I had never heard of “oil pulling” until I went on my 2-week detox sojourn into the rainforest in Puerto Rico with the owners of the Paradise Wellness Retreat.

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I arrived with a little tenderness in my gums and prayed hard that it wouldn’t turn into a full-blown abscess while I was in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, on our first morning at Paradise Wellness, we were introduced to oil pulling.  I was little skeptical at first but I’m always game for a holistic approach to what ails me. Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic health practice believed to help reduce not only diseases of the mouth and throat, but also a myriad of health conditions in the body. It’s believed that oil pulling helps the lymphatic system remove harmful bacteria while preserving and helping to create a ripe environment for healthy bacteria to flourish.

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Here's how it works:  First, the oils mix with the saliva, turning it into a thin, white liquid. Lipids in the oils begin to pull out toxins from the saliva. As the oil is swished around the mouth, teeth, gums and tongue, the oil continues to absorb toxins, and usually ends up turning thick and viscous and white. Once the oil has reached this consistency, it is spit out before the toxins are reabsorbed. Oil pulling creates a soapy environment that cleanses the mouth, as the fat in oil is an emulsifier by nature.  The oil cleanses out harmful bacteria and reduces fungal overgrowth. The oil helps in cellular restructuring, and is related to the proper functioning of the lymph nodes and other internal organs.

For a healthier mouth, try these easy steps:

1.    Choose an oil. Coconut oil is very popular, because of its sweet and tolerable taste. However, experts suggest that sesame has been shown to be the most effective. Make sure the oil is liquid. Some put the solid coconut oil in your mouth and letting it melt, while I found it much easier to put the coconut bottle in a pot of warm water until it returns to its liquid form: or keep the coconut oil in a dark cabinet which usually ensures it will stay in its liquid form. I generally use coconut oil but have tried sesame oil. Sesame oil has a pleasant taste and is already in liquid form.  If you can’t take the taste of either oils, add a few drops of peppermint extract to the oil.  That works well.

2.    Measure the oil.  One tablespoon of oil is recommended, however I suggest starting with a teaspoon and working your way up to a tablespoon just until you get used to the consistency.

3.    Swish the oil.  Swish it all around your mouth, through your teeth, aiming to reach all areas.  Don't gargle. Think about pulling it through your teeth.  If you floss beforehand, its easier to “suck” the oil between your teeth. The goal is to swish for up to 20 minutes, but it's o.k. if you have to build up to that. I was only able to pull for about 3-5 minutes in the beginning.

4.    Spit. Make sure to spit the oil into the toilet or trash can, as it can clog drains in the shower or sink. Rinse your mouth out with warm water after or brush your teeth.  I like to rinse and brush after. Your teeth and mouth feel squeaky clean.

I now try to oil pull daily. It's kept me out of the dreaded dental chair, boosted my immune system and I’ve seen a noticeable change in the whiteness of my smile.  Oil pulling is a win-win!

Crystal Whaley is a multiple Emmy award winning & Peabody nominated film and tv producer and activist. Follow her on Twitter @CrystalAWhaley​.