientifically proven way to keep a healthy mouth for life is to mess with the bacteria in your mouth by mechanically disturbing it. That means brushing and flossing a “minimum” of once a day. Two or three times would help, and using a fluoride product would be a bonus. That’s all you need to know.

    • Molly says

      Oil pulling isn’t getting rid of brushing or flossing your teeth. But as you said, “The only scientifically proven way to keep a healthy mouth for life is to mess with the bacteria in your mouth by mechanically disturbing it.” That swishing motion of the oil is mechanically disturbing the bacteria in your mouth, so naturally swishing something like oil, water/salt water or anything that isn’t going to harm your teeth can’t hurt.

  12. Denise says

    Erica, thanks for the laughs — I’ll read diatribes on your own personal yuck factor any time! I’ve thought about oil pulling and didn’t even realize that salt water swishing could be a viable option, so thanks for the info.

  13. says

    Where I live, here in the Pacific Northwest, coconuts do not grow. Being a locavore, I don’t buy coconut oil, sesame oil, or olive oil. The local oils I can get my hands on are far too precious and costly (hazelnut oil, for example), to waste them in oil pulling! Salt water sounds like a much better alternative for me and for the environment. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Erica.

  14. Beth says

    Thanks for trying and thanks for sharing! The experience sounds ghastly. I’m with Dan, loving my floss and brush.

  15. Bruce says

    Tears are streaming down my face right now. I have not laughed this hard in months. This is the funniest thing I’ve read in I don’t know how long. Viscous evil indeed! How do you find this stuff? I’ve never heard of it, especially with oil.

    Thanks for saving me the torture of trying it out myself. I’ll stick with the salt water like my mother taught me.

    Still, your writing very, very funny. I look forward to all of your posts. Thank you.

  16. Linda McHenry says

    I don’t understand why people are always chasing some new, and usually odd, health practice. How about a good brushing a couple of time a day, a quick whip thru with floss……a swish with water (salt maybe?) and you’re off to the races.

  17. judy says

    Sage is great for the mouth and gums. Just add a dropperful of sage tincture or sage infusion to your water and swish away.

  18. says

    I have tried it. Didn’t love it, but it got better after a couple of times. Much less gag factor. That being said, I didn’t feel like it did anything that couldn’t be accomplished in much less time (and more cheaply) with floss. Might try the salt water thing for a few minutes, but 20 is just too big of a commitment.

  19. says

    Sounds like my experience with taking flaxseed oil as a (cinnamon flavored) liquid. Did. Not. Work.

    My grandfather told me he swished with salt water every day as a kid in the 1930s (in addition to brushing) and his teacher used to make him stand up in front of the class and show off his beautiful teeth. Not sure what happened later in life, by the time I was born he had dentures.

  20. Kate Rogers says

    I have swished water after meals for years! My husband and other family members call me a “Swisher”–and it is not a complement. They hate it. But I have excellent oral health. And now you’ve confirmed it for me! Thank you.

  21. Yarrow says

    I have no issues with pulling coconut oil except that its 20 minutes during which I can’t talk (to my husband, my toddler, myself). But if you can’t do it, it won’t do anything for you. Saline is probably just as effective, and if you can do it, it certainly won’t do you any harm (unless you swallow, blech). I’d be inclined to change out the water pretty frequently, as I do with the oil.

    • Aaron says

      The question is does your husband or toddler have a problem with you not talking for 20 minutes? Lol, sorry I had to! ;-)

  22. says

    I know what your problem is. Maybe your teeth are too tightly spaced? Maybe linseed oil would be better? No, really, that whole procedure sounds like an unguentary lesson in claustrophobia. Except without the hyperventilating because, mouth full of oil.

    It’s also possible, as you mentioned, that your flaccid oral muscles need a training program. I’m sure Nick would be happy to help you out on this one.

    Anyway, I’m not sure why we have to reinvent the wheel here. As the good dentist above notes, brushing and flossing has been found to be most effective at good oral health. And topical fluoride (not drinking the crap) for those of us who need it. I think, from a traditional standpoint, oil pulling is useful for those populations that don’t have access to modern dental care supplies. My mom has always done a water swish after eating, but only for a few seconds. A habit that drove me bonkers.

