What is it? 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 for eczema (atopic dermatitis). It is also used for scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis), obesity, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How effective is it? Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate. The effectiveness ratings for COCONUT OIL are as follows: Possibly effective for...
Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Applying coconut oil to the skin can reduce the severity of eczema in children by about 30% more than mineral oil.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
Athletic performance. Early research shows that taking coconut oil with caffeine doesn't seem to help people run faster.
Breast cancer. Early research shows that taking virgin coconut oil by mouth during chemotherapy might improve quality of life in some women with advanced breast cancer.
Heart disease. People who eat coconut or use coconut oil to cook don't seem to have a lower risk of heart attack. They also don't seem to have a lower risk of chest pain. Using coconut oil to cook also doesn't lower cholesterol or improve blood flow in people with heart disease.
Tooth plaque. Early research shows that pulling coconut oil through the teeth might prevent plaque build up. But it doesn't seem to benefit all teeth surfaces.
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 unclear.
Dry skin. Early research shows that applying coconut oil to the skin twice daily can improve skin moisture in people with dry skin.
Death of an unborn or premature baby. Early research shows that applying coconut oil to a premature baby's skin doesn't reduce the risk of death. But it might reduce the risk of developing an infection in the hospital.
Lice. Developing research shows that using a spray containing coconut oil, anise oil, and ylang ylang oil may help treat head lice in children. It seems to work about as well as a spray containing chemical insecticides. But it's unclear if this benefit is due to coconut oil, other ingredients, or the combination.
Infants born weighing less than 2500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces). Some people give coconut oil to small breastfed babies to help them gain weight. But it doesn't seem to help infants born weighing less than 1500 grams.
Multiple sclerosis (MS). Early research shows that taking coconut oil with a chemical from green tea called EGCG might help to reduce feelings of anxiety and to improve function in people with MS.
Obesity. Some research shows that taking coconut oil by mouth for 8 weeks along with diet and exercise leads to notable weight loss in more obese women compared to taking soybean oil or chia oil. Other early research shows that taking coconut oil for one week can reduce waist size compared to soybean oil in women with excessive fat around the stomach and abdomen. But other evidence shows that taking coconut oil for 4 weeks reduces waist size compared to baseline in only obese men but not women.
Growth and development in premature infants. Premature infants have immature skin. This might increase their chance of getting an infection. Some research shows that applying coconut oil to the skin of very premature infants improves the strength of their skin. But it doesn't seem to reduce their chance of getting an infection. Other research shows that massaging premature newborns with coconut oil can improve weight gain and growth.
Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Applying coconut oil to the skin before light therapy for psoriasis doesn't seem to improve the effects of light therapy.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
A type of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease).
A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS).
More evidence is needed to rate coconut oil for these uses.
How does it work? Coconut oil contains a certain kind of fat known as "medium chain triglycerides." Some of these fats work differently than other types of saturated fat in the body. When applied to the skin, coconut oil has a moisturizing effect.
Are there safety concerns? When taken by mouth: Coconut oil is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in food amounts. But coconut oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. So people should avoid eating coconut oil in excess. Coconut oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when used as a medicine short-term. Taking coconut oil in doses of 10 mL two or three times daily for up to 12 weeks seems to be safe. When applied to the skin: Coconut oil is LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin.Special precautions & warnings: Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if coconut oil is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use. Children: Coconut oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin for about one month. There's not enough reliable information to know if coconut oil is safe for children when taken by mouth as a medicine. High cholesterol: Coconut oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. Regularly eating meals containing coconut oil can increase levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This might be a problem for people who already have high cholesterol.
Are there interactions with medications? It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines. Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements? Blond psyllium
Psyllium reduces absorption of the fat in coconut oil.
Are there interactions with foods? There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used? The following dose has been studied in scientific research: CHILDREN APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
For eczema (atopic dermatitis): 10 mL of virgin coconut oil has been applied to most body surfaces in two divided doses daily for 8 weeks.