Aceite de Coco, Acide Gras de Noix de Coco, Coconut Fatty Acid, Coconut Palm, Coco Palm, Coconut, Cocos nucifera, Cocotier, Cold Pressed Coconut Oil, Fermented Coconut Oil, Huile de Coco, Huile de Noix de Coco, Huile de Noix de Coco Pressée à Froid, Huile Vierge de Noix de Coco, Narikela, Noix de Coco, Palmier, Virgin Coconut Oil.
Coconut oil comes from the nut (fruit) of the coconut palm. The oil of the nut is used to make medicine. Some coconut oil products are referred to as "virgin" coconut oil. Unlike olive oil, there is no industry standard for the meaning of "virgin" coconut oil. The term has come to mean that the oil is generally unprocessed. For example, virgin coconut oil usually has not been bleached, deodorized, or refined.
Some coconut oil products claim to be "cold pressed" coconut oil. This generally means that a mechanical method of pressing out the oil is used, but without the use of any outside heat source. The high pressure needed to press out the oil generates some heat naturally, but the temperature is controlled so that temperatures do not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
People use coconut oil by mouth for diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Alzheimer's disease, quality of life in people with breast cancer, thyroid conditions, energy, and boosting the immune system. Despite coconut oil's high calorie and saturated fat content, some people use it by mouth to lose weight and lower cholesterol.
Coconut oil is sometimes applied to the skin as a moisturizer, for neonatal health, and to treat eczema and a skin condition called psoriasis. Coconut oil is also used in hair products to prevent hair damage.
How does it work?
Coconut oil is high in a saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides. These fats work differently than other types of saturated fat in the body. However, research on the effects of these types of fats in the body is very preliminary.
When applied to the skin, coconut oil has a moisturizing effect.
Possibly Effective for...
- Eczema. Research suggests that applying virgin coconut oil to the skin twice daily for 8 weeks improves symptoms about 30% more than mineral oil in children with eczema.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Breast cancer. Early research suggests that taking virgin coconut oil by mouth daily starting one week after chemotherapy from the 3rd to the 6th cycle improves quality of life in some but not all measurements in women with advanced breast cancer.
- Clogged arteries. Early research suggests that taking coconut or coconut oil does not seem to increase or decrease the risk of heart attack or chest pain.
- Diarrhea. One study in children found that incorporating coconut oil into the diet can reduce the length of diarrhea, but another study found that it was no more effective than a cow milk-based diet. The effect of coconut oil alone is not clear.
- Fetal and early infant death. Early research suggest that applying coconut oil to babies' skin daily for 28 days reduces the risk of infection but does not affect the risk of death in premature babies.
- High cholesterol. Some research suggests that dietary use of coconut oil is linked to increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol, but does not increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol. However, a study comparing a diet rich in coconut oil to diets rich in beef fat or safflower oil found that coconut oil can increase both HDL and LDL cholesterol.
- Head lice. Developing research shows that a spray containing coconut oil, anise oil, and ylang ylang oil appears to be effective for treating head lice in children. It seems to work about as well as a spray containing chemical insecticides.
- Newborn weight gain. Some research shows that massaging premature newborns with coconut oil can improve weight gain and growth.
- Obesity. Some developing research shows that taking coconut oil three times daily might reduce waist size after 1-6 weeks of use. But this only occurred in men and did not affect weight or body mass index (BMI).
- Psoriasis. Applying coconut oil to the skin before treatment of psoriasis with ultraviolet B (UVB) or psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) light therapy doesn"t seem to improve effectiveness of the treatment.
- Dry skin. Developing research shows that applying coconut oil to the skin twice daily can improve skin moisture in people with dry skin.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Crohn's disease.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Thyroid conditions.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Coconut oil is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth or applied to the skin appropriately.
Since coconut oil has a high fat content, there is concern that it might increase weight if used in large amounts or that it might increase cholesterol levels. However, these concerns have not been proven in scientific research.
Children: Coconut oil is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in food. Coconut oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when it is applied to the skin. It has been used safely in children and infants in the short-term. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking coconut oil by mouth as medicine in children.
High cholesterol: There is concern that coconut oil might increase total cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol. But there is contradictory evidence that shows that coconut oil might actually increase levels of "good" cholesterol and have little to no effect on total or "bad" cholesterol levels.
The following dose has been studied in scientific research:
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For eczema: 10 mL of virgin coconut oil has been applied to most body surfaces in two divided doses daily for 8 weeks.
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis 2004;15:109-16. View abstract.
Alexaki A, Wilson TA, Atallah MT, et al. Hamsters fed diets high in saturated fat have increased cholesterol accumulation and cytokine production in the aortic arch compared with cholesterol-fed hamsters with moderately elevated plasma non-HDL cholesterol concentrations. J Nutr 2004;134:410-5. View abstract.
Assunção ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, et al. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids 2009;44:593-601. View abstract.
Bach AC, Babayan VK. Medium-chain triglycerides: an update. Am J Clin Nutr 1982;36:950-62. View abstract.