    That said, I still think a good bourbon swish would be efficacious. Just 20 seconds though.

  23. says

    I tried oil pulling, and I found that as I swished, my mouth generously added saliva to the mix and I came to near exploding several times. Then, having to spit in order to continue, it occurred to me that my oil was diminishing as my saliva diluted the mix, and in the end I think I had mostly saliva anyway….so now I swish with water. Also – I try to keep in mind that not all bacteria are pathogens or detrimental, in fact the opposite is true. Whenever we consider killing “germs” or “harmful bacteria” it is important to understand that most remedies (just like in our gardens) are not selective – they kill the good “bugs” with the bad.

    • Sanj says

      Yes to Kellie ~ we want good bacteria, so I sometimes hold/swish/hold a mouthful of Greek yogurt.

      Also, Erica, there are different grades of coconut oil. I’m inclined to prefer an organic virgin coconut oil over a tub of Costco lard I mean oil.

      As for pulling oil or salt water, my understanding is that we’re trying to accomplish three things: clean out tiny food bits and the bacteria that are feasting on them, hydrate the mouth, and heal the oral mucosa. Salt water is more astringent than oil.

        • Sanj says

          Hmmm, good to know! I haven’t tried that kind, but the packaging looks inviting. (I was imagining a generic scary tub-o-shortening, which didn’t seem all that attractive.

          • says

            Ewwww…Crisco pulling. Now that truly is the nastiest thing I can imagine. (Shudder.) The coconut oil I get at Costco is the same brand they sell in my local Yuppie-Hippie Co-op, which is pretty good about only carrying “good” brands. It’s just super-sized and a LOT cheaper per oz. I’m actually quite impressed with the variety of organic staples my local Costco has been carrying lately.

  24. Myrna Pouyatt says

    I loved this post. I have done oil pulling, and have actually made it up to 20 minutes, but only used a teaspoon, not a tablespoon, which is just too much. Had to resist the urge to gag many times. Use sesame as I can not tolerate coconut oil in my mouth that long. I so related to this post, and it made me laugh out loud. Thank you for brightening my day with this, too funny post.

  25. Coco says

    I have also tried the oil pulling. I actually loved how clean my teeth and tongue felt. HOWEVER I found that for me, it seemed to cause tooth pain at my dental work…crowns and old amalgams I cannot afford to remove. So, if it works for you, great. No harm trying.

  26. says

    I tried it once with olive oil. I did make it the 20 mins and found that part quite easy by just sitting and reading but it was not an enjoyable experience and certainly not one I am keen to relive. (Just my personal opinion Marilyn which I’m entitled to). I look at it in the same way as we would assess various methods of preserving food and organic gardening. The aim as I understand it is to control bacteria population (because surely you want a good balance of bacteria just as you do in organic gardening – you don’t want to entirely wipe out a species just because it is a pest. It’s part of the whole ecology). The next question I ask myself is “How does it work?” I rather think the oil, and it could be any oil, creates an environment that is not conducive to bacteria. It smothers the area and deprives it of oxygen, just like when we are preserving food, the premise is to create an environment that slows and prevents to over balance of harmful bacteria. Brine is another method that we use in the prevention of harmful bacteria, hence the validity of the salt water rinsing. The brushing and swishing is yet another method that helps keep the balance of bacteria by moving and reducing population growth. As a domestic goddess you might choose to can your squash or pickle it or dehydrate it; the choice of method is yours but essentially they all employ a method that starves bacteria of a ideal environment. I don’t think pulling is somehow mystical and magical but it certainly was one way of dealing with dental and mouth hygiene before modern dentistry came along. So like preserving, your method of bacterial control is entirely a matter of choice but I think in the first instance people should understand the why and the how of methods. Remember, some bacteria is good too and some types feed off others so you want balance, just like in the garden, just like in a lacto-ferment. Thanks Erica for yet again another interesting discussion.

  27. Brooke says

    Thank you for this! I have been reading so much about oil pulling lately, as it seems to be popping up everywhere, and it’s nice to see your experience and other options. I tried a little “glob” and it wasn’t as bad as I thought, taste wise, but I know I’d never make it 15 minutes and didn’t know if I wanted to start burning through so much (more) coconut oil!


