I took the call on my cell. “I have the next big thing for you,“ my friend informed me. “It’s big,” she said, “and it’s fantastic. There’s already a Facebook page on it. Everyone is talking about it. Oil pulling. Have you heard of it?”
“Huh?” I responded. I had never heard of oil pulling.
“Oil pulling. It makes your teeth whiter, helps with constipation, cures your arthritis, gets rid of all the toxins in your body.” She had me at helps with constipation.
“Honestly, I’ve never heard of it. What do you do?”
“It’s a new natural remedy for everything. You take a tablespoon of oil and swish it around your mouth for awhile first thing in the morning. Sesame and Sunflower oil work best, but you could also use coconut oil. It’s best if it’s pure and organic.”
“That’s it? An oil swish in the morning and all your troubles go away?”
“That’s what they’re saying.”
“Who is saying?”
“Everybody. Ask around.”
I asked around. I called my most “in the know” friends, asked my hair stylist. No one I know had heard of oil pulling.
By the time I got home that evening to do proper research, I could only remember that the remedy was natural and had to do with oil. I mistakenly Googled “oil pressing” and spent twenty minutes reading how to extract oil from raw materials under high pressure before I figured out I was on the wrong side of the press-pull dichotomy. I crossed my fingers and hoped that my research indicated that oil pulling also helps with memory loss (it doesn’t.)
Turns out, oil pulling is an Ayurvedic healing tradition that has been around for hundreds of years. You put one tablespoon of oil in your mouth in the morning on an empty stomach, you swish the oil around gently for 15 to 20 minutes, then spit it out and rinse your mouth. Supposedly, the enzymes in the oil literally pull toxins, pus and mucus from inside your body’s cells, blood and gut. The process is supposed to make your teeth whiter, clear gum disease, cure sinus infections, improve digestion, and fix a host of other maladies, including insomnia and migraines.
I assessed my body. My teeth could certainly be whiter, my shoulder and neck were sore, and my toenails – they are not pretty. I hardly ever sleep through the night unless artificially induced, and when I do sleep, apparently I snore like a baboon. And who at 50 something cannot be a little more regular?
I decided I would give oil pulling a try. After all, could 2,598 people who “liked” oil pulling on Facebook be wrong? I had pure sesame oil at home- it wasn’t going to cost me a dime. There were no extra calories involved (no swallowing the fat) and no extra exercise (unless you count swishing).
I brought the oil and tablespoon upstairs and placed them next to my bathroom sink. By the time I went to wash up that night, they were gone.
“Why did you move the sesame oil and the tablespoon back to the kitchen?” I asked my husband, a little disappointed that it didn’t cross his mind that the oil might have been for something a little more interesting. He just looked at me, eyebrows raised, and said, “Because that is where they live?” I explained to him about oil pulling. “Sounds disgusting,” he said.
And disgusting it was. For eight mornings in a row I swished sesame oil in my mouth for 20 minutes, while the oil became warm and mucousy in my mouth, and I held in the gags. I lay in bed reading and swishing, not able to get up to brush my teeth, exercise, have my coffee, talk to my husband before he left for work, or kiss him goodbye. I swished thick oil for almost three hours of my life. I must be insane.
After eight days, the coffee stains on my teeth were as dark as ever, and my gums were still receding. My neck and shoulder still hurt, and my toes were as ugly as ever. I was still an insomniac who snored (the worst kind of insomniac) and I was no more regular.
My father would have loved this. He would have pretended a sneeze was coming on. “Oil pulling….” he would have said, pretending the sneeze was imminent, with each ensuing “ah” becoming increasing louder and higher in tone. “Ah…Ah….Ah…(slight pause)… horseshit!” he would say, as the pretend sneeze came out. And he would be right.
I guess I took one for the team.