Bhan MK, Arora NK, Khoshoo V, et al. Comparison of a lactose-free cereal-based formula and cow's milk in infants and children with acute gastroenteritis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1988;7:208-13. View abstract.
Burnett CL, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Final report on the safety assessment of Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil and related ingredients. Int J Toxicol 2011;30(3 Suppl):5S-16S. View abstract.
Cox C, Sutherland W, Mann J, et al. Effects of dietary coconut oil, butter and safflower oil on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and lathosterol levels. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52:650-4. View abstract.
Das NG, Nath DR, Baruah I, Talukdar PK, Das SC. Field evaluation of herbal mosquito repellents. J Commun Dis. 1999;31(4):241-5. View abstract.
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 -- Substances Generally Recognized As Safe. Available at: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=182
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. View abstract.
Feranil AB, Duazo PL, Kuzawa CW, Adair LS. Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2011;20:190-5. View abstract.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. SECTION 2. Codex Standards for Fats and Oils from Vegetable Sources. Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y2774e/y2774e04.htm#TopOfPage. Accessed October 26, 2015.
Francois CA, Connor SL, Wander RC, Connor WE. Acute effects of dietary fatty acids on the fatty acids of human milk. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67:301-8. View abstract.
Fries JH, Fries MW. Coconut: a review of its uses as they relate to the allergic individual. Ann Allergy 1983;51:472-81. View abstract.
Ganji V, Kies CV. Psyllium husk fibre supplementation to soybean and coconut oil diets of humans: effect on fat digestibility and faecal fatty acid excretion. Eur J Clin Nutr 1994;48:595-7. View abstract.
Garcia-Fuentes E, Gil-Villarino A, Zafra MF, Garcia-Peregrin E. Dipyridamole prevents the coconut oil-induced hypercholesterolemia. A study on lipid plasma and lipoprotein composition. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2002;34:269-78. View abstract.
George SA, Bilsland DJ, Wainwright NJ, Ferguson J. Failure of coconut oil to accelerate psoriasis clearance in narrow-band UVB phototherapy or photochemotherapy. Br J Dermatol 1993;128:301-5. View abstract.
Kumar PD. The role of coconut and coconut oil in coronary heart disease in Kerala, south India. Trop Doct 1997;27:215-7. View abstract.
Laureles LR, Rodriguez FM, Reano CE, et al. Variability in fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition of the oil of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) hybrids and their parentals. J Agric Food Chem 2002;50:1581-6. View abstract.
Law KS, Azman N, Omar EA, Musa MY, Yusoff NM, Sulaiman SA, Hussain NH. The effects of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as supplementation on quality of life (QOL) among breast cancer patients. Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Aug 27;13:139. View abstract.
Liau KM, Lee YY, Chen CK, Rasool AH. An open-label pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity. ISRN Pharmacol 2011;2011:949686. View abstract.
Marina AM, Che Man YB, Amin I. Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2009;20(10):481-487.
Mendis S, Samarajeewa U, Thattil RO. Coconut fat and serum lipoproteins: effects of partial replacement with unsaturated fats. Br J Nutr 2001;85:583-9. View abstract.
Muller H, Lindman AS, Blomfeldt A, et al. A diet rich in coconut oil reduces diurnal postprandial variations in circulating tissue plasminogen activator antigen and fasting lipoprotein (a) compared with a diet rich in unsaturated fat in women. J Nutr 2003;133:3422-7. View abstract.
Mumcuoglu KY, Miller J, Zamir C, et al. The in vivo pediculicidal efficacy of a natural remedy. Isr Med Assoc J 2002;4:790-3. View abstract.
Reiser R, Probstfield JL, Silvers A, et al. Plasma lipid and lipoprotein response of humans to beef fat, coconut oil and safflower oil. Am J Clin Nutr 1985;42:190-7. View abstract.
Romer H, Guerra M, Pina JM, et al. Realimentation of dehydrated children with acute diarrhea: comparison of cow's milk to a chicken-based formula. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1991;13:46-51. View abstract.
Ruppin DC, Middleton WR. Clinical use of medium chain triglycerides. Drugs 1980;20:216-24.
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. View abstract.
Sankaranarayanan K, Mondkar JA, Chauhan MM, et al. Oil massage in neonates: an open randomized controlled study of coconut versus mineral oil. Indian Pediatr 2005;42:877-84. View abstract.
Tella R, Gaig P, Lombardero M, et al. A case of coconut allergy. Allergy 2003;58:825-6.
Teuber SS, Peterson WR. Systemic allergic reaction to coconut (Cocos nucifera) in 2 subjects with hypersensitivity to tree nut and demonstration of cross-reactivity to legumin-like seed storage proteins: new coconut and walnut food allergens. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999;103:1180-5. View abstract.
Zakaria ZA, Rofiee MS, Somchit MN,et al. Hepatoprotective activity of dried- and fermented-processed virgin coconut oil. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2011;2011:142739. View abstract.