Coconut oil boasts a 1,000-year history of use for health in tropical cultures, but it still manages to surprise nutritional researchers with its usefulness. Coconut oil boosts immunity, kills bacteria and viruses, reverses some of the oxidative damage that leads to cancer, and even reverses damage to the skin caused by both aging and the environment.
Coconuts have an impressive nutritional profile – they're rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, amino acids, calcium, and iron – and also has the unique benefit of being entirely composed of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Instead of finding a final resting place in the arteries and pores (as with animal fats and many polyunsaturated vegetable fats), the body tends to burn MCFAs as an efficient source of energy. Better yet, the oil's quick-burning nature means that its anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-aging compounds are metabolized quickly to repair the body's tissues from within.
There are myriad ways to incorporate virgin coconut oil into one's diet and health regimen. Topically, the oil is a terrific healing serum for dry, damaged, sunburned or aging skin (and also may help improve conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.) Because of its anti-microbial properties, a small application of the oil is also quite helpful in addressing small infections and yeast overgrowth. Incorporating the oil into one's diet is a cinch: blend a couple of tablespoons into a smoothie, add it to oatmeal, roast vegetables in it, stir it into rice, or even spread the solid form over bread.
Unlike other oils that only have utility for one or two health purposes, coconut oil covers a wide span of benefits. Dermatologically, coconut oil heals and moisturizes more effectively than lab-made products - but without the potential irritating side effects. Its powerful antioxidant components naturally guard against both visible and invisible aging. Some studies have even shown that the oil effectively treats conditions of eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and bruising. In the diet, coconut oil's thermogenic properties help control weight while contributing to a feeling of satiety and well-being. The oil's rich range of micronutrients promote healing and curb irritation as soon as they're digested.
Some users are confused by the apparent difference between coconut oil and coconut butter. They're actually the same product, just at a different temperature. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil firm up just below room temperature, turning the oil into a solid. Since the natural antioxidants in the oil support a very long shelf life, it is unnecessary to store the oil in the refrigerator in its solid state. The product may safely be kept on the counter, out of direct sunlight, if it's easier for you to work with it in a liquid consistency. Never, however, microwave the oil.
Recent studies have discovered that the high level of caprylic acid in virgin coconut oil makes it a surprisingly effective antifungal treatment. When scientists applied the oil to an overgrowth of Candida Albicans (a naturally-occurring yeast that causes symptoms ranging from thrush to poor digestion and cravings), the population was quickly reduced to normal levels.
Found solely in coconut oil and breast milk, lauric acid is a powerhouse component of coconut oil. The body uses lauric acid as a powerful anti-infective tool, using enzymes to break it down into monolaurin, a compound that kills microbes (such as viruses and non-beneficial bacteria) on contact. Best of all, the lauric acid kills these microbes on the outside of the body; as such, it preserves the energy stores of the immune system, since the body doesn't have to work to kill those microbes once they've passed through the skin.