Oils

Coconut oil – Medicinal uses and nutritional value

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the mature fruit of coconut palm. It has a lot of health benefits, and is used widely in improving skin and hair health. Some refer to it as “virgin coconut oil”, which means that the oil is generally unprocessed without any bleaching or refining actions.

Coconut oil has the ability to stay up to six months at 24 °C without spoiling, due to its high content of saturated fat. The high level of saturated fat in coconut oil has made the World Health Organisation (WHO) to advise the entire world that “its consumption must be limited”.

In terms of the nutritional composition, it is made of 99% fat, with saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat making up 82%, 6% and 2% respectively per 100 g of this oil. In terms of energy, same 100 grams provide up to 890 calories. It contains no micro-nutrients, but has iron, vitamin K, and vitamin E in very little amounts. Coconut oil also contains phytosterols, with 100 g containing up to 86 mg of this compounds.

medicinal-uses-coconut-oil

Below are some outstanding uses of coconut oil:

  • Dental care
  • Skin care
  • Hair care
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Fights Candidiasis
  • Good for Alzheimer patients
  • Weight loss

 

  • Dental care

Have you ever heard of “oil pulling”? Well, it the term used to refer to the act of rinsing the mouth with certain oils to cure oral diseases by traditional folk healers. Sunflower oil was one of those oils used to reduce plaque formation in the mouth. Coconut oil is an easily available edible oil, but no studies have been carried out on the benefits of oil pulling using this wonderful oil.

Just recently, a group of researchers carried out a study to test the effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis (1). Their results revealed the beneficial effect of this oil in reducing plaque formation, and plaque-induced gingivitis.

Many others have also linked this wonderful oil to preventing tooth decay, and increasing the strength of the teeth.

  • Hair care

You can’t tell me that you have never come across hair products containing coconut oil? Of course there a reason you find this oil as one of the active ingredients in hair care products. It has properties which facilitate a healthy hair growth, and protects the scalp from dandruff.

The women in tropical coastal regions of the world can tell you more about coconut oil. They owe a big thanks to this oil for their long and lustrous hair. They usually apply this oil topically to their hair, everyday. If you are wondering how to use this oil for your hair, then go the tropical-coastal women’s way.

If you want to get rid of dandruff, you can regularly massage this oil into your hair, everyday. It is also very effective in healing damaged hair, as it contains some proteins that promote hair growth.

Years back, a research was carried out to find the effect of coconut oil, sunflower oil, and mineral oil on prevention of hair damage (2). Of all the 3 oils, coconut oil was found to be the most effective in preventing hair damage. This effect of coconut oil, was attributed to a triglyceride of lauric acid which has a high affinity for hair proteins.

  • Improve blood cholesterol levels

An improved blood cholesterol means reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. The saturated fats in this oil is said to improve cholesterol level, by decreasing the LDL (bad) cholesterol level, and increasing the HDL (good) cholesterol level. This statement has been proven by a research carried out in 2009.

The use of coconut oil as a heart healthy food has been attributed to its lauric acid content, which prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure. However, there are many researches as well that tells us how coconut oil is not good for the heart due to its high fat content. Now, who are we to believe? Well, when using coconut oil for edible purposes, then it becomes important you regularly check your cholesterol level to see whether it’s increasing or reducing. If it’s on the increase, then you are advised to stop.

Whatever the case may be, you should always consult your medical doctor before adding this oil into your diet, especially for continuous medicinal purposes.

  • Fights Candidiasis

This disease characterized by uncontrolled and excessive growth of the yeast Candida albicans in the stomach, can be fought by coconut oil. Using this oil can provide relief from the inflammation caused by the yeast. When ingesting this oil, it has to be in a minute quantity, and must be gradual.

  • Good for Alzheimer patients

Alzheimer’s disease alone is responsible for 60-80 % of dementia cases worldwide. In this kind of patients, some parts of the brain finds it difficult to utilize carbohydrates for energy. This led to some researches finding out the possible use of ketones as alternative energy source for these brain cells (3). Another research then made use of these ketones in people with mild cognitive impairment (4).

The results were amazing, as the higher the ketone values in these individuals, the better the improvement in their memory and overall brain functions.

  • Weight loss

A research conducted in 2009, reported how coconut oil consumption was able to cause a reduction in abdominal obesity of some women (5). Coconut oil is also able to reduce hunger, thus preventing you from eating much food. This has been attributed its fatty acids content which reduces appetite, and may affect overall body weight over a long period of time; because the less you eat, the thinner you become.

Including coconut oil in your weight loss plans might not be a bad idea, after-all.

 

Other beneficial uses of coconut oil include:

  1. Boost immunity
  2. Improves digestion
  3. Helps in wound healing
  4. Good stress reliever
  5. Controls diabetes
  6. Boost energy
  7. Treats Eczema
  8. Prevents osteoporosis
  9. Supports thyroid functioning
  10. May prevent cancer

About the author

Abbati

Abbati studied Biological sciences at Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Zaria. He loves learning about the medicinal properties of foods, and the need to explore them!

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