  28. says

    I saw a post on pinterest on oil pulling and I gagged just thinking about it! I love that you called it like it is. :) I think I will try salt water. Thanks again for this awesome post!

  29. Melinda says

    Hmm, had never heard of this but I’m glad you tried it first, Erica. I had to run and brush my teeth (with toothpaste) after reading… :-)

  30. Mitzi says

    I think you’re using too much oil. I’ve been doing this for about 3 years now and my dentist can’t believe it. The last time I went in (which may be the last time I ever go to a dentist) they hygienist was a bit baffled that there was nothing on my teeth to clean. I started it because of a gum issue I was having and it’s gone, too.
    I started with sesame seed oil, but now only use coconut. It take a few seconds to melt in my mouth and I swish while I’m doing other things to get ready for the day. A friend explained to me that it is really cleaning out bacteria from the lymph glands in your mouth. This is why you do it before you drink anything else in the morning. My teeth feel like I just came from the dentist everyday.
    Everyone made fun of me a bit at first. I like trying out new, natural kinds of things, but this has really worked well for me.

  31. says

    Yeah, I know many people do oil pulling for Ayurvedic removal of toxins from their whole body. If you are more focused on killing overgrowth of bad bacteria in the mouth, nothing beats Tooth and Gum Tonic, I swear.
    My DH is a dentist, and it is all that they bring to their patients. It is amazing for promoting healing of gum tissue after surgery, and gum health in general. Works for them much better than the clinical medicinal mouth rinses.

  32. Michele says

    I perform oil pulling with coconut oil. The first time I tried it, I used the recommended 1 tbsp. and immediately began to gag. Since then, I just take a small amount, say probably half teaspoon and I am able to swish gag-free for about 15-20 minutes. I really think the amount of oil is what causes the gag reflex. Less is better.

  33. Hanna says

    I guess you’re a bit sensitive ;). I too have to chew it first but then I swish it around while looking at Facebook :). 20 minutes goes by fast then. The hard thing is not to swallow it accidentally.

  34. Jessica says

    I was grossed out by it, and had to try it too for that reason. It takes a couple of times to get used to. But I have kept with it, and after two months, can see a definite whitening and my gums appear healthier. It works, but you have to really commit from a place deep inside of wanting to improve oral health at all natural costs.

  35. Yana says

    I have been oil pulling for some time now. It’s really not as bad as you describe it. I think mouthwash is ten times more vile and disgusting than coconut oil. My teeth are much whiter, my skin is clearer and my breath smells great! Tooth sensitivity is gone too and my saliva tastes like coconut candy! It’s not hard to swish, don’t over exert yourself during that process. I highly suggest it, it’s natural and healthy!

  36. Monica says

    Hi Erica, I thought this post was pretty funny like most everyone else. I just had to add my two cents. I started occasional (ie, did it for a few weeks, took week off, started again, etc.) oil pulling a few months ago, with a little coconut oil (olive oil was yucky). I started small with just a bit and only for as long as I could handle it; I’ve never got up to the 20 minutes. (I keep my house only slightly warmer than you, and yes, you do work up some saliva trying to melt the stuff.) I tried it because I have sensitive teeth. It really helped the sensitivity – I could never let cold water near certain teeth before; now no problem. You may not believe it, and your readers might scoff, but it also fixed a problem with dry flaky skin on my feet. I changed nothing else in the world, so I know it was the oil pulling. My feet are smooth again. I recommended it to my husband, who doesn’t go in for new, unusual things much, but he tried it and found his gums became healthier, and whaddya know, his feet are smooth now too. Just wanted to mention this; no on else seemed to bring up anything other than oral health. I’ve been brushing and flossing for decades now (and still do), and it never did a thing for my feet.

