Coconut oil is the edible extract that comes from the meat or kernel of a coconut. The coconut palm, where it is harvested from, is one of the most versatile on the planet. 1 You can use everything – the tree, leaves, and the fruit. When it comes to health benefits, you only have to concentrate on the fruit and you will get a long list of ailments that it can help with.
Apart from eating the meat inside the coconut, you can also harvest oil from it. There are two ways that coconut oil can be extracted – the wet and dry process. The meat of the coconut plays an important role in both processes. 2
Coconut oil is widely used in cooking – especially frying. Because of its composition, it is also popularly used in soaps and other cosmetic products. Most of the time, manufacturers refer to it as virgin coconut oil (VCO) to indicate that the oil is unprocessed. To be specific, VCO is not bleached, refined or deodorized. 3
There is a lot of scientific evidence that coconut oil has many health benefits. The many ailments that it can help with include the following:
- Chronic fatigue
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Thyroid conditions
- Cancer (specifically breast cancer) 4
- Dry skin
Coconut oil is also known to boost the immune system and energy of a person. It is also believed to prevent stress-induced damage and restore antioxidant balance in the system. 5
Probably a surprising health benefit of this oil is its ability to lower cholesterol and heart diseases (at least up to a certain level). Although it is high in saturated fat (medium chain triglycerides), some studies claim that it can help with lowering cholesterol and other cardiovascular diseases. However, caution is still encouraged because there are studies that say that extensive consumption might trigger hypercholesterolemic effects. 6
The high saturated fat content in coconut oil used to be viewed as harmful but since it is a medium-chain fatty acid, it is proven to be metabolized by the body differently. It is not the same as the long chain fatty acids that are harmful to the body. The fatty acids in coconut oil go straight to the liver after the digestive tract. This means it can be converted into energy faster. It can also be converted into ketone bodies that can be an alternative fuel for your brain. This makes it beneficial in the fight against the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. 7
There are many ways that you can use coconut oil to take advantage of its health benefits. The most popular way is to rub it on your skin as an ointment or moisturizer to help with numerous skin issues. It is recommended for expecting mothers because it helps prevent stretch marks – or at least minimizes them. You can also take a couple of teaspoons or tablespoons every day, something that can help breastfeeding moms increase their milk production. Lastly, just like other oil extracts, it can also be used for oil pulling.
Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil
Oil pulling or oil swishing is a type of oral therapy that allows you to cleanse not just your mouth, but also your body. Depending on the oil that you will put in your mouth, it can literally pull any harmful bacteria and organisms from your gums and mouth. This is a very old remedy for many oral problems. It can naturally whiten your teeth and remove the harmful bacteria that can cause gingivitis and bad breath. It can help reduce the bacteria in your mouth called Streptococcus Mutans. This is the bacteria responsible for tooth decay and gum problems. 8
Coconut oil is one of the most effective when it comes to battling Streptococcus Mutans because of an element known as Lauric acid. This is proven to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. The medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil contain up to 50% of lauric acid. 9
Coconut oil pulling involves the same procedure as oil pulling with other oil extracts. You begin by putting ½ tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swishing it around your mouth. You can add other essential oils like oregano oil to help improve the taste. Some people gag at the taste of coconut oil and oregano (which is also rich in antibacterial properties) can help with this problem. In case you still feel like gagging, you might have placed too much in your mouth. Lower the amount that you have in your mouth so it becomes easier.
Swishing the oil in your mouth will take a bit of getting used to. Ideally, you want it to go around your mouth for 20 minutes. This is enough time for the oil to absorb the harmful bacteria in the plaque and saliva. But if you are new at this, you might want to start at 5 minutes and then gradually increase the time that the oil is swishing in your mouth. Take note that you should not go beyond 20 minutes because the bacteria in your body might be re-absorbed and the oil pulling will be for nothing and may even become harmful.
As you are swishing, you will notice that the oil will start to turn milky in substance. This is a good sign that the oil is doing its work well. It is being mixed with your saliva and it is already absorbing the harmful bacteria from your mouth. This milky substance is also the reason why you need to keep yourself from swallowing it. There are a lot of organisms in the substance that could hurt your body once it is ingested.
When you are done, you are advised to spit it out in the trash or even the toilet. As long as you do not spit it in the sink, it is okay. This is oil after all and you do not want it to clog your sink. Not only that, the milky substance that was once the coconut oil is now filled with harmful bacteria. You need to keep the next user of the sink from coming into contact with what used to be in your mouth.
Although oil pulling is effective in cleaning your mouth, it is just one part of what should be an everyday oral hygiene program. You need to gargle with warm water to rinse your mouth. After that, you still need to brush your teeth, floss and gargle with mouthwash.