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Palm Oil

What is it?

Palm oil is an edible oil that comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis). Crude palm oil, or "red palm oil," is high in beta-carotene.

Palm oil contains saturated and unsaturated fats. Some types of palm oil contain vitamin E and beta-carotene. These types of palm oil might have antioxidant effects. Refined palm oil is made by bleaching, deodorizing, and neutralizing crude palm oil.

People use palm oil for preventing and treating vitamin A deficiency. It is also used for malaria, heart disease, cancer, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these other 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 PALM OIL are as follows:

Likely effective for...

  • Vitamin A deficiency. Adding red palm oil to the diets of children or during pregnancy in developing countries reduces the chance of having low vitamin A levels. It also seems to help increase vitamin A levels in those who already have low levels.
There is interest in using palm 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: Palm oil is commonly consumed in foods. But palm oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. So people should avoid eating palm oil in excess. Palm oil is possibly safe when used as a medicine, short-term. Taking 7-12 grams daily for up to 6 months seems to be safe.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy: Palm oil is commonly consumed in foods. Palm oil is possibly safe when taken by mouth as a medicine during the last 3 months of pregnancy.

Breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if palm oil is safe to use as medicine when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts.

Children: Palm oil is commonly consumed in foods. Palm oil is possibly safe when taken by mouth as a medicine. Palm oil has been used daily for up to 6 months in children under 5 years of age and for up to 12 months in children 5 years of age and older.

High cholesterol: Regularly eating meals containing palm 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?

Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Palm oil might slow blood clotting. Taking palm oil along with medications that also slow blood clotting might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Palm oil contains beta-carotene. Taking beta-carotene supplements along with palm oil might result in too much beta-carotene.
Vitamin A
Palm oil contains beta-carotene, which is a building block of vitamin A. Taking a vitamin A or beta-carotene supplement along with palm oil might result in too much vitamin A.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

How is it typically used?

Palm oil is commonly used in processed foods and as an oil for frying.

As medicine, red palm oil has most often been used by adults in doses of 7-12 grams by mouth daily for up to 6 months. In children, red palm oil has been used in doses of 6-9 grams by mouth daily for up to 6 months. Speak with a healthcare provider to find out what dose might be best for a specific condition.

Other names

Aceite de Palma, African Palm Oil, Crude Palm Oil, Elaeis guineensis, Elaeis melanococca, Elaeis oleifera, Huile de Palme, Huile de Palme Brute, Huile de Palme Rouge, Huile de Palmiste, Oil Palm Tree, Palm, Palm Fruit Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Oil Carotene, Palmier à Huile, Red Palm Oil, Virgin Palm Oil.


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


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Last reviewed - 06/29/2023