What is it?
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.
Is it 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?
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.
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
- Alikamali M, Emadi SF, Mahdizadeh M, Emami Z, Akbari H, Khodabandeh-Shahraki S. Comparing the efficacy of breast milk and coconut oil on nipple fissure and breast pain intensity in primiparous mothers: a single-blind clinical trial. Breastfeed Med. 2023;18:30-36. View abstract.
- Metin ZE, Bilgic P, Tengilimoglu Metin MM, Akkoca M. Comparing acute effects of extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil consumption on appetite and food intake in normal-weight and obese male subjects. PLoS One. 2022;17:e0274663. View abstract.
- Dehghanpour A, Seyedhashemi M, Zare Bidaki A, Mousavi Z, Emtiazy M, Shakiba M. Coconut oil rubbing as an easy and safe way to improve symptoms in primary nocturnal enuresis: A randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2022;12:449-56. View abstract.
- Duarte AC, Spiazzi BF, Zingano CP, et al. The effects of coconut oil on the cardiometabolic profile: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Lipids Health Dis. 2022;21:83. View abstract.
- Siripaiboonpong N, Matangkasombut O, Pengcharoen H, Boonchaiyapluk B, Rujiraprasert P, Srithanyarat SS. Microbiological effects of virgin coconut oil pulling in comparison with palm oil pulling as an adjunctive oral hygiene care for patients with gingival inflammation: a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Indian Soc Periodontol. 2022 Jan-Feb;26:58-63. View abstract.
- Saraogi P, Kaushik V, Chogale R, Chavan S, Gode V, Mhaskar S. Virgin coconut oil as prophylactic therapy against alcohol damage on skin in COVID times. J Cosmet Dermatol 2021;20:2396-2408. View abstract.
- Dhanasekara CS, Nelson A, Spradley M, et al. Effects of consumption of coconut oil or coconut on glycemic control and insulin sensitivity: A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2022;32:53-68. View abstract.
- Weerakoon WNMTDN, Anjali NVP, Jayathilaka N, Seneviratne KN. Soybean oil and coconut oil enhance the absorption of chlorogenic acid in humans. J Food Biochem 2021;e13823. View abstract.
- Swarnamali H, Ranasinghe P, Hills AP, Jayawardena R. Coconut oil consumption and bodyweight reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Minerva Endocrinol (Torino) 2021. View abstract.
- Angeles-Agdeppa I, Nacis JS, Capanzana MV, Dayrit FM, Tanda KV. Virgin coconut oil is effective in lowering C-reactive protein levels among suspect and probable cases of COVID-19. J Funct Foods 2021;83:104557. View abstract.
- Nikooei P, Hosseinzadeh-Attar MJ, Asghari S, Norouzy A, Yaseri M, Vasheghani-Farahani A. Effects of virgin coconut oil consumption on metabolic syndrome components and asymmetric dimethylarginine: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 2021;31:939-49. View abstract.
- Júnior FAO, Ruiz CR, de Oliveira Y, et al. Coconut oil supplementation does not affect blood pressure variability and oxidative stress: a placebo-controlled clinical study in stage-1 hypertensive patients. Nutrients 2021;13:798. View abstract.
- Platero JL, Cuerda-Ballester M, Sancho-Cantus D, et al. The impact of epigallocatechin gallate and coconut oil treatment on cortisol activity and depression in multiple sclerosis patients. Life (Basel) 2021;11:353. View abstract.
- Ripari F, Filippone F, Zumbo G, Covello F, Zara F, Vozza I. The role of coconut oil in treating patients affected by plaque-induced gingivitis: a pilot study. Eur J Dent 2020;14:558-65. View abstract.
- Quimby AE, Hogan D, Khalil D, Hearn M, Nault C, Johnson-Obaseki S. Coconut oil as a novel approach to managing radiation-induced xerostomia: a primary feasibility study. Int J Otolaryngol 2020;2020:8537643. View abstract.
- Jayawardena R, Swarnamali H, Lanerolle P, Ranasinghe P. Effect of coconut oil on cardio-metabolic risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies. Diabetes Metab Syndr 2020;14:2007-20. View abstract.
- Strunk T, Gummer JPA, Abraham R, et al. Topical Coconut Oil Contributes to Systemic Monolaurin Levels in Very Preterm Infants. Neonatology. 2019;116:299-301. View abstract.
- Teng M, Zhao YJ, Khoo AL, Yeo TC, Yong QW, Lim BP. Impact of coconut oil consumption on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2020;78:249-259. View abstract.
- Sezgin Y, Memis Ozgul B, Alptekin NO. Efficacy of oil pulling therapy with coconut oil on four-day supragingival plaque growth: A randomized crossover clinical trial. Complement Ther Med. 2019;47:102193. View abstract.
- Neelakantan N, Seah JYH, van Dam RM. The effect of coconut oil consumption on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials. Circulation. 2020;141:803-814. View abstract.
