Where does coconut oil come from?
There is some debate surrounding the origins of the coconut. Archaeologists have unearthed coconut fossils that have been dated as between 37 and 50 million years old.
This would have been the Eocene period in the regions of Australia and India where they were discovered.
It began to be identified by mostly explorers as early as 545 AD by a Greek shipping merchant named Cosmos of Alexandria who described the palm tree leave in his geographical descriptions as well as defining it as the “argell tree and its drupe.”
In the year 1280 AD,the explorer Marco Polo refers to it as the “nux indica” during his travels in Sumatra where he received it from an Arab tribe that called it the “jawz hindi.” When both of these terms are translated, they mean “Indian nut.”
By the early 14th century, another Italian explorer, Antonia Pigafetta, who was part of the fleet of ships known as the Magellan Expedition, writes in his journal about a tropical “fruit” that he has come across and identifies it as the "cocho” while he explored what is now modern-day Guam and the Philippines.
With all of these centuries of sightings, it is no wonder that an origin for the coconut was difficult to determine.
What is probably the case is that the origin of this tree is in India and Indonesian regions where it was used by the Malaysian tribes for not only food but oil for their skin.
It eventually made it's way to these other areas by virtue of floating on the ocean and landing on the shores along the way.
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Quick History About Coconut Oil
This multitude of regions where the coconut has been used and by a variety of cultures have utilized the coconut tree for a variety of uses. Commonly known as the “Tree of Life” by the people of the Philippines and others in the Asia-Pacific rim, the tribes felt it was a healing plant and they used it as a type of medicine.
The Chinese would boil the roots of the oil and then when this mixture cooled, they would rub it onto their body to treat topical skin diseases or chronic itching.
Indonesian tribes would boil the root as well, but they would drink the mixture while it was still hot to relieve afflictions such as diarrhea, fever, and dysentery.
As most cultures of the time would do no part of a plant or animal would be wasted--the coconut tree was no exception.
The earliest discoveries have found that the by-products of the coconut tree were used to make baskets, bowls, and even instruments such as crude drums and woodwinds.
Most often, the coconut was carved out and the coconut “meat” was eaten.
Then, the empty shell of the nut was used to drink the actual coconut milk or boil it and use it as a place to store the coconut oil that was created.
In the tropical regions that coconut trees inhabit, the climate allows for coconuts to grow to at least two times the size of what we are used to seeing in the local grocery store in terms of a common coconut.
The natural state of a wild coconut is a greenish or yellow husk much like a cob of corn. This is peeled away before we see it in our local market.
So, what is actually sold in stores around the world is the inner “nut” of the coconut. The palms of a coconut tree can grow to a length of up to 70 feet and the tree can live nearly 70 years.
There is never an off-season for coconut trees in the tropics since the climate is at a consistent temperature all year round, so it can be harvested throughout the year.
Individual coconuts do not fully mature for at least 14 months, so a complete bunch takes at least 6 to 7 months before it can be harvested. Once a tree begins to grow coconut bunches on a regular basis, they can be harvested once a month and up to 12 bunches a year.
A single coconut palm can actually produce a harvest of up to 140 individual coconuts every 12 months. Once a coconut is matured, it will have the three layers that include the inner layer of coconut “meat” or copra, the whitish coconut milk, and the outer layer of protective thick, dark brown shell.
If a coconut bunch is not harvested in time, each coconut will gradually dry up and have less and less coconut milk until it completely evaporates. An optimally ripe coconut has mostly coconut copra and a small amount of coconut milk.
Coconut Oil Uses: for Food, Beauty, Household, & Medicine
Coconut Oil Food Uses
Coconut oil is one of the most all-purpose foods you could use in your kitchen. It can be prepared raw, fried, baked, roasted, as a butter, and even in liquid form as an oil.
The coconut oil by-product can be a mainstay for your preparation needs since the refined version that is pressed from the coconut fruit has a higher smoke point than most oils.
This means it can be used while cooking at a higher temperature (about 100 degrees higher than common oils) without burning.
Coconut oil can be stored in the refrigerator or kept in a cooler area in the kitchen so that it stays in a soft, solid state. If it is kept on the counter, it has to be stirred before it is measured.
When cooking with coconut oil, it can be warmed to a clear liquid form and then tossed with vegetables before roasting them in the oven or sautéing them in a pan.
