Coconut or the “tree of life,” in tropical climates is a way of life for millions of people all around the globe. Coconut oil or coconut butter is an edible oil obtain from the “copra,” or dried meat of the coconut. For centuries, this oil is consumed by humans in one way or other. This vegetable oil was first developed commercially in the South Sea Islands and South Asia in the mid 19th century. Philippines is the largest exporter of the coconut oil in the world.
Due to its rich fiber and nutritional content, coconut oil possesses incredible health benefits. For thousands of years, this edible oil has been consumed in tropical places. Being one of the healthiest oils on earth, it is used to treat a wide variety of health problems including abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, a few amongst many others.
During the early part of the 20th century, coconut oil was used in the baking industry in the United States and around the world. But a negative campaign against it led to most food manufacturers abandoning coconut oil in recent years.
Properties of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains predominantly medium chain triglycerides, with roughly 92% saturated fatty acids, 6% monounsaturated fatty acids, and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Of the saturated fatty acids, coconut oil is primarily 44.6% lauric acid, 16.8% myristic acid a 8.2% palmitic acid and 8% caprylic acid, although it contains seven different saturated fatty acids in total.
Unrefined coconut oil melts at 24-25°C (76°F) and smokes at 170°C (350°F), while refined coconut oil has a higher smoke point of 232°C (450°F).
Types of Coconut Oil
The following are the major varieties of the coconut oil:
Virgin Coconut Oil: Also known as pure coconut oil, it is extracted from fresh coconut milk, rather than dried, as in copra. The oil is light in weight, high in vitamim contents and contains high nutritional value. In some countries, it is actually a food source. Virgin coconut oil is produced in the following ways:
- Quick drying of fresh coconut meat which is then used to press out the oil
- Wet-milling (coconut milk) process in which oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat without drying first and milk thus obtained is further separated from water through boiling, fermentation, refrigeration, enzymes and mechanical centrifuge
- Wet-milling (direct micro expelling) process in which oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat after the adjustment of the water content, then the pressing of the coconut flesh results in the direct extraction of free-flowing oil.
Refined Coconut Oil: Oil produced after RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) process is known as refined coconut oil. This is a great oil for general moisturizing and serves as a protective layer, helping to retain the moisture in your skin.
- Hydrogenated Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is often partially or fully hydrogenated to increase their melting point in warmer temperatures. This increases the amount of saturated fat present in the oil, and may produce trans fats.
- Fractionated Coconut Oil: It is a fraction of the whole oil, in which most of the long-chain triglycerides are removed so that only saturated fats remain. It may also referred to as “caprylic/capric triglyceride” or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil because mostly the medium-chain triglycerides caprylic and capric acid are left in the oil.
Uses of the Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can be used as a :
- Natural health food
- Cooking oil
- Raw and fresh bread spread
- Stable carrier oil for other dietary supplements
- Skin moisturizer
- Massage oil
- Baby oil
- Hair oil
- Pet health food
- Base ingredient for organic cosmetics
- Head lice and hair nit control
- Bio fuel
- Tooth paste
- For pimple treatment, etc.
Coconut Oil as a Medicine
The incredible medicinal properties of coconut palm is approved not only by the traditional medical systems but also by modern science. Once accused of increasing cholesterol levels, coconut oil is now actually being used by doctors in the treatment of a variety of disorders. Research conducted by various medical institutes has shown that coconut oil possess anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid which is abundant in coconut oil, and considered responsible for many of its health benefits.
Coconut oil shows positive result in treating toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.