- Platero JL, Cuerda-Ballester M, Ibáñez V, et al. The impact of coconut oil and epigallocatechin gallate on the levels of IL-6, anxiety and disability in multiple sclerosis patients. Nutrients. 2020;12. pii: E305. View abstract.
- Arun S, Kumar M, Paul T, et al. An open-label randomized controlled trial to compare weight gain of very low birth weight babies with or without addition of coconut oil to breast milk. J Trop Pediatr. 2019;65:63-70. View abstract.
- Borba GL, Batista JSF, Novais LMQ, et al. Acute caffeine and coconut oil intake, isolated or combined, does not improve running times of recreational runners: A randomized, placebo-controlled and crossover study. Nutrients. 2019;11. pii: E1661. View abstract.
- Konar MC, Islam K, Roy A, Ghosh T. Effect of virgin coconut oil application on the skin of preterm newborns: A randomized controlled trial. J Trop Pediatr. 2019. pii: fmz041. View abstract.
- Famurewa AC, Ekeleme-Egedigwe CA, Nwali SC, Agbo NN, Obi JN, Ezechukwu GC. Dietary supplementation with virgin coconut oil improves lipid profile and hepatic antioxidant status and has potential benefits on cardiovascular risk indices in normal rats. J Diet Suppl. 2018;15:330-342. View abstract.
- Valente FX, Cândido FG, Lopes LL, et al. Effects of coconut oil consumption on energy metabolism, cardiometabolic risk markers, and appetitive responses in women with excess body fat. Eur J Nutr. 2018;57:1627-1637. View abstract.
- Narayanankutty A, Palliyil DM, Kuruvilla K, Raghavamenon AC. Virgin coconut oil reverses hepatic steatosis by restoring redox homeostasis and lipid metabolism in male Wistar rats. J Sci Food Agric. 2018;98:1757-1764. View abstract.
- Khaw KT, Sharp SJ, Finikarides L, et al. Randomised trial of coconut oil, olive oil or butter on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors in healthy men and women. BMJ Open. 2018;8:e020167. View abstract.
- Oliveira-de-Lira L, Santos EMC, de Souza RF, et al. Supplementation-dependent effects of vegetable oils with varying fatty acid compositions on anthropometric and biochemical parameters in obese women. Nutrients. 2018;10. pii: E932. View abstract.
- Kinsella R, Maher T, Clegg ME. Coconut oil has less satiating properties than medium chain triglyceride oil. Physiol Behav. 2017 Oct 1;179:422-26. View abstract.
- Vijayakumar M, Vasudevan DM, Sundaram KR, et al. A randomized study of coconut oil versus sunflower oil on cardiovascular risk factors in patients with stable coronary heart disease. Indian Heart J. 2016 Jul-Aug;68:498-506. View abstract.
- Strunk T, Pupala S, Hibbert J, Doherty D, Patole S. Topical coconut oil in very preterm infants: an open-label randomized controlled trial. Neonatology. 2017 Dec 1;113:146-151. View abstract.
- Michavila Gomez A, Amat Bou M, Gonzalez Cortés MV, Segura Navas L, Moreno Palanques MA, Bartolomé B. Coconut anaphylaxis: Case report and review. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2015;43:219-20. View abstract.
- Anagnostou K. Coconut Allergy Revisited. Children (Basel). 2017;4. pii: E85. View abstract.
- Sacks FM, Lichtenstein AH, Wu JHY, et al.; American Heart Association. Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2017;136:e1-e23. View abstract.
- Eyres L, Eyres MF, Chisholm A, Brown RC. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutr Rev 2016;74:267-80. View abstract.
- Voon PT, Ng TK, Lee VK, Nesaretnam K. Diets high in palmitic acid (16:0), lauric and myristic acids (12:0 + 14:0), or oleic acid (18:1) do not alter postprandial or fasting plasma homocysteine and inflammatory markers in healthy Malaysian adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:1451-7. View abstract.
- Cox C, Mann J, Sutherland W, et al Effects of coconut oil, butter, and safflower oil on lipids and lipoproteins in persons with moderately elevated cholesterol levels. J Lipid Res 1995;36:1787-95. View abstract.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. SECTION 2. Codex Standards for Fats and Oils from Vegetable Sources. Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y2774e/y2774e04.htm#TopOfPage. Accessed October 26, 2015.
- Marina AM, Che Man YB, Amin I. Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2009;20:481-487.
- Salam RA, Darmstadt GL, Bhutta ZA. Effect of emollient therapy on clinical outcomes in preterm neonates in Pakistan: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2015 May;100:F210-5. View abstract.
- Law KS, Azman N, Omar EA, Musa MY, Yusoff NM, Sulaiman SA, Hussain NH. The effects of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as supplementation on quality of life (QOL) among breast cancer patients. Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Aug 27;13:139. View abstract.
- Evangelista MT, Abad-Casintahan F, Lopez-Villafuerte L. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2014 Jan;53:100-8. View abstract.
