Posted on: April 24, 2015 at 4:22 pm
Last updated: November 27, 2020 at 9:25 pm

Over the last decade, coconut oil has become a common household product. It initially burst onto the health food scene in 2011 with promises that it would boost your immune system and help with weight loss, and enjoyed continued popularity until 2015 [1].

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It’s stardom began to falter, however, after questions were raised about its health claims, and conflicting evidence began to emerge suggesting that the tropical oil was perhaps not as good for you as it had been made out to be.

Despite the fact that coconut oil may not be the cure-all elixir of life we originally thought it was, it still has a variety of uses in the home, and can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.

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Uses for Coconut Oil:

1. Adding Healthy Fats to your Diet

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which encourage your body to burn fat and provide quick energy to both your body and brain. When you consume MCTs, they tend to go straight to your liver to be used as a source of energy, or get turned into ketones, which are good for your brain [2].

There have also been seven trials comparing coconut oil to vegetable oil, and five of them found that coconut oil increased HDL (aka “good”) cholesterol levels [3]. HDL cholesterol is generally considered to be protective against heart disease, however the research is still conflicted as to whether or not raising your HDL cholesterol levels is very beneficial.

The verdict? Coconut oil is a good way to add some healthy fats to your diet. Consuming modest amounts of it can be a good thing, however, it will not cure you of heart disease. One of my favorite ways to add it to my diet is first thing in the morning as a coffee creamer!

2. Pocket lip balm

The fatty acids in coconut oil help to seal in moisture on your lips. It glides on smoothly and can keep your lips moist for hours. Coconut oil also provides some protection from the sun, however it has been estimated that the oil has an SPF of about seven, which is lower than the minimum recommendation in some countries, so it should not replace sunscreen [4].

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3. Use as shaving cream

Coconut oil is safe to use for your skin. It provides moisture when you’re shaving, and as with the lip balm, glides on smoothly for a clean shave.

Read: Want better skin? Try this DIY coconut oil baking soda facial cleanser

4. It May Treat fungal or yeast infections

While more study is needed to say for certain that coconut oil does, in fact, do this, there have been a couple of studies that have found that coconut oil stops the growth of C. difficile bacteria, which causes diarrhea, and appears to fight yeasts thanks to its lauric acid content [5,6].

There have, however, been no studies that have proven definitively that coconut oil is effective at fighting infections when taken internally or applied to the skin.

5. Improve your dental health

Coconut oil has some serious health benefit potential. Your mouth is full of bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans, which causes dental plaque, tooth decay, and gum disease. Oil pulling, a practice in which you swish coconut oil around in your mouth for ten minutes, has been shown to reduce these bacteria just as effectively as an antiseptic mouthwash [7].

6. May Improve wound healing

While this hasn’t been explicitly studied in humans, a study with rats found that when wounds were treated with coconut oil, the rats showed a reduction in inflammatory markers and an increase in collagen production, making their wounds heal much faster [8].

By applying coconut oil directly to a minor cut or scrape and covering it with a bandaid, it may help speed up the healing process.

7. Soothe hemorrhoids

Coconut oil is thought to have antimicrobial, analgesic (pain relief), and antipyretic (fever-reducing*) properties that can reduce inflammation and swelling associated with hemorrhoids and help them to heal faster [9].

* Note: While coconut oil has been shown to have antipyretic properties, it should not be relied upon as a measure to reduce fever.

8. May Support Brain Function

There have been several studies that have shown that the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil provide significant benefits to brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy [10,11]. 

This is because MCTs are broken down by your liver and turned into ketones, which act as an alternative energy source for your brain. Consuming coconut oil, then, can help increase the production of ketones [12].

Since most of these studies used isolated MCT oil (not coconut oil), it cannot be said definitively that coconut oil would help. However, since coconut oil is 54% MCT by weight, it should theoretically be helpful. If you really want to harness the MCT goodness of coconuts, look for a 100% MCT oil derived from coconuts.

9. Top your popcorn!

Coconut flavored popcorn – way better than anything from the movie theater! Try mixing it with your butter or just having it alone. It’s Delicious either way. Remember to use virgin coconut oil, so you can enjoy the delicious aroma and flavor.

10. Protect your hair from damage

Coconut oil can help protect and strengthen your hair. Applying coconut oil to your hair before or after shampooing can significantly reduce the amount of protein lost from your hair. The benefits here come from the lauric acid found in coconut oil, which is able to penetrate the hair shaft far more effectively than other oils [13].

11. Smooth out cracked heels

If you have dry, cracked heels, apply a thin layer of coconut oil to them before bed and cover them with socks. Do this nightly until your heels are smooth again.

12. Strengthen nails and cuticles

Again, the moisturizing capabilities of coconut oil go a long way in treating cracked cuticles, and the nutrients in this oil help strengthen both the nails and cuticles. 

13. Make a non-toxic “Goo Gone” with coconut oil and baking soda

It’s oil, so it works great at getting pesky price tag stickers unstuck.

14. Homemade insect repellent with coconut oil, peppermint, lemon balm, and rosemary

In one study, Thai essential oils from ylang ylang and lemongrass mixed with coconut oil. The results showed it provided over 98 percent protection from the bites of two different mosquito species [14]. Try making a homemade insect repellent using coconut oil!

15. Remove eye makeup

Coconut oil is a gentle and effective way to remove eye makeup, even the waterproof stuff. Simply apply it to your eyes with a cotton pad and wipe gently until all traces of makeup are gone. Coconut oil can also be used as an effective face wash.

16. Relieve Skin Irritation

Research has shown that coconut oil relieves dermatitis and other skin and other skin disorders, like eczema, just as effectively as other conventional moisturizers [15].

It may also be useful in the treatment or prevention of diaper rash, as it can reduce skin inflammation, irritation, or itching, and it is generally considered safe for babies.

17. Use as a natural deodorant

Your sweat is actually odorless, but it’s the bacteria on your skin that can produce undesirable smells when you sweat. Because coconut oil has antibacterial properties, it can be used as an ingredient in a natural DIY deodorant recipe, like this one.

18. Use as cooking oil

Coconut oil is about 87 percent saturated fat, which makes it much more stable at high heat because saturated fat retains its structure at high temperatures [16]. Unsaturated fats are converted into toxic compounds when heated that could be damaging to your health, so coconut oil is safer for high-heat cooking [17]. You can also season a cast iron skillet with coconut oil!

19. Your pet loves it too!

A spoonful in your dog or cat’s food will keep their coat soft and shiny.

Moderation is Key

The great thing about coconut oil is that a little goes a long way- this goes for whether you’re using topically or internally. While it may not be the miracle oil it was initially thought to be, it still provides several benefits, and can be part of your lifestyle and a healthy diet in moderation.

Ready to start your coconut oil journey? It can be a little overwhelming looking at all the options for coconut oil online or in the store. Check out our guide on how to select the best coconut oil.

Keep Reading: “I’m Trying to Lose Weight… Can I Eat Butter and Coconut Oil?”

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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