The humble coconut (technically a drupe, not a nut) is the fruit of Cocos nucifera, a member of the palm family that’s distributed throughout the tropical regions of the world. Its meat, milk and oil has provided food and medicine for centuries. In fact, Pacific islanders refer to the coconut tree as the “tree of life,” and consider its fruit to be a panacea for a wide variety of ailments ranging from psoriasis, eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions to herpes, respiratory infections and irritable bowel disorders like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Coconut oil is rich in fatty acids, especially medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). In contrast to long-chain fatty acids found in seed oils, these fatty acids are readily absorbed in the GI tract and are used to produce energy instead of being stored in adipose tissue (read that as body fat). In addition, MCFAs don’t increase LDL cholesterol levels, the “bad” kind of cholesterol that contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. When it comes to cooking, coconut oil doesn’t form toxic by-products when heated like some other oils do.
Other Benefits of Coconut Oil
Enhances magnesium and calcium absorption.
Provides antioxidant and antiviral activity.
Applied topically, exerts antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Improves digestion and eases symptoms associated with ulcers, colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Reduces pain and inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis.
Conditions hair and softens skin.
Replace the vegetable or other fat in recipes with coconut oil.
Use coconut oil for frying (including stir-fries).
Use as an alternative to butter.
Stir a tablespoon into hot foods, such as oatmeal or coffee.
Apply to skin as a moisturizer. (Great under-eye treatment!)
Use to remove makeup.
Work through hair with fingertips. Wait 30 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Use as a natural and soothing diaper cream for baby.
Apply to burns (including sunburn) to speed healing.