- Bhan MK, Arora NK, Khoshoo V, et al. Comparison of a lactose-free cereal-based formula and cow's milk in infants and children with acute gastroenteritis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1988;7:208-13. View abstract.
- Romer H, Guerra M, Pina JM, et al. Realimentation of dehydrated children with acute diarrhea: comparison of cow's milk to a chicken-based formula. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1991;13:46-51. View abstract.
- Liau KM, Lee YY, Chen CK, Rasool AH. An open-label pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity. ISRN Pharmacol 2011;2011:949686. View abstract.
- Burnett CL, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Final report on the safety assessment of Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil and related ingredients. Int J Toxicol 2011;30(3 Suppl):5S-16S. View abstract.
- Feranil AB, Duazo PL, Kuzawa CW, Adair LS. Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2011;20:190-5. View abstract.
- Zakaria ZA, Rofiee MS, Somchit MN,et al. Hepatoprotective activity of dried- and fermented-processed virgin coconut oil. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2011;2011:142739. View abstract.
- Assunção ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF, et al. Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids 2009;44:593-601. View abstract.
- Sankaranarayanan K, Mondkar JA, Chauhan MM, et al. Oil massage in neonates: an open randomized controlled study of coconut versus mineral oil. Indian Pediatr 2005;42:877-84. View abstract.
- Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis 2004;15:109-16. View abstract.
- Cox C, Sutherland W, Mann J, et al. Effects of dietary coconut oil, butter and safflower oil on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and lathosterol levels. Eur J Clin Nutr 1998;52:650-4. View abstract.
- Fries JH, Fries MW. Coconut: a review of its uses as they relate to the allergic individual. Ann Allergy 1983;51:472-81. View abstract.
- Kumar PD. The role of coconut and coconut oil in coronary heart disease in Kerala, south India. Trop Doct 1997;27:215-7. View abstract.
- Garcia-Fuentes E, Gil-Villarino A, Zafra MF, Garcia-Peregrin E. Dipyridamole prevents the coconut oil-induced hypercholesterolemia. A study on lipid plasma and lipoprotein composition. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2002;34:269-78. View abstract.
- Ganji V, Kies CV. Psyllium husk fibre supplementation to soybean and coconut oil diets of humans: effect on fat digestibility and faecal fatty acid excretion. Eur J Clin Nutr 1994;48:595-7. View abstract.
- Francois CA, Connor SL, Wander RC, Connor WE. Acute effects of dietary fatty acids on the fatty acids of human milk. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;67:301-8. View abstract.
- Mumcuoglu KY, Miller J, Zamir C, et al. The in vivo pediculicidal efficacy of a natural remedy. Isr Med Assoc J 2002;4:790-3. View abstract.
- Muller H, Lindman AS, Blomfeldt A, et al. A diet rich in coconut oil reduces diurnal postprandial variations in circulating tissue plasminogen activator antigen and fasting lipoprotein (a) compared with a diet rich in unsaturated fat in women. J Nutr 2003;133:3422-7. View abstract.
- Alexaki A, Wilson TA, Atallah MT, et al. Hamsters fed diets high in saturated fat have increased cholesterol accumulation and cytokine production in the aortic arch compared with cholesterol-fed hamsters with moderately elevated plasma non-HDL cholesterol concentrations. J Nutr 2004;134:410-5. View abstract.
- Reiser R, Probstfield JL, Silvers A, et al. Plasma lipid and lipoprotein response of humans to beef fat, coconut oil and safflower oil. Am J Clin Nutr 1985;42:190-7. View abstract.
- Tella R, Gaig P, Lombardero M, et al. A case of coconut allergy. Allergy 2003;58:825-6.
- Teuber SS, Peterson WR. Systemic allergic reaction to coconut (Cocos nucifera) in 2 subjects with hypersensitivity to tree nut and demonstration of cross-reactivity to legumin-like seed storage proteins: new coconut and walnut food allergens. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1999;103:1180-5. View abstract.
- Mendis S, Samarajeewa U, Thattil RO. Coconut fat and serum lipoproteins: effects of partial replacement with unsaturated fats. Br J Nutr 2001;85:583-9. View abstract.
- Laureles LR, Rodriguez FM, Reano CE, et al. Variability in fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition of the oil of coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) hybrids and their parentals. J Agric Food Chem 2002;50:1581-6. View abstract.
- George SA, Bilsland DJ, Wainwright NJ, Ferguson J. Failure of coconut oil to accelerate psoriasis clearance in narrow-band UVB phototherapy or photochemotherapy. Br J Dermatol 1993;128:301-5. View abstract.
- Bach AC, Babayan VK. Medium-chain triglycerides: an update. Am J Clin Nutr 1982;36:950-62. View abstract.
- Ruppin DC, Middleton WR. Clinical use of medium chain triglycerides. Drugs 1980;20:216-24.