oil: it’s not just for salads and bodybuilding competitions anymore

It’s been a whopping 10 weeks since I last tried a new health fad. Who could forget my week long juice fast? I’ll be sure to do that again soon never.

Well this can mean only one thing: it’s time to test something new! Where there’s a will, there’s a craze, friends.

So, I have scoured the interwebs to find the latest fad that is sure to improve our lives, and [drum roll please]… I found it!

Oil Pulling.

Hey, if it’s good enough for the Queen of Snootyville, Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s good enough for me.

Here’s what Her Goopiness had to say about oil pulling:

“I use coconut oil a lot; I do on my face, on my skin and in my cooking. And I just started “oil pulling,” which is when you swish coconut oil around [in your mouth] for 20 minutes, and it’s supposed to be great for oral health and making your teeth white. It’s supposed to clear up your skin, as well. It’s really interesting; it’s an ancient, ancient technique. I read about it on the Internet.

That’s right, Goopy, if you read it on the Internet, it must be true.

As much as I trust my BFF Gwyn implicitly, I thought it might make sense to do my own research. Here’s what I found.

Oil pulling purportedly focuses mainly on oral health. Specifically it is said to help with:

  • removing germs and toxins
  • preventing diseases of the mouth, such as cavities and gingivitis
  • reducing or eliminating bad breath
  • giving you healthier gums
  • producing brighter, whiter teeth

But oil pulling allegedly also helps with other maladies such as:

  • migraine headaches
  • hormonal imbalances
  • gastro-intestinal maladies
  • eczema
  • bronchitis
  • sinus congestion
  • insomnia
  • hangover(!)
  • allergies

So, to net it out, oil pulling gives you a nicer smile, better breath, increased energy, decreased headaches, clearer sinuses, better sleep and clearer skin. [I read it on the Internet. It must be true.]


I repeat, wow.

It’s a modern-day miracle, is what it is!

…But…what’s this?…It’s been around for thousands of years, according to ancient Ayurvedic practices?

Fascinating. I decided I’d bite.

Next I had to learn how to actually oil-pull.

Visions of taffy-pulling flashed through my head.

Well it turns out oil pulling is nothing like taffy pulling.

Key differences:


I clearly have way too much time on my hands.

Oil-Pulling 101:

1. Just grab a tablespoon of coconut, sesame, sunflower or olive oil. [Or as much as you can handle without gagging, like I did on my first try…]


2. Master your gag reflex. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. YOU CAN DO THIS, NANCY!!!

3. Swish the oil around your mouth for exactly 20 minutes. Not 19. Not 21. [And certainly not 90 seconds, as I did before I spit it out the first time…]

4. Spit it out.

The only two golden rules to follow are: 1) do it for 20 minutes; and 2) DO NOT SWALLOW ANY OF THE TOXIC WASTE YOU’VE BEEN SWISHING AROUND IN YOUR MOUTH. 

Easy peasy. [Or, if it’s not, see step 2 above…]

The first time I did it, I used coconut oil, which comes in a solid state. I figured that because I like the taste of coconut oil that I wouldn’t mind putting it, in its solid form, into my mouth and allowing my mouth-heat to melt it down so I could swish.

I clearly underestimated the power of my gag reflex.

My eyes started to water immediately.

I valiantly tried to suppress the urge to spew, but eventually had to run to the sink to spit out the part liquid, part solid, nastiness in my mouth.

oil pulling

Key Lesson Learned: Render the coconut oil into a liquid before putting it in my mouth.

I tried this for 3 days in a row before leaving for my business trip to NYC 2 weeks ago, but – for obvious reasons – dropped the habit while I was away. I only just got back to it yesterday.

The jury is out as to whether this oil-pulling thing really is the miracle cure to end all miracle cures, but I seem to be getting better at not being completely skeeved out by it, so I’m willing to give this a good test run.

I’m committed to doing it daily (or near daily) for at least 2 weeks.

