Coconut oil or Copra oil is an edible extract from the kernel or meat of matured coconut palm. Due to its high saturated fat content, it is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling.
Many health organizations advise against the consumption of coconut oil due to its high levels of saturated fats. However, coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises total blood cholestrol levels by increasing both the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholestrol and low-densiity lipoprotein (LDL) cholestrol. Although this may create a more favourable total blood cholestrol profile, this does not exclude the possibility of increased risk of cardiovascular disease through other mechanism, from the consistent intake of coconut oil.
Other than the above considerations, the benefits of coconut oil far outweighs the potential side-effects. The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, cholestrol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immunity, proper digestion and regulated metabolism.
The benefits of the oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and their respective properties, such as, antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities.
More than 90% of coconut oil consists of saturated fats and traces of few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids:
– Saturated fatty acids
Most of them are medium-chain triglycerides, which as supposed to assimilate well in the body’s systems. Lauric acid is the chief contributor, representing more than 40% of the total, followed by capric acid, caprylic acid, myristic acid and palmitic.
– Polyunsaturated fatty acids: Linoleic acid
– Monounsaturated fatty acids: Oleic acid
– Poly-phenols: Gallic acid
Gallic acid, also known as phenolic acid, are responsible for the fragrance and taste of coconut oil and virgin coconut oil is rich in these poly-phenols.
– Certain derivatives of fatty acid: Betaines, ethanolamide, ethoxylates, fatty esters, fatty polysorbates, monoglycerides and polyol esters.
– Fatty cholorides, fatty alcohol sulphate and fatty alcohol ether sulphate
All are derivatives of fatty alcohols
– Vitamin E and K and minerals, such as iron.
Coconut oil as a skincare product is an excellent massage oil and effective moisturizer on all types of skin. Unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having side effects on the skin from the application of coconut oil. It is a safe solution to prevent skin dehydration, delays appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin and helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. It is also helpful in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its well-known antioxidant properties.
When applied to infected areas, coconut oil forms a chemical layer to protect the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria and viruses. It is also effective on bruises as it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues. Due to its antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties, according to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil can kill viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS and other serious health risks. It also kills bacteria that causes ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infection, pneumonia and gonorrhoea. Finally coconut oil is also effective in the eliminating fungal and yeast infections, such as, ringworm, athlete’s foot, thrush and diaper rash.