What is it?
Some coconut oil products claim to be "cold pressed" coconut oil. This generally means that a mechanical method of pressing out the oil is used, but without the use of any outside heat source. The high pressure needed to press out the oil generates some heat naturally, but the temperature is controlled so that temperatures do not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
People use coconut oil by mouth for diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Alzheimer's disease, diarrhea, quality of life in people with breast cancer, thyroid conditions, energy, and boosting the immune system. Despite coconut oil's high calorie and saturated fat content, some people use it by mouth to lose weight and lower cholesterol.
Coconut oil is sometimes applied to the skin as a moisturizer, for neonatal health, and to treat eczema (atopic dermatitis) and a skin condition called psoriasis. Coconut oil is also used for lice and in hair products to prevent hair damage.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for COCONUT OIL are as follows:
Possibly effective for...
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Applying coconut oil to the skin can reduce the severity of eczema in children by about 30% more than mineral oil.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Breast cancer. Early research suggests that taking virgin coconut oil by mouth daily starting one week after chemotherapy from the 3rd to the 6th cycle improves quality of life in some but not all measurements in women with advanced breast cancer.
- Heart disease. Early research suggests that taking coconut or coconut oil does not seem to increase or decrease the risk of heart attack or chest pain.
- Diarrhea. One study in children found that incorporating coconut oil into the diet can reduce the length of diarrhea, but another study found that it was no more effective than a cow milk-based diet. The effect of coconut oil alone is not clear.
- Dry skin. Early research shows that applying coconut oil to the skin twice daily can improve skin moisture in people with dry skin.
- Death of an unborn or premature baby. Early research suggest that applying coconut oil to babies' skin daily for 28 days reduces the risk of infection in premature babies. But it doesn't reduce the risk of death.
- Lice. Developing research shows that a spray containing coconut oil, anise oil, and ylang ylang oil appears to be effective for treating head lice in children. It seems to work about as well as a spray containing chemical insecticides.
- Obesity. Some research shows that taking coconut oil by mouth for 8 weeks along with diet and exercise leads to notable weight loss in more obese women compared to taking soybean oil or chia oil. Other early research shows that taking coconut oil for one week can reduce waist size compared to soybean oil in women with excessive fat around the stomach and abdomen. But there is some limited evidence that taking coconut oil for 4 weeks reduces waist size compared to baseline in only obese men but not women.
- Growth and development in premature infants. Premature infants have immature skin. This might increase their chance of getting an infection. Some research shows that applying coconut oil to the skin of very premature infants improves the strength of their skin. But it's not known if this reduces their chance of getting an infection. Other research shows that massaging premature newborns with coconut oil can improve weight gain and growth.
- Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Applying coconut oil to the skin before treatment of psoriasis with ultraviolet B (UVB) or psoralen and ultraviolet A (PUVA) light therapy doesn't seem to improve effectiveness of the treatment.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Crohn's disease.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Thyroid conditions.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
When applied to the skin: Coconut oil is LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if coconut oil is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Children: Coconut oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin for about one month. There's not enough reliable information to know if coconut oil is safe for children when taken by mouth as a medicine.
High cholesterol: Coconut oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. Regularly eating meals containing coconut oil can increase levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This might be a problem for people who already have high cholesterol.
Are there interactions with medications?
- It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.
Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Blond psyllium
- Psyllium reduces absorption of the fat in coconut oil.
Are there interactions with foods?
- There are no known interactions with foods.
What dose is used?
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For eczema (atopic dermatitis): 10 mL of virgin coconut oil has been applied to most body surfaces in two divided doses daily for 8 weeks.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
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