  37. Wes says

    Oil Pulling — AKA Snake Oil Pulling. It’s already been determined that it DOES NOT cure hangovers, reduce acne, or any of the other supposed benefits it says it does. So that theory can be dismissed. Essentially, the only benefit left that it claims it does, is improve oral care by supposedly reducing oral bacteria.
    But while you’re swishing disgusting oil for 20 minutes, I’ll brush, floss, and gargle Listerine for 2 minutes. Why go out of the way to build up a mouth full of oily spit? Because the internet said it is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that works? Nothing has even positively proven it works. There is no concrete scientific evidence that it works. There are plenty of testimonials online, from people who have experienced various benefits from oil pulling. But, very little scientific evidence to back the alleged benefits.
    Sadly, pure anecdotal evidence is not enough to convince me to hop on this bandwagon permanently. I don’t feel like activating my gag reflex first thing in the morning, EVERY morning (which is recommended for the best benefits.)
    In my religion class, we are studying Hinduism. The professor who has studied Hinduism longer than I’ve been alive, has even said it is bunk. He is not familiar with ANY Hindus that practice this nonsense, because fortunately, improvements in modern oral hygiene have been developed so we don’t have to swish oil in our mouth, and chew leaves and bark to keep a clean mouth.
    Besides, why spend all that money on oil that you’re just going to spit out? ADA recommended oral rinses are only a few bucks, and they are proven to work.
    If you want to do it, then do it. I personally see no need, so I don’t do it. But swish your heart out, for all I care. Swish ’til you’re blue in the face. If it makes you feel better, or sleep better at night, go for it.
    And don’t get me wrong, I love coconut oil. I feed it to my dog for a healthy, shiny coat, and I rub it on her neck to relieve dry skin. I cook with it. I spread it on warm toast, I use it on my hands when they get chapped.
    But oil pulling? It’s a little hard to swallow – no pun intended. If it were all that great and wonderful, it would still be common practice. But it’s not. Because modern dental hygiene practices have negated the need for swishing oil in your mouth. Yuck!
    All of a sudden, because somebody on FB circulated an article about it, it’s now the BEST THING EVARRRR! It’s the cure-all for everything! And it happens to give you whiter teeth! Except that it doesn’t, and no scientific studies have proven it does.
    That’s what baking soda and peroxide is for.
    Nevermind that oil pulling practices are said to be used in conjunction with regular teeth brushing, and flossing. It’s similar to the whole Advocare thing — they suggest taking the products with a healthy, balanced diet. So it makes you wonder, how much actual progress is attributed to the cheap quality Advocare products? Same with oil pulling.

  38. Monica says

    I agree that one shouldn’t just jump on every bandwagon that comes along. But for me, it was such an easy thing to give it a try. If it didn’t do anything for me, I wouldn’t continue it. I have to say, I am sure glad my ancestors didn’t wait around for scientific studies to tell them to keep doing something that made them feel better in some way.

    • Althea says

      Amen Monica. I agree with your post, as well as others I have read on this blog. If there is no harm in trying, why not? If you went as far as purchasing the no-so-cheap coconut oil and then decided against ‘oil pulling’ for whatever the reason, at least you have a wonderful substitute to use in cooking, massage (my favorite;), skin care, hair care, you name it the list can go on. Coconut oil is ultimately versatile, so go ahead, be creative with it! You bought it you might as well reap the (other) benefits! :) Just MHO

      • Althea says

        Also, I have read many posts on here that have complained about ‘gagging’ and ‘a tablespoon being to much for them’. My thought on that is, could it be your mouth is just smaller than others? I know that this is my issue with oil pulling so I just use a smaller amount! The amount should be in porportion to the size of your mouth. I also have a mean gag reflex coupled with a smaller mouth (thanks mom), but I have found down-sizing the portion is all that is needed. Hope this helps anyone who is considering oil pulling or who has tried oil pulling with negative results, to keep trying or to try again!

  39. rebecca says

    Today was my first day of oil pulling with unrefined sesame oil. I was expecting a intense flavor and possible gaging but to my surprise it wasn’t too bad. Only lasted 10 minutes because my mouth was getting tired but it was enough time to turn clear oil into milky color. I will continue doing this every morning and evening since flossing is impossible

  40. Bob says

    This article seemed a bit over-dramatic, as well as many of the above commenters. C’mon oil pulling isn’t THAT bad. I’ve never once had a problem with the consistency making me gag and if your mouth is tiring from the swishing then you are trying too hard and need to slow it down. I happen to like to subtle coconut taste from the coconut oil, and I usually finish my 20 min oil pulling session with a quick mouth rinse with water and then brushing and flossing.

