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, 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 and a skin condition called psoriasis. Coconut oil is also used 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. 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.
- Clogged arteries. 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.
- Fetal and early infant death. Early research suggest that applying coconut oil to babies' skin daily for 28 days reduces the risk of infection but does not affect the risk of death in premature babies.
- Head 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.
- Newborn weight gain. Some research shows that massaging premature newborns with coconut oil can improve weight gain and growth.
- Obesity. Some developing research shows that taking coconut oil three times daily might reduce waist size after 1-6 weeks of use. But this only occurred in men and did not affect weight or body mass index (BMI).
- 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.
- 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.
- Dry skin. Developing research shows that applying coconut oil to the skin twice daily can improve skin moisture in people with dry skin.
- Alzheimer's disease.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Crohn's disease.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Thyroid conditions.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking coconut oil as medicine if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Children: Coconut oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin for about one month. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking coconut oil 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: 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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