Coconut Oil ~ Beyond Diet
The benefits of including coconut oil in the diet were discussed in the blog titled “Coconut Oil for Health”. Here we shall look at some of the non-culinary uses of coconut oil.
Coconut Oil and Skin Health
Any dry skin conditions can benefit from a coconut oil massage. Use the coconut oil neat or add a few drops of essential oil to melted coconut oil for extra therapeutic effects.
Patients with atopic dermatitis have dry skin that is readily colonised by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Nineteen out of twenty patients with atopic dermatitis infected with Staph who were treated with coconut oil were infection free after 4 weeks of treatment (1). Patients with uninfected dermatitis can also benefit from the application of coconut oil to the skin (2).
Additionally, skin wounds can be treated with coconut oil. For example, rats with wounds that were treated with virgin coconut oil healed much faster than those given the standard wound treatment (3).
Anti-Microbial Effects of Coconut Oil
Monolaurin is a natural compound found in coconut oil and is known as an antimicrobial, anti fungal and anti-inflammatory agent (4). For example, Clostridium difficile is the leading cause of hospital-acquired antibiotic-associated diarrhea worldwide. One study found that lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid derived from coconut oil inhibited the growth of C.dificile (5).
Coconut Oil and Mouth Health
Coconut oil can also improve dental health; early childhood caries are associated with high levels of certain microorganisms including candida albicans. Coconut oil shows significant antifungal activity which is comparable with the medical drug ketoconazole (6). Coconut oil does not carry the risk of producing toxic side effects which ketoconazole is known to do.
Coconut oil can be used for the Ayurvedic technique known as oil pulling which cleans the mouth and teeth. Put a spoonful of coconut oil in the mouth, swish it around for 10-20 minutes until it feels like a thin liquid. Then spit it out and rinse the mouth well before brushing your teeth. This is thought to remove toxins from the mouth. Any oil can be used but coconut oil may be particularly beneficial due to its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Coconut Oil and Preterm Babies
Very low birth weight, preterm babies who had coconut oil applied to their skin twice daily experienced better skin condition, reduced infections (7) and increased weight gain compared to those receiving standard care (8).
Coconut Oil and Hair Health
Coconut oil applied to the hair has been shown to prevent combing damage on various hair types. Compared to sunflower oil or mineral oils, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce the protein loss for both undamaged and damaged hair when used as a pre-wash and post-wash grooming product. This is thought to be because coconut oil contains lauric acid which has a high affinity for hair proteins and is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft (9).
Coconut oil is particularly good for calming frizzy hair or for repairing dry, damaged, over-treated or tangled hair.
To apply coconut oil to the hair, soften or melt it before gently massaging it into the scalp and hair right down to the ends. Do one section of hair at a time. Leave on for half an hour or longer before washing with a natural shampoo.
Use Coconut Oil to Remove Make Up
Coconut oil can be used as a safe and gentle way to remove mascara from the eye lashes. At the same time it will help to hydrate the eye area.
Most lip balm ends up getting eaten so why not use something that is actually edible. Coconut oil can be used for just that. The fatty acids in coconut oil help to lock in moisture and protect the lips from drying out.
Coconut oil has anti-fungal properties making it a useful preventative or treatment for fungal nail problems. It may also help to prevent brittle nails.
Body Moisturiser or Exfoliator
Melt coconut oil together with shea butter and essential oils to make a body butter. To make an exfoliator combine coconut oil with sugar or salt. Rub it into the body before bathing or showering.
With all these uses coconut oil deserves a place in the bathroom cabinet as well as the kitchen!
- 1. Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15.
- 2. Evangelista MT, Abad-Casintahan F, Lopez-Villafuerte L. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2014 Jan;53(1):100-8.
- 3. Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2010;23(6):290-7.
- 4. Seleem D, Chen E, Benso B, et al. In vitro evaluation of antifungal activity of monolaurin against Candida albicans biofilms. Peer J. 2016 Jun 22;4:e2148.
- 5. Shilling M, Matt L, Rubin E et al. Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile. J Med Food. 2013 Dec;16(12):1079-85.
- 6. Shino B, Peedikayil FC, Jaiprakash SR et al. Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida albicans Isolated in Children with Early Childhood Caries: An In Vitro Study. Scientifica (Cairo). 2016;2016:7061587.
- 7. Nangia S, Paul VK, Deorari AK et al. Topical Oil Application and Trans-Epidermal Water Loss in Preterm Very Low Birth Weight Infants-A Randomized Trial. J Trop Pediatr. 2015 Dec;61(6):414-20.
- 8. Salam RA, Darmstadt GL, Bhutta ZA. Effect of emollient therapy on clinical outcomes in preterm neonates in Pakistan: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2015 May;100(3):F210-5.
- 9. Rele AS, Mohile RB. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92.