  41. Melissa says

    I’m not too sure about oil pulling.. Well with coconut oil anyway. I tried oil pulling 2 days ago for the first time using coconut oil and about an hour later my whole body felt drained.. I think that it was an allergic reaction to the coconut oil.. Which is strange to me because I ate coconut before without that reaction. Anyway, I will try the water method next.

  42. Ariana cadorette says

    I am a puller as well :) I do it five times a week with coconut oil. I use solid organic coconut oil and have not had the problem of it being clunky. It breaks apart beautifully between my teeth. I swish for 15 spit then brush my teeth. Only negative I’ve had with OP is the during the first week I had a bad sore throat. This is because the oil is pulling away at the toxins thus activating them before they are stripped away. I have been doing it for months now and the results are fantastic. Though I’m not a fan of the process it’s worth every less headache, toothache, and beautiful skin I have.

  43. Patty says

    I found this post by Googling “oil pulling disgusting”, because I gave it a good try for 3 days and found it … disgusting. I’m highly motivated, too, but THAT I’m NOT doing. Thanks for the honesty!

  44. Patty says

    By the way, it”s an ancient Ayurvedic technique, and coconut oil is NOT what they use. Doesn’t it make sense to actually follow the procedure? Coconut oil is a fad right now, but that doesn’t mean it belongs everywhere.

  45. Christine says

    I could never swish oil. This sounded like an amazing idea so I tried it. I couldn’t get the oil to my lips, let alone my mouth without violently dry heaving. Then I found out about water/herbal tea pulling. So much more tolerable. I can only do like 2 minutes at a time because of gag reflex (and a mouth full of saliva is truly disgusting to me). So I try a few times for like 10 minutes…at least I feel better about myself for trying!

  46. Leslie says

    You have a way with words :) I’ve been oil pulling for may 18 months. I’ll never go back. I never tried chewing the oil- just wait for it to melt. Sometimes I do it for just a few minutes, other times I go longer. I start with just a small amount of oil, and sometimes spit some out part way through. I think a big mouthful would be too extreme.

    In case anyone is interested, I started with seasame oil, as per traditional practices, but dislike the flavor. Coconut has worked really well. I add a few essential oils to the blend for various reason. It’s convenient to make my own blend, and I now feel conventional paste is too harsh.

  47. K says

    Oil pulling is great! Himalayan salt water rinse is wonderful. And the occasional 3am urine mouthwash is even better. Swishing coconut oil is not strenuous. The author is making a much greater deal of it.

  48. Kim St.Germain says

    I just read about your experience. I was looking for info on the natural oily substance that now seems to coat my teeth. I have been taking cod liver oil capsules along with vitamin E, minerals, and plenty of butter and coconut butter, which I eat, not swish. Since I have added the cod liver oil I have noticed this coating. I do have a tooth that has filled in from a sizable cavity over the past 3 months, before I undertook the full regime of Vit A + D. I would guess this has to do with my eating many raw foods, butter, and raw milk, plus some green supplements, and fish oil capsules. I also have stopped eating most pre made foods, even crackers, cereals, and many breads. I have researched and believe that the true culprit in cavities is vitamin deficiencies, mainly the oil based vitamins, and minerals. We can scrub and scrub and scrub, but without proper vitamins to nourish the teeth, they decay easily.

  49. Michelle Smith says

    Like yourself, I had one go at oil pulling. It was such a repulsive, disgusting experience that I will not repeat it. I have heard that swishing or pulling high-quality wheat grass powder mixed with water is highly beneficial for dental health. Just about anything would have to be better than the coconut oil experience. YUCK!

  50. Sharon Parker says

    I really appreciate this post and the interesting comments and experiences. I too found oil-pulling to be gag-worthy and unpleasant after trying it a couple of different times. I was curious about the comments that it’s just a “snake oil” fad and unscientific, so I did a little searching and found this from the National Institute of Health:

    The abstract states that it is a traditional Ayurvedic practice and does have scientific validation. But it’s still not for me! Thanks for sharing your experience with it! I do a fair amount of water swishing already, just because I have found it to be a helpful supplement to brushing and flossing, so I guess I will just continue with that!

  51. Ann says

    Thanks for validating my belief that the primary benefit is from the prolonged swishing with any fluid… not being able to stomach a mouthful of oil, I’ve been doing 10-20min salt water swishing, mixing in some Listerine which contains some essential oils.

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