For the past few months, I’ve been starting every morning with a spoonful of coconut oil, swishing it around in my mouth (like mouthwash), in an ancient Ayurvedic medicinal process called oil pulling.
It was kinda gross in the wintertime, when the coconut oil was solidified and I had to chew the solid chunks until they melted enough to swish (FYI, the urge to swallow feels automatic when you chew…or sneeze), but soon I began looking forward to this little ritual every morning.
Coconut oil is naturally anti-bacterial (like most oils) and anti-inflammatory, and oil pulling helps soothe gums, freshen breath, detoxify the body, clear up skin issues (like dryness, eczema, and acne), and even whiten the teeth! It’s called oil pulling because the coconut oil (you can also try this with sesame, which is supposed to be warming while coconut is cooling) pulls germs, bacteria, and toxins from your mouth, which is where the body naturally tries to detoxify while you sleep (that’s why you wake up with bad breath). The trick is that you have to do it first thing in the morning, before you drink anything (or even swallow your saliva) and before brushing your teeth (which you’ll want to do after you spit out the coconut oil). Unlike regular mouthwash, you need to swish for 15-20 minutes, which seems like an eternity at first. My advice is to start with five minutes the first day (surprisingly easy, since coconut oil doesn’t burn your mouth like Listerine) and gradually build up the time. It also helps if you do a chore while swishing–I find that 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time to unload the dishwasher, wash dishes, make the bed, and tidy up or check my email. The swishing action is pretty relaxing for the jaws (although it may feel like a bit of a workout the first week) and focusing on the swishing (like meditation) makes these daily chores a little less annoying.
I know, I know, coconut oil sounds a little too thick to use as a mouthwash, but the coconut oil mixes with the saliva in your mouth and becomes quite watery after a couple of minutes. Just remember to spit it out into a trash can (not your sink) because the coconut oil solidifies as it cools from the body temperature in your mouth and will clog your drain–don’t try it!
I don’t practice oil pulling every morning, but when I have the time to get out the coconut oil, it really brightens my day. I love starting the morning with a naturally clean, fresh mouth. Okay, now it’s time for me to spit this coconut oil out!