In 2014 I randomly happened upon the practice of oil-pulling. I was curious about it and gave it a try. Turns out I liked it so much I wrote a blog post about it. Four months later, I was still oil-pulling daily, and I wrote an update about it.

Fast forward to today, six and half years since I first wrote about it, and oil-pulling is still a part of my life. So I thought you might like another update.

For many readers, when I wrote about oil-pulling in 2014, it was a new idea for them — just as it had been for me. If you haven’t heard of it, no worries. Here’s a quick introduction:

Oil pulling is a health practice where you put a spoonful of oil in your mouth and swish it through your teeth for 20 minutes. You can use any type of vegetable oil, but coconut oil seems to be the most popular. (With coconut oil, it’s solid when you put it in your mouth, so you have to wait a bit until it melts before you can start swishing.) How much oil? It’s recommended that you start with a couple of teaspoons, and work up to as much as 3 tablespoons. That seems like way too much in my experience — one tablespoon is typical for me.

Apparently, oil pulling itself goes back a few thousand years and has its origins in Ayurvedic medicine in India. Oil pulling books explain that ancient Ayurvedic medical texts outlined this practice, and the practitioners found that the process was good for cleaning the mouth, and improved other health conditions as well. The newest research around oil pulling seems to be focused on the idea that the health of your mouth is a mirror to the health of your body.

If you’d like to know more, there’s a book called Oil Pulling Therapy that has a ton of reviews, and reading the reviews will give you sense of how different people respond to oil-pulling. (The kindle version of the book is only $7 at the moment if you’re curious and want to read it.) That book is from 2008, but there are a few more recent books on oil pulling if you want to check them out — here’s one that is currently 99 cents on kindle.

I can tell oil-pulling has become at least a bit trendy in the last six years, because today, if you do a search for “oil-pulling” on Amazon, dozens and dozens of products come up. But in 2014, the same search only brought up one book and zero products. Hah!

Anytime I do any research into oil-pulling, I find myself getting a bit irritated, because loads of oil-pulling health claims are made, and many people making those claims make no attempt at actually backing them up with data.

So for me, I’ve just relied on my own experience. I enjoy oil-pulling. I like how my mouth feels when I’m oil-pulling daily. My teeth look whiter to me. My gums are pink and healthy. When I don’t get enough sleep for a couple of nights in a row, I tend to get a sore throat. But if I oil pull at the first sign of throat soreness, it will go away. I don’t get canker sores when I’m oil pulling. I’m prone to plaque buildup at my gum-line, but not when I’m oil pulling. And my teeth sensitivity, which started during pregnancy and was still intense years after my last pregnancy, entirely went away after oil-pulling therapy.

I have no data to share on any of that. And I understand that all of those benefits could be unrelated to the oil-pulling. I realize that all of the benefits might just be in my imagination. That’s fine with me. I know oil-pulling is not hurting me, and if I’m only imagining the benefits? So what? They sure seem real enough to me. When I think of self-care, oil pulling is definitely one of the things that makes me feel like I’m taking time to care for myself.

I’ve said this in earlier posts about oil-pulling, but I want to reiterate: I have zero interest in getting you to oil pull. I receive no benefits if you decide to try it or not try it. So why am I writing this? Well, I get questions about oil-pulling pretty regularly, so I’m hoping that sharing my experience with the practice might be beneficial to anyone who’s curious about it.

When I first started oil-pulling, back in 2014, I approached it as replacement for my then mouth-cleaning process. But over the years, it’s become more of a supplement than a replacement. I might oil-pull in the morning, then brush with water at night. But if I’m traveling, I might skip it and just do typical toothbrush-toothpaste-floss.

For me, so much comes down to time and daily routines. When I have a routine that accommodates oil-pulling easily, then I oil-pull daily. When there’s a change in my routine, and 20 minutes isn’t workable, then oil-pulling becomes something I do for a week or so here and there — especially when I feel like I might be getting sick.

I noticed that during quarantine, which happened right after Alt Summit, when my schedule calmed way down, I oil-pulled daily. It had been awhile since I had made it a daily practice and it was nice to be reminded how much I like it. I think it also felt like one other positive action I could take when so many things felt out of control.

Your turn. Have you ever tried oil-pulling? If yes, did you like it? Do you have a preference for type of oil? Amount of oil? Amount of time swishing? Did you try the practice long enough to observe any benefits? Or does the whole thing seem like a big waste of time to you? I’d love to hear.