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Does ‘Oil Pulling’ Really Give You Whiter Teeth, Better Skin?

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Coconut is the hot commodity at the Eastside Co-Op in northeast Minneapolis.

“It’s in everything now,” said grocery manager Brandy Scheidecker, pointing to coconut milk, coconut water, even a coconut candy bar.

It’s on labels in every aisle, but she says jars of raw coconut oil are the most popular.

“I think it’s because they have heard that it is a healthier oil for you to consume,” she said.

People cook with it, melt it over popcorn and use it as a moisturizer, but the most unusual thing they do with it, is swish it. Fifteen minutes a day, five days a week.

The internet is full of stories about oil pulling, an ancient practice, meant to pull toxins out of the body. Stories about whiter teeth, clearer skin, better breath and so much more.

Kelsey Schwartz swishes a few times a week.

“It’s like putting oil in your car where it just kind of pulls that grime out,” she said.

The oil goes from solid to liquid when it’s in your mouth, because of body heat. Schwartz admits it’s a bit gross, swishing and then spitting, but she loves the results.

“I’ve noticed my teeth have gotten whiter, and my skin has gotten clearer,” she said.

She has plenty of friends who have tried. But not her mother.

“I mean, my mom is an RN,” she said, “so she’s like, ‘it doesn’t work, blah, blah, blah.'”

“I don’t know about whitening the teeth,” said Dr. Benjamin Baechler, a family medicine physician at the University of Minnesota, “but preventing bad breath and promoting overall gum and oral hygiene, certainly.”

Baechler sits of the board of Center for Spirituality and Healing. He says coconut oil is healthy, because it contains important minerals and phytonutrients, and that oil-pulling has its benefits, but most of them are overstated.

“We don’t have any scientific evidence that oil pulling detoxifies the body or provides a facial rejuvenation component,” he said, but “it’s amazing when patients take action for their health how we see their health improve.”

Two tips, if you want to try it. First, warm up the coconut with a hair dryer, so it’s already liquid when you put it in your mouth. Second, don’t spit it out in the sink. The oil will harden at room temperature, and plug up your plumbing.

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