I’ve got nothing to lose, and a less aggressive gag reflex to gain.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

93 thoughts on “oil: it’s not just for salads and bodybuilding competitions anymore

  1. I tried doing this a couple of years ago because the theory sounded weird enough to actually maybe work. But I could never keep swishing the oil for 20 minutes. That is a looong time to be swishing oil around your mouth! Keep us posted on your progress and good luck 🙂

  2. This is both super hilarious and bizarre. Because a) I am oil pulling coconut oil as I read this, and b) I swear I wrote this article. The only difference between yours and my experience/sentiments so far is that my trip was to Texas. Everything else is identical. I guess we’ll both see how it works, eh?

    • I am swishing my coconut oil as I reply to your comment! Oil-pulling sisters, we are. Fingers crossed all this farking swishing pays off with some of the health benefits they’re claiming!

  3. I’ve read about it,too ……..will be interested in your results . For some reason, I trust your comments a little more than Gwyn’s!

  4. The fact that I gagged twice while reading that doesn’t lead me to believe I will be trying that any time soon!

    I will be interested to see how you get on though 😀

      • I don’t swish super vigorously, Kerry. Not like after tooth brushing when you swish the water for 3 seconds hard in your mouth (or mouthwash for a limited time). This is kind of slow and rhythmic. Someone described it as meditative – which is a stretch for me, but I can see how it could become like that.

        See below for my response to Rose re hair. 🙂

    • I know…20 minutes[!] One writer described it as somewhat meditative. Can’t say that I got there myself. But, if I do it when the house is still quiet, and I’m just reading stuff on my phone (Facebook, email, blog, twitter…) the 20 minutes does go by pretty quick. (That said, I always set the timer on my phone so I don’t go over or under, and helps me not to check the clock every 30 seconds…)

      p.s. No, I did not get a hair cut. 🙂 I gave myself sufficient time to style it properly – and miracle of miracles, I didn’t even have to use the flat iron. Just some product before blow-dry and some pomade after, and I was golden. Loads of compliments about my “new style” (which is now 15 months old, and has seen better days – as in 4 weeks ago when it was freshly cut and coloured). I’m glad I held off. 🙂

  5. I love coconut oil but just the thought of it melting and leaving bits of chunk was pretty gross. But then again I laughed through this whole post and now i’m crying. You’re really going to give this a solid try? lol! Go you and your stubborn, I mean dedicated, self. xoxo

      • I’m always behind on trends so while it seems hilarious and crazy now, I’ll be oil pulling in 6 months guaranteed. I love your stubborn streak, it is wonderful and why you are so awesome!

      • Well the upside to you being a trend-laggard is that if any whacky side effects reveal themselves in a few weeks, you’ll know, and you can steer clear. 😉

  6. Definitely stick with it! I’ve been oil-pulling for a few weeks solid now and I love it. My teeth look great and I swear it’s the first time in my life my gums don’t bleed when I floss. I use coconut oil too, and although the solid-to-liquid transition is gross, I stick with doing it this way because I’m too way too impatient to go downstairs and melt it in the morning. I find the best way to get the 20 minutes (for me anyway) is to oil pull when I’m in the shower. By the time I’m done showering, drying off, moisturizing, etc – the 20 minutes is usually close to over! 🙂

    • You are a trooper, Jackie! Firstly, I could never do the solid again. I still have nightmares about that. And second – I read someone else did it in the shower and I started dry-heaving just thinking about it. 🙂 Too much going on there…

      I can only do it when it’s super quiet, first thing in the morning, and I basically put the oil in, grab my cell phone, and start my morning reading of email, FB, Twitter, Blog, etc. (after setting my cell alarm for 20 minutes). In the shower, I’m sure I’d accidently swallow some with all that other stuff happening.

      Go you for making this a daily habit!! And so great to hear that you actually have first-hand evidence of the benefits (whiter teeth and no gum bleeding) — that is awesome!

