Would you swish oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes to reap some health benefits? According to its proponents, the ancient tradition known as oil pulling can give you whiter teeth, healthier gums and better breath, and it can cure your insomnia, among other positive health effects.

Deepak Chopra is an advocate of oil pulling and advises in his book, “Perfect Health,” to begin one's day by swishing sunflower, coconut, sesame or olive oil. After it's absorbed through the tongue, the detoxifying oil makes its way through the body, according to Chopra’s 2001 book, “Perfect Health.”

What makes oil pulling effective? According to its advocates, swishing the oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes eventually gets bacteria to cling to the oil. When the oil is spit out, so too are the toxins that are harmful to your body.

While oil pulling is not a new method for better health (the practice originated in India thousands of years ago), it’s been gaining traction on the Internet. In a post titled “WTF Is Oil Pulling + Why I’m Hooked,” FashionLush.com blogger Erica Stolman details how oil pulling has worked for her.

“My teeth are so so so much whiter [which is great cause I can’t do any sort of white strips--my teeth are too sensitive], I have been sleeping much easier which is a big feat for this insomniac, my teeth have been much less sensitive to hot & cold, & the best result of all--MY JAW PAIN HAS DECREASED TREMENDOUSLY!!! I have major jaw issues & awful TMJ,” Stolman wrote. “Last week it started to get bad, lock jaw, spasms, shooting pains--I oil pulled, and it all went away. That is enough for me to do this for life. I do have a dentist appointment next week, so I am excited to see if the dentist notices anything!!”

While any vegetable oil will do, Stolman said she does oil pulling with coconut oil because of its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

Katie, the semi-anonymous writer of The Wellness Mama blog, explained how oil pulling has benefitted her health.

“Though I’ve done this for a few years, my only personal experience is with increased oral health and less sensitive [and whiter!] teeth,” she wrote in a post titled “Oil Pulling for Oral Health.”

But it’s not just the mouth that can see benefits from oil pulling. According to Stolman, oil pulling relieves headaches and hangovers, clears sinuses, detoxifies the body and helps with general pain.

But does oil pulling actually work? Dr. Edward F. Group III, in a post for Food Matters, said that studies show that oil pulling does improve oral health.

A 2007 study, which looked at the effectiveness of oil pulling with sunflower oil, showed a “statistically significant reduction” in gingivitis among oil pullers who tried the technique for 45 days. A 2008 study found that there was a “remarkable reduction in the total count” of mouth bacteria, and a reduction in susceptibility to cavities, Group said.