When baking, coconut oil can be used as a butter substitute in most recipes. Following the same recipe guidelines for butter (melted, chilled, or left at room temperature) is all you need to do.
As frying oil, it needs to be pre-heated in the same way other oils are prepared with a high temperature of 375-400 degrees for a crispier result to your foods.
There are some unconventional uses for coconut oil to add an organic and gourmet-like flavor to many of your meals.
For instance, you can melt coconut oil and drizzle it on eggs, polenta, rice, and many other grains instead of conventional butters or sauces.
You can also rub meats like chicken and pork with coconut oil for a more exotic flavor. As a dessert, coconut oil can be used to fry sliced bananas, layered onto a bowl of ice cream, and then sprinkled with cinnamon, honey, or even ginger for a tropical accent to any sundae treat.
You can also begin your day with a tropical smoothie that includes a tablespoon of coconut oil.
Coconut Oil Beauty Uses
Face: Coconut oil has natural anti-fungal and anti-bacterial components that makes it exceptionally good to use daily to first remove makeup, wash your face with a coconut-oil based scrub (recipes can be found online!) and then to moisturize your skin. The lauric acid present in coconut oil also helps to combat acne.
Body: Coconut oil has the same beneficial properties for your entire body because it is chemical free and void of any artificial fragrances that are common in most body lotions and butters. You can find many stores that carry natural lotions that include coconut oil, or you can make your own body butter with coconut oil.
It is an optimal body hydrator because it will seal in moisture as you rub it all over your body. As a scrub, mixing coconut oil with natural coconut sugar will smooth skin by removing dead skin cells with every application in the shower.
This should be done only a few times per week. For babies, it can even be slathered on in small amounts to help with diaper rash. Other uses include homemade deodorant, lip balm, cold sores, cuticle oil, shaving gel, relief for sunburns, and even for stretch marks.
Hair: As a natural moisturizer, coconut oil can help with dandruff and many other dry scalp issues. The fatty acids that are a component of coconut oil act to nourish the scalp region and extricate a build-up of sebum on the hair follicles which dry and cause flaking, itching, and irritation. It can also be rubbed in small amounts over your entire head of hair for a glossier look.
Teeth: Used as a type of mouthwash or rinse, coconut oil has multiple benefits for your teeth and gums. Known as “oil pulling,” by swishing a small amount of coconut oil around the inside of your mouth and gently sucking it through your teeth can kill bacteria.
It is also been shown to help fight gum disease if used regularly, and can whiten teeth if it is used at least 10-15 minutes several times a week.
recipes you can make with coconut oil
Coconut Oil Household Uses
Insect repellent – If you combine coconut oil with a peppermint or tea tree oil fragrance, you can then use an eye dropper and apply it to your arms and legs to repel mosquitoes, flies, and even bees as you plant your flower beds, mow the lawn, and do other outside chores around your home.
Candles – with so many candles on the market to choose from that have artificial scents and even chemical additives, why not make your own all-natural version with coconut oil?
There are candle-making kits that can be purchased at local craft stores or through online outlets. You can also take a few tablespoons of coconut oil and a fragrant oil of your choice and add it to an oil diffuser.
Lubricate jammed items – anyone with children knows that quite often they can get their small zippers in a bunch and jam it up to the point of not budging.
Coconut oil is a natural lubricant that can be applied in a small drop to a jammed zipper on a jacket or pair of pants to loosen it up. It even works as a means by which you can fix a bike chain that just won’t budge.
Gum removal – This is also a common problem when children play indoors and you find that a piece of gum has been stuck to your favorite chair or even tangled in a child’s hair.
Applying just a drop of coconut oil will loosen the gum in a solid piece without leaving a stain on the furniture. It will also help to slide the gum down the hair strands to remove it easily.
Dust Shield – Not only does coconut oil create a new-finish shine on surfaces such as wood, plastic, and even cement when it is used as a furniture polish, but it also creates a barrier to dust so that this tiresome chore does not have to be done so frequently.
Rust Fighter – You can take a soft cloth and rub a generous amount of coconut oil on silver or any other types of metals around your home to help with reducing rust.
This works especially well on any metal outdoor furniture that is exposed to all types of weather throughout the year. You can even leave the oil on the surface without having to wash it off for an additional shine to the surface.
