URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/1139.html

Palm Oil

What is it?

Palm oil is obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree.

Palm oil is used for preventing and treating vitamin A deficiency. Other uses include cancer and high blood pressure, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

As food, palm oil is used for frying. It is also an ingredient in many processed foods. Palm oil is also used for manufacturing cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, wax, and ink.

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. Research shows that adding red palm oil to the diets of pregnant women and children in developing countries reduces the chance of having too little vitamin A. It also seems to help increase vitamin A levels in those who have too little. Red palm oil seems to be as effective as taking a vitamin A supplement for preventing or treating low levels of vitamin A. Doses of about 8 grams or less per day seem to work best. Higher doses don't seem to have more benefit.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Malaria. Early research suggests that eating palm oil in the diet does not seem to decrease symptoms of malaria in children under 5 years of age in developing countries.
  • Cancer.
  • Cyanide poisoning.
  • Diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that interfere with thinking (dementia).
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
  • Heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Obesity.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of palm oil for these uses.

How does it work?

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.

Are there safety concerns?

When taken by mouth: Palm oil is LIKELY SAFE when taken in amounts found in food. 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 9-12 grams daily for up to 6 months seems to be safe.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Palm oil is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken as a medicine during the last 3 months of pregnancy. 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 POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as a medicine. Palm oil has been used 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: Palm oil contains a type of fat that can increase cholesterol levels. Regularly eating meals containing palm 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?

Be cautious with this combination.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Palm oil might increase blood clotting. Taking palm oil along with medications that slow clotting might reduce the effectiveness of these medications.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox) heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

Palm oil contains beta-carotene. There is some concern that taking beta-carotene supplements along with palm oil might result in too much beta-carotene and an increased risk of harmful side effects.
Vitamin A
Palm oil contains beta-carotene, which is a building block of vitamin A. There is some concern that taking a vitamin A or beta-carotene supplement along with palm oil might result in too much vitamin A and an increased risk of harmful side effects.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • Vitamin A deficiency: About 7-12 grams of red palm oil daily has been used in some research. Some evidence shows that using 8 grams of red palm oil or less per day is most beneficial.

  • Vitamin A deficiency: Up to 6 grams of red palm oil per day in children 5 years and under, and up to 9 grams per day in children over 5 years of age, has been used for up to 6 months. Also, 14 grams of red palm oil three times per week for about 9 weeks has been used. Some evidence shows that using 8 grams of red palm oil or less per day is most beneficial.

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 - 11/18/2020