COCONUT OIL PROPERTIES

Coconut oil is a very common oil in some cultures where it is used in cooking, applying on the skin for a soft and smooth skin and also used in the making of soaps and skincare products. It has also in the last few years been recognized as a good saturated fat which is why health food shops are now promoting the use of coconut oil in cooking.  However when you are cooking with coconut oil, as it is a saturated fat, it is best  to use it in moderation and reasonably even out how often you consume it.

Coconut oil is extracted from the dried meat of coconut which is the white part that is soft when the coconut is young and grows hard when coconut is matured. When the oil is being extracted for food grade a lot of care is always taken by the person extracting to keep just the virgin oil whereas when the other version of coconut oil for soap making called copra is being made, it is created using all types of coconut that would not be used for the food grade coconut oil.

Don’t get alarmed, I will explain what I mean by ‘all types of coconut’ which simply means that overly matured coconut for instance that people will not eat because they don’t taste so great or coconut that has imperfections that would be rejected when taken to market for consumption all fall under these types of coconut that gets processed for copra rather than virgin coconut oil. So copra often has a smokey scent and looks darker whereas virgin coconut oil is white in cold temperatures and solid and in warmer temperatures it gets fluid and translucent.

The most important thing to know when buying coconut oil is that it can never be extracted by a cold method. If you ever see cold pressed coconut oil the person who wrote that simply does not know what they are talking about. However large scale manufacturers produce coconut oil by adding solvents like hexane which is used in the extraction of many other botanical oils even including olive, shea butter etc. I doubt you will find on the label of any oil that it has been solvent extracted as manufacturers also fractionate oils extracted using solvent and separate the oil from the solvent before reaching the stage of packaging to sell. However small scale manufacturers such as the women that produce coconut oil use the old method of frying shredded coconut which results in the solids sinking to the bottom and the oil floating to the surface which gets scooped out a little at a time. It is as tedious as it sounds but this method does not include using any chemicals.

TYPES OF COCONUT OIL
You may also find that some coconut oil may be refined or deodorized to reduce its coconut scent so that it can be easily used in making other products without the strong coconut smell coming through. Coconut oil may also be bleached to give it a clear whiter colour just as other solid oils like coco butter and shea butter often gets treated to make it more appealing for other markets. Coconut oil can also be hydrogenated for some industries to us. When coconut oil is hydrogenated, it contain far more trans fats.

COCONUT OIL USES FOR ATOPIC DERMATITIS
Coconut oil helps to relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis such as eczema and psoriasis. It provides emollients to the skin cells when applied to affected skin. This helps to nourish the skin and also prevents the outgrowth of S.aureus bacteria which is known to colonize in skin areas affected by atopic dermatitis. Although psoriasis on the scalp is an immune system disorder, coconut oil helps with the itching and scaling on the scalp and promotes the skins recovery.

PROPERTIES OF COCONUT OIL

immunomodulatory – boost immune function in presence of sufficient Zinc.
anti-Viral – It has shown anti-viral activity against many lipid coated viruses like hepatitis C, visna, Epstein barr.
anti-Caries – is claimed to reduces the risk of caries and slows accumulation of dental plaque.
hypolipidemic – consumption improves lipid profile.
antithrombotic – claimed to reduce the risk of blood clots.
anti-bacterial –  has shown anti-bacterial activity against a large number of bacteria.
cardioprotective – can help lower total cholesterol by decreasing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol.
emollient – moisturises dry skin and hair.

FURTHER READING ON COCONUT OIL
– Variation of phenolic content in coconut oil extracted by two conventional methods. Seneviratne et.al.
– Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Nevin et.al.
– Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In health promotion and disease prevention.  Mandal et. al.
– Novel Antibacterial and Emollient Effects of Coconut and Virgin Olive Oils in Adult Atopic Dermatitis. Verallo-Rowel et. al.