Hand Soap – Invite your guests to use your homemade coconut oil hand soap in the guest bathroom. You can find recipes on line to do this or kits at your local craft shop.
Choose a variety of fragrances to add to the coconut oil bars and give them away in gift baskets at Christmas or nearly any other holiday you choose.
Coconut Oil Medicinal Uses
Coconut oil is made up mostly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) identified as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid.
These properties are what make coconut oil stand out from other types of oils because this gives it exceptional nutritional and medical benefits to anyone who uses it.
Most oils such as soybean, olive, canola, corn, and old-fashioned lard have what are called long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) that have very little nutritional or medicinal value in their components.
Blood pressure and bad cholesterol - Coconut oil is nearly 100% saturated fat which are Omega 3 fatty acids.
These types of fatty acids are considered far superior to vegetable oils in combating bad cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
Kidney and urinary-tract infections - The presence of the E-coli bacteria, certain fungi, and even viruses precipitate infections in both kidneys and the urinary tract.
Coconut oil has anti-microbial properties as a optimal Omega 3 fatty acid that alleviates this from attaching to the wall of the bladder and growing.
You can also drink natural coconut water to maintain a healthy urinary tract to keep the bad bacteria from accumulating and causing chronic infections.
Skin diseases – Coconut oil works to reduce the symptoms of the following skin conditions and even prevents them from returning:
Arthritis - Rubbing coconut oil on hands, elbows, knees, feet, and anywhere else where arthritis is flaring up will reduce inflammation and alleviate soreness and throbbing.
Osteoporosis – the MCFAs that make up coconut oil are rich in anti-oxidants that contribute to preventing the increase in osteoporosis.
A study done in 2012 at the University of Malaysia showed that coconut oil attacked the oxidative stress and free radicals in laboratory rats that cause osteoporosis and that it actually can preserve the human bone structure as it is absorbed into the bones and increases the production of calcium. (source)
Immune system - Coconut can by virtue of its MCFA properties remove parasites, bacteria, and viruses from your immune system. Just ingesting a small tablespoon on a weekly basis can boost your immunity.
Alzheimer’s – In 2015, the British Journal of Nutrition published a study that concluded that the MCFAs present in coconut oil are more easily absorbed by the human body.
They found that since this was the case, they are also quickly metabolized by the human liver which in turn converts them to ketones.
These ketones are the human body’s source of brain energy. They concluded that this is very important to the development of memory and in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. (source)
Hormones – The Omega 3 fatty acids present in the properties in coconut oil help to reduce strain on the thyroid and adrenal glands.
This takes care of higher cortisol levels in the system which may lead to depression, stress, anxiety attacks. Coconut oil also helps to balance estrogen levels for women experiencing menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings.
Diabetes - The ketones that are a by-product of the Omega 3 fatty acids in coconut oil help to manufacture the needed enzymes to produce insulin when a human pancreas cannot do the job.
It helps to balance the blood sugar levels in a diabetic who is on the verge of needing daily insulin injections. Although it does not take the place of insulin for someone who is in need of an injection each day as a Type II diabetic, it will help to prevent the need for this. It will also help reduce cravings for sugar.
Cancer - In a study at the University of Wisconsin, laboratory mice were infected with cancerous cells that developed into tumors.
Some of the same mice were given corn oil while others were given coconut oil. In the mice that were given coconut oil, nearly every one of them was found to have a reduction of their tumor while the mice who received corn oil had no change to their condition.
They concluded that the abundance of conversion of fatty acids to ketones derived from the MCFAs in coconut oil contributed to the reduction in the tumor cells. (source)
Coconut Oil for Dogs and Cats
There are many preventive oils for humans that cannot be used with dogs or cats. Not so with coconut oil.
It is a safe natural product that helps both dogs and cats to improved digestion, shinier coats, allergens, dental disease, and prevents many bacterial infections.
Coconut Oil Benefits: Studies and Research
Overall, coconut oil is a form of vegetable oil that has nearly 3% few calories than other oils of its kind.
Increasing "good" cholesterol: In 1999 at the symposium of the Asian Pacific Coconut Community, Dr. Mary Enig presented the findings of research done about the effects of coconut oil on cholesterol by scientists Kurpand and Rajmohan several years prior.
