Ah the magic of coconut oil! There is a lot of buzz at the moment around coconut oil – the miraculous benefits and the different ways to use it. The truth is that this is nothing new at all. People all over the world have been using coconut oil for centuries – it is only fairly recently that western countries have begun to wake up to it. We love it and have been using it for years now – so we feel a little smug when people are making a fuss. As a family we have been using coconut oil mainly for use in beauty treatments – homemade shampoo and moisturizing lotions, but also for cooking to a lesser degree.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Not to be confused with coconut milk or coconut water! The water refers to the liquid from inside a fresh coconut whereas the oil is extracted from the flesh of the coconut, usually by a cold press process. It is a rich edible oil originally used in areas where coconuts are plentiful such as the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and across most of the Pacific Islands. Now its use has spread significantly to western nations where healthy eating and lifestyles are becoming ever more important. As a cooking oil it is used for frying and in baking. Coconut oil is also widely used as a natural ingredient in many health and beauty treatments including hair shampoos and conditioners and skin lotions.
When it was first introduced to the west, many experts believed it wasn’t in fact a healthy food source as it was high in saturated fats. Two problems emerged – much of the testing was done on hydrogenated coconut oil and not virgin coconut oil (much healthier profile). The experts now realize that this oil is high in MCT s (medium chain triglycerides) or a healthier type of saturated fat to you and me.
Different Types of Coconut Oil
You will come across various different terms describing the coconut oil you buy:
Organic – as with other natural produce this term is used to say that the coconut has been grown without the use of chemicals such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Just how accurate this is can be debatable and you are relying on the integrity of the supplier to some extent. Most coconuts are actually grown organically but some oil may be produced using chemicals, so check the labels carefully.
Virgin Coconut Oil – is coconut oil made without any chemical processing. Usually VCO is made by extracting the oil from the fresh coconut meat using a mechanical press.
Extra Virgin? – No such thing with coconuts! Some companies have marketed it as this but unlike olive oil there is no difference between virgin or extra virgin coconut oil.
RBD Oil – stands for refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. This processing is thought to reduce the good properties from the oil to some extent. It produces oil which doesn’t smell or taste of coconut and is used for cooking, cosmetics and commercial food processing.
These are the main types of oil you will come across for sale. You should check out Wikipedia for some interesting details about production techniques – if that is your thing. For most home use, either for cooking or beauty treatments, you should be buying Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. This is the best quality and will cost a little more but it is worth it. You will find some variation between the different brands on sale – some taste stronger or sweeter – try a few to find a brand you really like.
Coconut Oil Benefits
If you are a follower of this site I hope you have realized that we are not really into making outlandish claims about the weird and wonderful properties of many natural health products. We are a regular family who happen to have discovered some homemade products we like to make and use. When we use a product like this it is because we like the taste or what it does to the skin or hair – not because someone says it can cure every ailment known to man! That said, there are a few benefits of coconut oil worth talking about in the real world.
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
It is recognized as a healthy oil for cooking and baking – without getting carried away with the different types of saturated or Trans fats, as cooking fats go it is one of the healthiest around when used in moderation – and it tastes good.
It is nutritious and can boost energy levels and metabolism. Some claim it can be an aid to weight loss. The type of fat it is means it is treated a bit like a carbohydrate, giving an instant energy boost and adding to the digestion process. Can this help you to loose weight? Possibly, but not just by itself.
Coconut oil can lower cholesterol levels. Again claims such as these can be controversial and create some divided opinions. The main factor is that the fats in the coconut oil are better for you than most other saturated fats and in theory lead to a healthier cholesterol profile.
Benefits of Coconut Oil on Hair Treatments
It is great as a conditioner for hair treatments. We use coconut oil for homemade shampoo and conditioner recipes and just love it. The oil is a great natural moisturizer and smells good. Very good for treating dry scalp conditions like dandruff or cradle cap in babies and people with curly hair seem to like it for reducing tangles. If you are the skeptical type I recommend trying it as a hair conditioner first just to see for yourself the difference it can make. Many people also use straight coconut oil as a hair conditioner while following the No Poo method of hair care – Hair care without shampoo.
Benefits on Your Skin
Coconut oil is often used as a treatment for skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. I can’t testify to this personally but there does seem to be the general opinion that coconut oil can help some people with these conditions. A common complaint from acne sufferers is that they start using coconut oil and get a break out. This is common as the skin adapts to the rich oil. Most people who stick with it for a few weeks find their acne and other skin complaints reduce dramatically.
My favorite – and this works for me! Coconut oil as a treatment for athletes foot! Honestly I used to suffer regularly with athletes foot and tried a coconut oil cream to treat it. The results were great – no more sore and itchy toes! I’m sounding like one of those crack-pot quacks!
If you live in a hot climate store coconut oil in the refrigerator – it melts at about 76 degrees Fahrenheit- then take it out for a while to soften at room temperature. Oh – and use a spoon, not your fingers!
Try a teaspoon of coconut oil in your coffee, it is great for an energy boost and tastes good or spread it on toast instead of butter for a nice treat.
Why You Should Care
Coconut oil isn’t exactly a wonder ingredient like some might suggest. It will not cure cancer, baldness or people of a gullible nature. If you would like to try an alternative healthy cooking ingredient which tastes great – give it a try. Where I think it is truly special is in homemade hair and skin preparations. Its fresh smell and deep moisturizing properties are impressive. I can’t tell you that it will change your life but give it a go in your hair care regime and I guarantee you too will be impressed.
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