You may already know how to use coconut oil in various ways, and you probably have a good idea that there are literally 100 or more coconut oil benefits you can most likely be taking advantage of. The last decade or so has seen a rapid rise of healthy oils such as olive oil and coconut oil for health purposes, both externally and internally. And for the most part, research has shown that in moderation, coconut oil use is an addition worth considering.
If you use or have considered using coconut oil for any reason, you probably have done a bit of searching in relation to the question: what are the benefits of coconut oil? The answers to this are widely varied and pertain to everything from medical to flavor lending qualities. Below I’m going to try and list as much about this topic as possible in a quick overview. Hopefully, this can serve as an article you can refer back to as a general guide in the future.
What is Coconut Oil?
The oil of the coconut, also known as copra oil, is extracted from the meat and kernel of a mature coconut. It has many uses and also has a long shelf life- lasting 6 months or longer due to the high saturated fat content that is resistant to spoilage. It is this saturated fat that makes it a controversial product for consumption, and one that is not supported for heavy or regular use by leading medical research facilities, such as the Mayo Clinic.
Although the oil is found to have a 90% saturated fat content, they have an unusually high amount of medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, which are harder for the body to convert into stored fat. It is these MCTs that makes coconut oil differ from the long-chain fatty acids found in the saturated fats of animal products. These make it a beneficial source when used properly and in moderation. There are differences in how coconut oil is processed that should influence how you use it, however.
This chemical process creates a solid fat that contains trans fatty acids, which are thought to be more harmful than saturated fats.
Raw is the term used to define an oil that has not been processed or cooked. These may mean that the oils have been pressed, or is considered a virgin oil.
Organic is a loosely based term that has no true industry standard or measurement associated with it. To use it is to associate the product with a pure substance grown without chemicals and no processing involved.
Refined vs Unrefined
Refined oil is chemically treated, neutralized, filtered or deodorized. Unrefined is minimally heat processed. These are pressed oils that have not been processed in any way. Unrefined leaves color and odor intact.
Virgin and Extra Virgin
Virgin oil is expressed from a dried coconut. There is no industry standard for this, however, leaving the term wide open in how it is used. Traditionally, virgin oils are those that are extracted and unprocessed before sale.
Cold Pressed and Expeller Pressed
Cold pressed is a method to extract oil without heat and is generally considered about as pure as you can get. Expeller pressed is heat refined, but it is still considered a very high quality. This yields more oil and is typically less expensive.
Most coconut oil is solid in cooler temperatures and becomes liquid as it warms. Fractionated oil has had the long-chain fatty acids removed which causes the solidification. This helps extend the products shelf life and leaves it in a liquid state.
How is Coconut Oil Used?
Without getting into too much detail, coconut oil uses explain the ‘hows’ of the benefits that I’m going to highlight below. For a full guide explaining these, please see our article: Coconut Oil Uses, in order to see how to best apply the oil for maximum advantage. In short, coconut oil can be ingested or used topically. It is a product that lends itself well to cooking and baking purposes, diet, as well as providing both skin and hair benefits.
Coconut Oil Allergies
Although extremely rare, coconut allergies do exist. Generally, they are very mild in nature and typically have a dermatitis effect, meaning you may have some irritability or redness on your skin. More serious reactions almost never occur, but if you know you have allergic sensitivities or are concerned, be sure to do a diluted skin test in advance or work with your healthcare provider.
Benefit Reference Guide
There are truly many ways to benefit from the use of this oil. There is much research to support various uses and a lot of information to sift through, but all seem to agree on one thing: the high saturated fat content can be a concern, and it should be used in moderation if you are consuming the product. Also, any other benefits of ingesting coconut oil as a dietary supplement should be done under the care of your healthcare provider, just as you should with any changes in your diet.
Coconut oil is already often found in many health and beauty product, such as soap and lotion, for a very good reason. It has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and is highly moisturizing. This helps provide a moisture barrier without clogging pores and provides a healing effect that works well for troubled skin. It also is mild enough to use on a daily basis.
