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Coconut oil

Coconut oil, including virgin coconut oil (VCO), is made from the expressed juice from the coconut ‘meat’ of Cocos nucifera. VCO may be prepared by the cold-pressed method, with the use of heat, with use of enzyme, and by other means.


Traditional and popular uses

Uses by the oral route include those for obesity, weight loss, cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, thyroid disease, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and to increase energy and boost the immune function (eg, in patients with HIV AIDS).

Uses by the topical route include those for dry skin, psoriasis, wounds, lice, and to prevent hair damage.,  


The US Food and Drug Administration considers coconut oil as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).

When used appropriately whether orally or topically in adults, Natural Standards considers it as likely safe. When used orally in amounts commonly found in food, its oral use in children and the pregnant and lactating mothers is considered likely safe as well.

It is considered possibly safe when used topically for children and neonates in short-term clinical trials.

There is insufficient reliable information about the safety of using coconut oil in medicinal amounts in children and during pregnancy or lactation.

Many health organizations (eg, US FDA, WHO, International College of Nutrition) advise against the use of coconut oil in medicinal amounts due to the high level of saturated oil.


There is insufficient reliable evidence to rate the effectiveness of coconut oil in the clinical trials reviewed for the following conditions: obesity, neonatal weight gain, coronary heart disease, hyperlipidemia, diarrhea, psoriasis, xerosis or dry skin, and lice.

Preliminary clinical research shows that twice-weekly application of coconut oil improves skin moisture in patients with mild to moderate xerosis.

Preliminary clinical research shows that topical spray containing oils of coconut, anise, and ilang-ilang had 92% effectiveness against lice, and seemed to be comparable with permethrin or malathion.

Population research suggests that higher intake of dietary coconut oil was associated with increased levels of HDL cholesterol, but was not associated with increased LDL or triglyceride levels.

Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. Dermatitis 2004;15:109-116.

Mumcuoglu KY, Miller J, Zamir C et al. Isr Med Assoc J 2002;4:790-793.

Romer H, Guerra M, Pina JM et al. J Pediatr GastroenterolnNutr 1991;13:46-51.

Feranil AB, Duazo PL, Kuzawa CW, Adair LS. Asia pac J Clin Nutr 2011;20:190-19


Coconut oil may be applied twice daily for dry xerosis or dry skin.

More definitive studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of the oral use of coconut oil for hyperlipidemia, and other medical conditions. No recommendation for medical/therapeutic use is appropriate at this time.

Coconut products, including coconut oil, maybe safely consumed in amounts commonly found in food, in the context of the adage eat a variety of food in moderation.