At one point hydrogenated and vegetable oil manufacturers started demonizing coconut oil because of its high saturated fat content (coconut is about 60 percent fat with just over 94 percent of this saturated). These claims have now been widely disproven.
Coconut oil is an extremely healthy saturated fat. Its principle fatty acid is lauric acid (also found in human breast milk), a medium chain saturated fatty acid or triglyceride (MCT) that has potent antiviral, antifungal, antipathogenic, and antimicrobial properties. Lauric acid powerfully strengthens the immune system. It optimizes our body’s absorption of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, enhancing overall health. It can help assuage digestion-related problems, such as heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome. Why, it’s even used to treat AIDS and candida because of its antipathogenic effect in the gut.
In vitro, it’s been shown to inactivate the HIV, measles, and herpes simplex viruses, among others. Coconut oil’s healthy fat has also been proven to promote heart health, maintain normal cholesterol levels, stimulate metabolism, improve thyroid function, and give a mighty boost to energy levels–which combined can help in decreasing body fat, while increasing muscle.
The benefits of organic coconut oil, and in particular, its lauric acid/MCT content, simply cannot be overstated. I hope I’ve piqued your interest thus far! But wait there’s more…
Skin & Hair Care
On my trip to Kerala (the name of which translates to “land of coconuts”), India in the 1990’s, I was happily indoctrinated into all things coconut. It really is the center of their food universe, and further, is utilized extensively in Ayurvedic rituals for health and beauty. Women there regularly oil their scalp and hair with the “sacred” coconut oil.
Whether the drying depths of winter or the heat of the summer, coconut oil is one of the most soothing and cooling oils on the planet and can have dramatic rejuvenative effects on the skin. This oil works wonders as a deep moisturizer, emollient, and lubricant for all skin types, especially dry and aging skin. Use on facial skin, on hands and feet, but also certainly use for a full body self-massage.
Coconut oil promotes skin elasticity and will soften and reduce the appearance of wrinkles without any irritation—one reason it’s so helpful with skin problems like psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, and other inflammatory conditions. It’s also a great healing balm when used on skin cuts or abrasions. The oil forms a thin lipid layer that protects the wound from outside dust, bacteria, and viruses, while accelerating the healing process for repair and renewal of damaged tissues. Coconut oil is also a wonderful eye makeup remover, and can be used in any and all shaving applications.
With its essential proteins, coconut oil is one of the most nourishing products you can massage through your hair and onto your scalp. The self-nurturing coupled with the oh-so-soothing aroma are sure to lower your stress levels!
As much as I love coconut, I loathe how much synthesized coconut is used in hair or skin care in ethoxylated form, including shampoos, moisturizers, bath oils, body washes, make-up foundations, toothpastes, hand soaps, and more. Ethoxalation presents the possibility that cancer-causing 1, 4 dioxane may form in the product. But just one example is sodium lauryl sulfate, a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. Do due diligence and read the labels. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com and check ingredients.
Organic versus Conventional
Dependent on the locale and producer, coconuts may inherently be organic. But certainly do look for the certified organic label. You’re then ensured they’ve been grown without any chemical fertilizers and pesticides, that the coconut flesh was dried without chemicals, and that no chemical solvents were used in the extraction of the oil. And lastly, look for unrefined coconut oil. Most commercial coconut oils are refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) utilizing a number of chemicals and additives during the processing.
Westerners certainly do not need to procure their coconut from India, Sri Lanka, or the Philippines. Coconuts are grown in Hawaii and southern Florida, and are also sourced from Mexico. This cuts down on the carbon footprint and ensures the freshest product possible.
I could keep going here on the attributes of coconut, but instead will direct you to search the Internet for all things certified organic coconut. My doctor, Joseph Mercola, O.D. (www. mercola.com), has phenomenal research information at his website regarding not only the benefits of coconut oil, but he promotes our favorite oil, Fresh Shores Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Another high-quality oil I recommend is Cocopura by Vivapura.
At-Home Hair Tip
Here’s a wonderful tip! Coconut milk is one of my favorite hair volumizers. It’s great on fine hair—thicker, fuller hair guaranteed! Put ½ of a cup unsweetened organic coconut milk in a spray bottle. After shampooing, apply to towel- dried hair, then style. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Beauty and wellness educator MARY BETH JANSSEN is a certified mind-body health educator for the Chopra Center for Well Being and the author of five books.