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Coconut Oil

What is it?

Coconut oil comes from the nut (fruit) of the coconut palm. It contains medium-chain fatty acids, including capric acid, caprylic acid, and lauric acid.

About 52% to 85% of coconut oil is made up of specific saturated fats, called medium-chain fatty acids. It has a moisturizing effect when applied to the skin.

People commonly use coconut oil for eczema and growth in premature infants. It's also used for psoriasis, obesity, breast cancer, heart disease, MS, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

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 eczema symptoms in children more than applying mineral oil.
  • Growth and development in premature infants. Applying coconut oil to the skin of premature infants might improve body temperature, breathing, skin health, and overall growth.
There is interest in using coconut oil for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Is it safe?

When taken by mouth: Coconut oil is commonly consumed in foods. But coconut oil contains a type of fat (saturated fat) that can increase cholesterol levels. Like all saturated fats, it should be consumed in moderation. Coconut oil is possibly safe when used as a medicine short-term. Taking coconut oil in doses of 10 mL two or three times daily for up to 12 weeks seems to be safe.

When applied to the skin: Coconut oil is likely safe when applied to the skin.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Coconut oil is commonly consumed in foods. There isn't enough reliable information to know if coconut oil is safe to use as medicine when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

Children: Coconut oil is possibly safe when applied to the skin for about one month. There isn't 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 low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") 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 might reduce the amount of fat that the body absorbs from coconut oil.
Chlorogenic acid
Coconut oil might increase the amount of chlorogenic acid that the body absorbs from supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

How is it typically used?

Coconut oil has most often been used by adults in doses of 20-60 mL by mouth daily for up to 4 months. Coconut oil is also used as a topical oil or moisturizer and is found in some cosmetics. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what type of product and dose might be best for a specific condition.

Some coconut oil products are referred to as "virgin" coconut oil, which usually means they haven't been bleached, deodorized, or refined. But there aren't any specific industry standards. "Cold pressed" coconut oil means that it's been pressed without a heat source.

Other names

Aceite de Coco, Acide Gras de Noix de Coco, Coconut Fat, Coconut Fatty Acid, Coconut Palm, Coco Palm, Cocos nucifera, Cocotier, Cold Pressed Coconut Oil, Fermented Coconut Oil, Huile de Coco, Huile de Noix de Coco, Huile de Noix de Coco Pressée à Froid, Huile Vierge de Noix de Coco, Narikela, Noix de Coco, Palmier, Virgin Coconut Oil.


To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.


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Last reviewed - 03/29/2023