What Is Monolaurin?

A woman nurses her baby outside.
A woman nurses her baby outside. (Image: oksun70/iStock/Getty Images)

Monolaurin, also known as glycerol monolaurate, has broad antimicrobial properties. Found naturally in mother's milk and a handful of plants, monolaurin has no known serious side effects. Monolaurin's proponents take it as natural alternative to antibiotics and antiviral medications for treating diseases ranging from influenza and Lyme disease to herpes.

Monolaurin Uses

Monolaurin appears on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's list of substance generally recognized as safe -- GRAS -- for use as a food additive. Identified on labels as glycerol monolaurate, monolaurin acts as an emulsifier in ice cream and cosmetics. The Food and Drug Administration has not assessed monolaurin's safety and effectiveness for medical use. Some patients take monolaurin as a treatment for autism, chronic fatigue, flu and sinus infections, hepatitis C, herpes, HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, toe nail fungus and ulcerative colitis, but these uses have not been approved by the FDA.

Evidence for Effectiveness

Clinical studies have shown that monolaurin prevents skin and vaginal infections and also slows the growth of a range of bacteria, fungi, molds and viruses. In the laboratory, monolaurin has weakened HIV-1, but monolaurin's effectiveness for preventing the transmission of immune deficiency-causing viruses has only been demonstrated in rhesus macaques. A study in a 2007 issue of the "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology" reports that monolaurin shows significant action against several strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Monolaurin is also effective against staph infections, according to a study in the June 2013 issue of "Journal of Medicinal Food."

Sources of Monolaurin

Monolaurin is found in human breast milk as a component of lauric acid. Commercially available monolaurin products contain monolaruic acid derived from bitter melon, coconuts or saw palmetto.

Taking Monolaurin

Different products will have different dosing instructions, so always read the label carefully before beginning to use any type of monolaurin. Speak with your physician if you are pregnant or taking other medicines. While monolaurin has no known serious side effect or interactions, your doctor may have concerns, and the information on your use of natural medicines will be needed if you do start experiencing health problems due to any cause. Flu-like symptoms such as fever and body aches can occur if you take too much monolaurin. Lowering your dose should resolve these problems, but contact your health care provider if the symptoms are severe or persist for more than one week.

Commercial Products

Most health care stores stock monolaurin products. Read the list of ingredients on any product before you purchase it to ensure that it does not contain active compounds or additives to which you are allergic or which will interact with your other medications. Med-Chem Laboratories, the maker of the branded monolaurin product Lauricidin, claims that its product is the original and has been the subject of clinical tests since 1966.

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