Either used in its pure form or mixed with your favorite lotions, the oil supports the protective barrier functions of your skin to help hydrate and smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It also is a great mask for dry and chapped skin and can work wonders with rough knees and elbows to help soften those areas and make them more supple. Psoriasis and eczema also benefit from the application.
– Legs and Underarms
It works well as a shave oil for both legs and underarms; leaving behind a smooth, yet non-greasy surface. Plus, it soothes skin and helps prevent rashes and ingrown hairs that sometimes occur with shaving certain parts of your body.
It is a perfect carrier oil as an addition to an aromatherapeutic massage. Non-greasy and easy to smooth over the skin, it nourishes and hydrates without leaving behind a residue.
Sugar and salt scrubs to prep your skin for shaving and moisturizing benefit from the addition of this oil. It helps keep the integrity of the ingredients together and provides a natural preservation process.
– Natural Sunscreen
With a natural SPF hovering right around 4-5, the oil also contains antioxidants to help combat UVA and UVB rays for short periods of time. When used as a base ingredient with zinc oxide, you can create your own sunscreen for skin protection and moisture.
Whether you have dry, oily, or combination skin, coconut oil helps bring balance to it all as it is highly moisturizing yet non-greasy. The antibacterial properties keep from clogging pores, making it a great foundation for many applications. Even acne-prone skin can benefit from this as it helps break up bacteria and moisturizes skin to keep your face from creating too much oil to help balance dryness when a small amount is rubbed over to soak it in.
– Face Wash
Use alone or with a light scrub, gently work over your face and neck in a circular motion before rinsing clear with your normal nighttime wash and routine. This helps moisturize troubled skin, help with redness, and help sooth sun and wind burn as well.
– Makeup Removal
Avoid harsh chemicals and rough surfaces and use a cotton pad with a little oil to help wipe your face clean of makeup. This is especially gentle on your sensitive eye areas and helps avoid lash breakage. Plus, it can actually hydrate and strengthen lashes with regular use.
– Lip Scrub
Lips can easily become chapped and rough. Use a little sugar and oil to help loosen up rough patches and moisturize your lips. They will look fuller and make lip color better as well.
If you are sensitive to makeups but do like to play with various looks, consider using a little dab of this instead of powdery illuminators. You will get the same dewy look without the pore-clogging chemicals.
– Foundation Primer and Base
Prep your skin prior to the application of foundation with a little oil for flawless coverage. Also, some foundations are purposely thick in order to mix it with a moisturizer or sunscreen of your choice. The addition of a little coconut oil in this mixture can assure a smooth application and a hydrating skin experience. Plus, it has natural SPF benefits as explained above.
The moisturizing benefits of the oil are more than just for skin care. Your hair can be revitalized and nourished with the regular use of coconut oil. The fact that it is a gentle oil makes it a good foundation for use on children as well. Just be sure to test it to see if it is a good choice for your hair type.
– Tame Flyaways
If you have thin or fine hair, then you know exactly how flyaways and static can wreak havoc on your hairstyle. Control this by rubbing a bit into the palm of your hand until soaked in, and then you smooth it over your hair.
– Control Curl
Your curls will thank you for using coconut oil on them. They will be more defined, soft, and moisturized through the use of a little oil added to products or if applied directly.
– Deep Moisturizing Mask
Use alone or mix with your favorite conditioner to deeply moisturize your hair and scalp. This helps trap natural moisture and keep it sealed in your hair for long-lasting effects. It also helps minimize dandruff.
– Sun Mask
Your hair will stay healthy and moisturized in the sun with a light application to your head when in out of doors. The sun dries and causes damage due to UVA and UVB rays to your strands. If you are outdoors often, consider a light application to help protect against damage.
– Avoid Split Ends
Your hair will also thank you for the lack of split ends it will have due to the protection you are providing it. Moisturized hair dries out less quickly which is what leads to frayed and frizzy ends.
– Add Shine
A little bit of added oil does more than just sustaining health to your hair, it also will look great with the added shine it provides.
