Remember oil pulling? It’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice that’s experienced a surge in popularity over the last two years. Legend has it that swishing some oil around your mouth for 15–20 minutes will “pull” out toxins and make your mouth and body healthier.
In 2014, I took a hard pass on the oil-pulling fad, because it sounded pretty gross. It takes all my willpower to brush my teeth for a full two minutes, so entertaining the notion of swirling warm oil in my mouth for a full twenty? Um, no thanks.
But for all of us skeptics, there’s a new product on the market that makes oil pulling actually sound palatable. It’s called Cocorinse, and it’s a blend of organic coconut, peppermint, and spearmint oils packaged in sturdy, transportable pods.
When I heard about it, I was intrigued. The mint is meant to freshen your breath and tastes infinitely better than straight coconut, and the pod packets make the whole process feel more official than wolfing down a huge spoonful of oil out of a jar. A two-week supply of Cocorinse, which includes 14 pods, costs $20. A one-month supply, which includes 30 pods, costs $37.
The company behind Cocorinse, Boka, is a subscription service (like LOLA!) but works its magic in the dental hygiene arena. Boka helps you keep your teeth in tip-top shape by delivering a new toothbrush every three months, right when you should be replacing your ratty bristles, but probably lose track. You can subscribe to electric heads, floss, and toothpaste.
“I tried oil pulling long before we ever envisioned offering a product and found that my mouth felt much healthier and my smile was brighter,” says James Hagen, Boka’s CEO and co-founder. “I was using an alcohol-based mouthwash previously that I later discovered was harsh on gums (and also potentially linked to oral cancer), so I really wanted to find a product that was both effective and natural.”
So, here we are, the formerly-sworn-against-oil-pulling about to dive into a firsthand account of a weeklong oil-pulling trial. The things I’ll do in the name of journalism.
Day 1: Saturday. Boka recommends starting small and working your way up to a full 15–20 minutes, which was quite alright with me. I began with a five minute oil-pulling session. Getting through the first four minutes was easy peasy. In the final minute I could start to feel the saliva building up, and the mint taste had disappeared, so I was ready to spit the stuff out. Helpful hint: be sure to dispose of used oil (which looks and feels like a big nasty loogie) in the trash so it doesn’t clog your drain.
Day 2: I swished for six minutes today, basically a repeat of the day before. My teeth really do seem to look whiter, but after only two short sessions, I’m not sure if that’s because coconut oil has a miraculous effect on English Breakfast stains or I’m an optimist.
Day 3: I’m up to about eight minutes today, since I set the timer for seven and then ended up swirling for a little bit longer. Note: Boka suggests warming up the oil pods in your hands first, and today’s half-hearted heating session proved to me why. The solid chunks of coconut oil were gag-worthy.
Day 4: I’ve hit a milestone: ten minutes! The end of the swishing session is getting pretty gross. At the ten minute mark, I can’t wait to spit out my mouthful of oil, saliva, and God-knows-what-else. Have I mentioned that I’m impatient?
Days 5 and 6: Worked my way up to 15 minutes, a length of time that feels infinitely longer than it sounds when you are forced to communicate to your live-in boyfriend via grunts and voice intonations. He, on the other hand, found this experience very amusing.
Day 7: This was a dark day for me. About two minutes in, I plunked down in front of my laptop, sneezed, and sprayed a fine coconut oil mist all over my computer. Needless to say I didn’t finish pulling oil that morning.
Day 8: 18 minutes. I found the best way to get through it is by focusing on some manual activity, like cleaning the bathroom or washing dishes.
Despite the objective unpleasantness of oil pulling, for which all I can offer is an anticlimactic “you’ll get used to it,” I really liked the effect oil pulling had on my oral hygiene. After pulling, then flossing and brushing per Boka’s instructions, my mouth felt like I’d just been to the dentist for a cleaning. I also noticed that the oil helped loosen plaque in trouble spots—for me, behind my bottom two front teeth.
I’ll probably take my cues from Hagen, who uses his Cocorinse three to five minutes daily as a mouth freshener, and makes time for full 20-minute oil-pulling sessions once or twice a week at most. Oh, another thing I learned about myself: keeping quiet for twenty minutes is really, really hard.