  7. Seems to me that if it were a miracle cure, everyone would be doing it. Think I’ll pass on this one. Feel free to try a prolonged cod liver oil swish though. Yum yum!

  8. I started to gag just thinking about it. When you’ve published your positive scientific results at the conclusion of your experiment, I may give it a try. Thanks for being my guinea pig.

  9. I was waiting on The Vanilla Housewife to report back on this – as I knew she was doing it. I – I just can’t.

    At least not until you do it first and let me know! But, I don’t want to get up 20 min early to swish, and I really, really don’t want anything in my mouth for 20 min. And I have a massive gag reflex. Like the dentist uses the tools made for kids on me because they are smaller! LOL

    • Kate, you and me both. When a new hygienist joins my dentist’s office I have to spend 10 mins impressing upon her how strong my gag reflex is. What a nightmare. Some days I feel like I’m such a suck! 🙂

      Even this morning, part way through, I started skewing out. Had to stop swishing and just let it sit in my mouth while I breathed really slowly and tried to calm myself. Took a couple of mins, but eventually I was okay and back to swishing. Not sure it will ever get any easier…

  10. Okay, okay, okay, Nancy, I’ve got coconut oil at home. Looks like softened lard or Crisco. I’m thinking I’ll propose this as a household experiment. Son Micah and I did that with the neti pot. We laughed, we cried.

  11. Oh wow, I keep hearing about how great this is but there is no-way-I-will try it! I managed 4 days of juice/smoothies without caffeine, or alcohol, I’ve given up gluten and if pressed could do sugar and salt but I simply can not do oil pulling without getting sick. Best of luck to you and I can’t wait to read your result post! Great news about your hair too. 🙂

    • I’m really going to have to dig in to get this done. Hoping the results are worth it. And wondering if it really needs to be an every day thing once you’re getting the benefits..,

      Yeah I was pretty stoked the hair turned out well. 🙂

  12. Hi Nancy….I’ve heard about oil pulling for YEARS now and never done it so you will be my guinea pig for sure. How long did you say you were committed for? Please let us all know how long you last…I’ve already got the tub in my refrigerator. 🙂 ~Kathy

    • Plan was to do two solid weeks. I’m 3 days in now, but I’m headed to NYC on biz the week after next. If I don’t stop between now and then, I should get 11 straight days done, which seems statistically sound to me. 🙂

  13. I don’t know that I suffer from any of the things it’s supposed to cure or affect, but this is just weird enough that I’m kind of curious. I add my voice as one not sure I’m capable of 20 minutes, but I will give it a try! Why? I’m not sure. LOL!

    • I totally get the “Why? I’m not sure.” Totally. It’s not like I’m suffering from a bunch of stuff on the lust. But, hey, who couldn’t use even whiter teeth? 🙂

  14. I’m getting more of an insight into why Chris Martin is divorcing her. And while I’m all for suppressing my gag reflex, I think I’ll stick to my caramel cheesecake for now… 😉
    You nutter 🙂

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  16. Oh c’mon girls, you’ve had worse things in your mouth! I use sunflower oil from Trader Joe’s ($4.99 for a huge bottle) and since I don’t work in the mornings, I swish while I’m checking emails and doing last night’s dishes. I love doing healthy things that are cheap and easy because I’m lazy and broke and this works all around.
    Inspiring blog!

    • Absolutely I’ve had worse things in my mouth: Oil of Oregano, anyone??? When that was recommended as a sure-fire way to rid cold/flu, I just had to try it. GAH! I’d rather die of pneumonia than put that in my mouth again. NEVER!

      It’s not that the taste is bad; it’s that the idea of holding anything in my mouth for that long is just…wrong. It really, really challenges my gag reflex. Getting better. Then again, At 7 days in, I’m not sure I’m seeing any concrete benefits, so am questioning why I’m even putting myself through it. 🙂

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