Ayurveda is an ancient Indian form of natural healing dating back 5,000 years, and some of the techniques, like the use of a neti pot, are used today in integrative medicine. While the effects of many natural remedies have not been scientifically proven, for some Western consumers, their anecdotal evidence is good enough to swear by them. Oil pulling is one such example that has been making headlines.

It’s a technique where you swish one teaspoon of cold pressed oil (coconut, olive, or sesame oil) around your mouth for 20 minutes, and it supposedly will cling to the harmful chemicals and toxins in your body, removing them after you spit it out. You then rinse with salt water and brush normally. This should all be done in the morning on an empty stomach.

It has become increasingly popular after fashion blogger, Erica Stolma, owner of “Fashion Lush” raved about it on one of her recent posts, “WTF Is Oil Pulling + Why I’m Hooked.” She says she’s “obsessed” and also makes claims that it completely transformed her sinuses and her teeth:

As for me, let’s see– my teeth are so so so much whiter (which is great cause I can’t do any sort of white strips- my teeth are too sensitive), I have been sleeping much easier which is a big feat for this insomniac, my teeth have been much less sensitive to hot & cold, & the best result of all- MY JAW PAIN HAS DECREASED TREMENDOUSLY!!! I have major jaw issues & awful TMJ. Last week it started to get bad, lock jaw, spasms, shooting pains– I oil pulled and it all went away. That is enough for me to do this for life. I do have a dentist appointment next week, so I am excited to see if the dentist notices anything!!

While her reviews might make anyone want to run out and buy a jar of organic coconut oil, there isn't any real substantial evidence proving or debunking this technique. However, this doesn’t mean that oil pulling does not have benefits at all. According to dentist, Dr. Jessica Emery, D.M.D., of Sugar Fix Dental Loft Chicago, if it’s something that will make people more aware of their oral hygiene, then she says go for it: “I have a few patients who swear by it, making their teeth whiter and their gums less sensitive,” she told Medical Daily. “There are so many health benefits to coconut oil, so this might just be another benefit.”

Emery believes a reason for this might be the antimicrobial properties that coconut oil has to offer, and although there has not been enough clinical evidence, she believes that the only downside would be swallowing the oil accidently. 

The question as to whether oil pulling works or not doesn’t seem to be the issue. What the issue might be is what type of oil is actually effective. A study done in 2007 found that sunflower oil significantly reduced gingivitis in patients after 45 days of pulling. And in 2008, another study found that, “there was a ‘remarkable reduction in the total count of bacteria’ in the mouth, and an overall marked reduction in susceptibility dental cavities.” While the discretion is up to the individual person, there might be some positive benefits from oil pulling.

To read the full oil-pulling write-up on Stolma’s blog, visit her site at: FashionLush.com