She presented their conclusions which were that there was an overall benefit to “good” cholesterol (HDL) in adding the coconut kernel to a person’s weekly diet. (source)
Controlling blood sugar: According to research doctors at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, when they took two sets of mice and compared fat metabolism and insulin resistance, they found that the group that was given coconut oil exhibited a much better sensitivity to insulin and had stored less fat in their system. (source)
Reducing stress: In a study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine in 2014, it showed that the Omega 3 fatty acids in coconut oil ingested in a virgin coconut oil extract act as a “functional food” with anti-depressant qualities which help with stress and anxiety. (source)
Preventing liver disease: In 2017, the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture published a study that showed the properties of the fresh coconut kernel when fermented, was shown to combat the onset of a fatty liver disease in mice known as hepatic steatosis. (source)
Reducing arthritis symptoms: An article published in Pharmaceutical Biology in 2010, discussed the positive aspects of virgin coconut oil extract in reducing the effects of inflammation due to arthritis as well as in the lungs for analgesic respiratory issues such as asthma. (source)
Weight loss: In a study done at the Dept. of Sport and Health Sciences at Oxford Brookes University in 2016, scientists found that consuming the MCFAs found in coconut oil contribute to higher satiety which results in far less cravings, food intake, and weight loss in general. (source)
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Coconut Oil Nutritional Information
Most people who hear the words “saturated fats” tend to panic and shy away from any foods that contain a large amount of this.
Coconut oil actually is made up of mostly saturated fats, but they are the medium-chain fatty acids that actually work well in breaking down in the human body.
The three components that make up the triad of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are as follows:
Lauric acid: Nearly 40% of coconuts oil is made up of this. This acid enters the body and is converted to monolaurin that helps to prevent viruses.
Capric acid: this makes up approximately 30% of the acids in coconut oil and its job is to interact with certain enzymes in the body, (like the ones in the pancreas that create insulin) and ward off bacteria as it converts into an anti-microbial product called moncaprin.
Caprylic acid: This makes up the final 30% of the coconut oil acid properties and they are also abundant in antimicrobial agents and anti-fungal properties as well.
A small component of coconut oil contains this type of fat. It is referred to as oleic acid and helps as an anti-cancer causing agent, specifically breast cancer.
Only half a tablespoon of coconut oil is nutritionally prescribed by doctors for this benefit and contributes to adding vitamins to your diet like vitamin E.
Linoleic acid is the type of polyunsaturated fat contained in coconut oil. Only 0.3 grams is needed in anyone’s diet to make up what is an essential fat for humans.
This is an Omega 6 fatty acid that contributes to proper brain function, healthy hair growth, and bone density with elements of vitamin K and iron.
Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil vs. Refined Coconut Oil
There are two types of coconut oil – refined and virgin. What differentiate them from one another is mostly how they are processed and the benefits that are derived from each type.
The refined coconut process begins with the extraction of the coconut corpa (meat) from the inside of the coconut. Oftentimes, chemicals are used to help with this extraction.
Then, the corpa is bleached with a clay product, heated at a high temperature, and then more chemicals are added to remove any lingering odors, foul taste, and contaminants that are present while the corpa is drying.
This sometimes leads to a hydrogenated version that turns the coconut oil into a synthetic trans-fat product.
Virgin coconut oil can be extracted in one of two ways: either it is quick dried or it is wet-milled. The quick drying process begins with the oil being removed by mechanical means.
The wet milling procedure is when the coconut milk is drawn from the coconut corpa with a press or even by hand in some areas of the world. The oil is then separated in this way from the milk through a boiling process that involves fermentation.
Most research is done with virgin coconut oil (VCF) because it is the least altered during the extraction process and without chemical additives.
They both have the same amount of MCFAs, but the chemical additives in the refined coconut reduces a multitude of health benefits to those that consume it.
Chemicals will break down many acidic components of the coconut oil and make it a less productive product for many diseases.
This means that the virgin coconut oil retains a much higher percentage of anti-oxidants, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties.
Coconut and Coconut Oil Facts
Final Thoughts About Coconut Oil
As you can see, there are many benefits and uses for coconut oil. Whether you want to use it for cooking or even to apply it on your skin. It is one of the most dynamic carrier oils that every household should have at least one jar (at all times).
Coconut oil is something that you can literally find a use for on a daily basis and when it is combined with essential oils, the benefits are even better.
So what are you waiting for, make sure that you pick yourself up a jar of coconut oil and start using it today in your everyday life.