– Soothe Psoriasis and Eczema
It soothes and helps heal mild psoriasis and eczema as it will loosen loose, scaly skin on your head. The added benefits of its antibacterial properties can influence the healing process as well.
– Heal Cradle Cap
Babies and toddlers often suffer from a condition called cradle cap, in which skin builds up and flakes off their skull. This oil can help loosen, soothe, and keep it from coming back.
Your mouth will thank you as well when it is included in your regular coconut oil routine. Swishing or pulling with it every day has yielded some amazing benefits overall as the antibacterial properties go to work. It also can be used with some baking soda as a natural toothpaste. Mix in a little peppermint to both applications for added benefits.
Taking the oil orally for internal benefits can be done in a few different ways. You can take it straight, drink with hot water in tea, mix into foods as a coconut flour, tablet, or powder, or even as a pill in fillable softgels and capsules. There are quite a few claims pertaining to the ingestion of this oil, but even though, you should always take it in moderation as if it was a vitamin supplement, and including it in your regular regime is also worth considering.
Many chronic digestive issues are due to bacterial infections that cause inflammation and gastritis that can lead to ulcers and other severe digestive problems. Coconut oil helps coat sensitive stomach and intestinal linings and combat the bacteria that causes the problem. Although an antibiotic is needed to eradicate bacterial infections, you can find relief and help keep issues from reoccurring. It can also help keep your guts running smoothly, alleviate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, and help you stay regular.
– Weight Loss
There are many discussions surrounding the use of coconut oil for weight loss. Although there is no research that supports that it will cause a weight loss situation, it does contain the type of saturated fat that does not store in your body easily, making it burn off faster. When you replace the oil with other oils when cooking in baking, this can provide your body a different way to metabolize the fats and keep them from being stored.\
The quick fat burn of the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil provides fast energy to the body and brain. This is a sustainable energy that does not burn off quickly but rather allows for longevity in many people.
– During Pregnancy
Pregnant women can most definitely take advantage of the oil’s properties as well. The changes to a woman’s body while pregnant are drastic and can cause uncomfortable skin stretching and conditions related to hormones. The use of coconut oil as a way to support supple skin and help reduce stretch marks are well documented. It also is soothing to PUPPS rashes due to the natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the oil.
Breastfeeding mothers may also want to take advantage of the fat content to help with milk supply. The lauric acid found in the oil supports milk production, and other benefits when ingesting can help with constipation, nausea, and urinary tract infections- all the unfortunate side effects of a beautiful process.
There are also many ongoing studies in relation to medical conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as heart health. Although high in saturated fat as explained, it is a different type of fat and seems to support lowering cholesterol. It also can aid in decreasing abdominal fat- which is linked to heart disease, a risk for those with diabetes.
There is much interest in the use of coconut oil in patients with mild Alzheimer’s and dementia. Many studies have been recently ongoing that provide patients with varying amounts of the oil in gel caps and on their foods.
Because it provides fast ‘food’ to the brain which is struggling to metabolize glucose in these cases, the oil can help by providing an alternative food source to help slow the progression of the disease.
Eating coconut oil in its raw form probably doesn’t sound appetizing as swallowing anything resembling fat turns many people off. But it is a popular choice to fry foods, not only for the health benefits but also for the flavor. Mixing it with smoothies with fruits and little honey as a natural sugar for breakfast is a great way to provide long-lasting energy to your busy morning as well. It also can be substituted for other oils and butter to add the popular coconutty taste to your favorite recipes.
If you have been aware or are only just now discovering the coconut oil and its many benefits, hopefully, this article has provided new information and insights so you can take advantage of all it has to offer. Using the oil can have unexpected consequences in relation to ingestion and that’s high calorie and fat count, which should direct you towards research on just how much to take and for what uses you need it for. All other uses of this oil can be fairly liberal, but be sure to know what kind of processes your oils have undergone to reap the maximum benefits available.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know below. We also would love to hear of your favorite uses for coconut oil! As always, please share!