Nothing gets our hearts racing more than hearing the words “natural” and “remedy” in the same sentence. So when we heard the kale-munching-cold-pressed-juice-drinking Gwyneth Paltrow talking about how an ancient Indian technique called oil pulling is her natural remedy for whiter teeth, healthier gums and better skin, our interest piqued.
Hailing from the southern state of Kerala in India, oil pulling is a folk remedy that also appears in early texts on ayurveda. It involves swishing a high-quality food-grade oil in your mouth (doctors recommend organic sesame, olive or coconut) for 20 minutes, spitting it out in the trash (not the sink, as it will clog) and then brushing your teeth. The ancient cleansing method is meant to eliminate bacteria and micro-organisms, detoxify the body’s lymph nodes, and even the skin. After 20 minutes, the colour and texture of the oil will dramatically alter, changing to a milky white liquid. This is because the swishing draws out all the food debris, toxins and bacteria from your mouth.
So, did we actually try it? Of course we did, and for a week, no less. At first, we took it for granted that swilling anything around our mouth (even a mint-flavoured mouthwash), would stimulate the gums and be good for oral health. However, the real magic happens when a store-bought mouthwash is substituted with organic coconut oil.
Dr Jomol Mariam Thomas, a specialist at Dubai’s Dr Shyam’s Ayurveda Centre, agrees. “Organic coconut oil tastes better, and if you’re oil pulling every morning, you’ll want to pick the good stuff.” But what about the miraculous claim for bright white teeth? “They will appear whiter over time because plaque is not water soluble, it’s fat-soluble. So the lipids in coconut oil have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth,” Thomas explains.
It hasn’t quite worked for us. And it tastes pretty bad. But because (we think) coconut oil is the unofficial healer for everything wrong in the world, we’ll continue optimistically swishing for at least a few more weeks. Dr Shyam’s Ayurveda Centre, Al Wasl Road (04 344 335404 344 3354).