I’d been making too many unexpected trips to the dentist, and being poked with a dental probe is even less fun now that I have aging, receding gums, along with the occasional cavity. Coincidentally, I’ve discovered that a kitchen staple, coconut oil, is good for more than sautéing my favorite tempeh. It’s believed to really improve oral health.
Now, my early morning ritual is called the “coconut oil pull,” a gentle oral exercise that is more like swishing, followed by rinsing, with water, and then brushing with my homemade toothpaste.
Before I even roll out of bed, I reach for a jar on the nightstand, unscrew the lid, and dig in with a spoon. Depositing the solid white mass onto my tongue, the oil roils deep into gum crevices and coaxes out lurking toxins. Claimed benefits arc from healthier gums, less
cavities, whiter teeth and fresher breath, all the way to the belief that it tackles far deeper-lying toxins that affect overall health.
Sounds easy, right? Is everybody jumping on the bandwagon? I asked around and got a range of reactions to this new version of an alternative health trend that actually dates back thousands of years to Ayurvedic medicine. Inevitably, the question comes up: “Doesn’t it make you gag?” I had that reflex at the beginning, not because coconut is unpleasant, but because it’s just unexpected.
Our taste buds expec a coconut Mounds bar, but when we open our mouths, something isn't quite right. Where’s the sugar and chocolate? But consider this: There was a time when we all accepted Listerine as something good and healthy to start our day with. Certainly coconut
is a more palatable way to address the same claims of commercial mouthwash.
Another common response (and I initially pled guilty to this) is dismay: that coconut pulling should be done for 15-20 minutes a day. Our attention spans are already so truncated that the idea of performing a new routine quietly and mindfully that is beneficial to us sounds like torture. Or meditation. I now find that 20 minutes flies by.
After hearing me wax enthusiastic about my new ritual, a macrobiotic friend decided to try it. I caught up with him a month or so later to see if he had noticed any changes. While he admitted to slight headaches, a common side effect at the beginning of any detox, he also felt noticeably energetic later in the day–just in time to tackle rush hour traffic on Long Island. I, too, have abandoned the need for naps. Mostly, for now, I believe in the power of the pull.
What, exactly, is so healthy about coconut pulling and how does it work? Our mouths incubate billions of bacteria such as streptococcus, fungi such as candida, viruses and other parasites and their toxins. The first thing people notice after beginning a coconut pull regime is an improvement in their oral health and sinuses. By pulling out the disease-promoting toxins, other health issues are addressed. Online testimonials include alleviation or actual curing of joint and lower back pain, eczema, arthritis, blood disorders, heart disease and even mood swings. Once the 20-minute pulling is over, the germ-laden residue should be discarded–never swallowed. (Since coconut oil is a saturated fat, it solidifies at 76 degrees Fahrenheit. For that reason, it's wise to spit into a garbage can if there is any possibility of clogging your pipes in cool temperatures.)
Coconut oil is on my short list of ingredients for other D.I.Y. approaches to health and beauty products–most others are already in my pantry. As my Tom’s of Maine toothpaste tube depleted, I decided to experiment with my own concoction: 2 tablespoons coconut
oil (softened), 2 tablespoons baking soda and 10 drops of peppermint oil. Again, I don’t spit down the drain, but a bit of a change in routine is a small price to pay for less packaging waste in the landfill. Icing on the cake? I'm saving money.
As detox season approaches, coconut oil is one more way to take control of our bodies and health. As we roll it around our mouths, (and if we insist on multitasking with all this newly acquired energy), the twenty minutes can be used to simultaneously plan spring cleaning, gardens and that creative project that’s been sitting on the back burner all Winter.
And before too long, it will be time for pina coladas on the deck!