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Oil Pulling: What It Is and How It Works

Let's talk about oil pulling. Is swishing coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes loony or legit? We asked health experts to explain the latest trend.
Coconut oil What Exactly Is Oil Pulling?

Whether you've been plugged into the Internet for the past six months or you were on the holistic bandwagon back in the '60s, you've probably heard about oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic procedure that is said to boost oral and overall health by withdrawing toxins.

The procedure is pretty straightforward: take any vegetable oil, such as coconut, olive or sunflower, and vigorously swish it around your mouth for 20 minutes, then spit it out. Don't gargle, don't swallow. Repeat daily. In simplified terms, by doing this, the oil purportedly cleans and detoxifies your mouth by binding with oral bacteria (hence, the "pulling" away of toxins from your mouth) that you later spit out with the oil, and the healthier mouth in turn leads to a bunch of other positive physical effects, like clearer skin, eased PMS, cleared allergies and alleviated migraines.

There are two beliefs as to why this may work: first, it's thought that by swishing the oil like a mouthwash, it cleanses the mouth of bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties. Secondly, once the procedure is done, the oil is thought to coat the surface of the teeth, creating a slippery barrier that prevents bacterial buildup.

Now, if you're raising your eyebrows as to whether this silver bullet is actually real, you're not the only one. Here's what a host of experts across various disciplines are saying so you can judge for yourself.