11/19/2014 Mind-Body Health
Coconut oil has made its way into mainstream popularity as a superfood, but there's a lot more to this oil than meets the eye. Find out how coconut oil can be used to support the health of your skin, bones, teeth, joints, and more.
It’s been called “the healthiest oil on earth,” and that just might be true. Coconut oil has been used for centuries in Ayurveda because of its healing properties and positive effects on the body and mind. And now, coconut oil is making its way into mainstream popularity as one of the ultimate superfoods.
Modern adopters know that coconut oil is ideal for cooking under high heat, and it adds a tasty flavor to meals, but many people don’t know its true potential. To find out what coconut oil can do for you, let’s take a look back at some of the ancient wisdom and traditions.
Coconut oil has been used in India for generations to help with overall skin health. It can be used as a moisturizer to improve complexion, suppleness, and elasticity. It can also be used to treat an array of skin problems such as psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, dry or flaky skin, scars, and burns.
Ayurvedically speaking, coconut oil has a cooling property. Therefore, it can be used as a full body and face moisturizer, particularly in the summer for its cooling effects and SPF properties.
It’s also extremely beneficial for the Pitta dosha, which is associated with the fire element, to treat symptoms associated with Pitta imbalance including anger, inflammation, and high blood pressure.
Try this: Abhyanga is a traditional Ayurvedic massage that you can practice on yourself.
- Place warm coconut oil on your body from head to toe.
- Spend quality time on each area rubbing it in. Use vigorous strokes to improve circulation.
- Follow this by going straight into a steam room or sauna to expel the impurities from your pores. Or simply take a hot salt bath.
Coconut oil can also be used as a natural deodorant as it’s a proven killer of odor-causing bacteria.
Coconut oil has also been used in India for ages to promote oral health. It can be used to clean and whiten teeth, and it helps to support strong and healthy teeth and gums. Try these natural remedies using coconut oil and impress your dentist the next time you go in for a cleaning.
Try this: Make your own delightful toothpaste from this recipe.
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons of baking soda
- 10 drops cinnamon essential oil
- 10 drops clove essential oil
- 7 drops peppermint essential oil
- 7 drops myrrh extract
- 1 teaspoon neem oil
- 1 packet stevia powder (optional)
- 5 drops grapefruit seed extract (natural preservative, optional)
Run container of coconut oil under warm water to melt. Combine all ingredients and stir as oil cools. Scoop or pour the mixture into a small glass jar and seal with a lid. Let cool.
Another way to keep your mouth and teeth clean is with oil pulling, an Ayurvedic practice for oral health and detoxification that involves swishing oil around in your mouth. The theory is that the plaque and bacteria binds with the oil and is then disposed of when you spit it out, which purifies the mouth of harmful toxins. If you think about it, the plaque on your teeth is not water-soluble, it’s fat-soluble, so it makes sense for dental care.
Oil pulling has also been used as a treatment for arthritis, blood disease, headaches, gum disease, toothache, lung and liver conditions, eczema, ulcers, and intestinal disorders.
- Take 1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil and swish it around in your mouth (as you would mouthwash) for about 20 minutes.
- Spit the oil out.
Coconut oil is used extensively in India for scalp treatments and hair health. It’s applied to the scalp to treat dandruff, encourage hair growth, and promote lustrous locks.
- Place a small amount of coconut oil on your fingertips and give your scalp a good five-minute massage. This increases blood flow to the area, encourages hair growth, and also kills bacteria on the scalp.
- Take a bit more oil in your fingers and run through your hair from root to end.
- Leave the oil on for about 20 minutes and then rinse out with or without shampoo.
A Sanskrit term Dravya is similar to the “doctrine of signatures” which states that each body part has a food that looks similar to it that can be used to treat ailments in that part of the body. For example, a walnut looks similar to a brain and happens to be high in omega 3s, which are great for brain health.
Likewise, a coconut resembles a cranium and is used to nourish brain tissue, improve cognitive function, and supply lubrication to the skull and brain. Ayurveda also considers the coconut to be Maha Medhya, a great nourishing source for the mind.
Weight Loss and Digestion
Coconut oil stimulates digestion with its lubricating effect. This can also help pacify Vata dryness and prevent constipation.
The unique saturated fats in coconut oil also have anti-microbial properties that fight harmful bacteria, candida, and parasites that cause digestion issues such as indigestion, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The rare medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) in coconut oil are small compared to other fats and easily broken down into energy, so they don’t have to be stored as fat or spike blood sugar levels.
A study published in the journal Lipids reported 40 women found a decrease in belly fat when taking coconut oil internally along with an exercise routine.
Though one of the highest sources of saturated fat in the plant kingdom, coconut oil has actually been proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Approximately 50 percent of the saturated fats in coconut oil is made up of lauric acid and is not at all like man-made, processed hydrogenated oils.
Research shows in numerous population studies that cultures that consume large quantities of coconut oil have very low rates of heart disease, show normal blood cholesterol levels, and exhibit superior cardiovascular health.
Immune System Support
The lauric acid in coconut oil is also found in breast milk—it helps support and build the immune system of a growing baby. Virgin coconut oil happens to have the highest concentration of lauric acid outside of mother's milk.
This potent fatty acid helps support a healthy immune system with its anti-viral properties.
Studies suggest that lauric acid may decrease infection or transmission of the following viruses: HIV virus, herpes simplex virus-1, and the measles virus.
Coconut oil is used as a treatment for painful joints and arthritis in Ayurveda, especially for arthritis due to Pitta inflammation.
Try this: Joint Rub
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup castor oil
- 1 teaspoon sandalwood powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon guggulu powder
- 1/2 teaspoon shatavari
- 1/4 teaspoon neem oil
- 1/4 teaspoon clove oil
- Pinch of fine ground Himalayan sea salt
Mix all ingredients together and rub over painful joints. Cover the area with saran wrap or dish towel to avoid staining clothes. Place a warm to hot water bottle over the area for 20 to 30 minutes so the oil can absorb into the skin.
When heated at high temperatures, many other oils including, olive, soy, corn, and vegetable oil become unstable and can even produce toxins and trans-fats. Coconut oil is one of the only oils that can withstand high temperatures, which makes it a great choice for cooking.
It has a wonderful nutty and slightly sweet flavor and works well with a variety of dishes, especially desserts.
Try this: Raw Coco-Nutty Superfood Smoothie
- 2 cups organic coconut milk, homemade or vanilla unsweetened
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1/2 cup raw organic almond butter
- 2 tablespoons cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil
- 1/2 banana (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder or nibs
- 1 tablespoon maca powder
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds, can be pre-soaked in the fridge the night before in coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon amla extract (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional)
- Ice (optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.