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Coconut oil- bad or good, benefits, Ayurvedic and contemporary views

Coconut oil is one of the most debated dietary substance for its benefits and hazards. Coconut oil is used in Indian customs since thousands of years. The Coconut oil is in use since the time of Sushruta Samhita, around 2000 years before. But recent Dietary guidelines for Americans categorizes coconut oil as a food to be avoided. In this light, a comprehensive all-inclusive discussion will be helpful to clear the air. 
Coconut oil-  Ayurveda details –

Coconut and coconut oils are widely used in Ayurveda, in the form of  -

  • Food ingredient
  • For external application
  • For internal administration.

Sushruta has described Coconut oil  health benefits as follows -

  • It is a natural coolant.
  • It takes relatively long time to undergo digestion.
  • Improves hair quality and strength. Promotes hair growth.
  • It is a natural aphrodisiac
  • Nourishes the under-nourished body tissues
  • Useful in the treatment of certain diseases like emaciation, debility, respiratory conditions, diabetes, urinary system disorders.
  • Coconut oil for skin: Quickens wound healing and helps in filling up of skin depression in wounds.
  • Calms Vata and Pitta, Supports Kapha.

There are a number of Ayurvedic herbal medicines with coconut oil as base, that are used predominantly externally and also internally for many health conditions.

Example: (Caution: Meant only for information. self medication is dangerous)

  • Asana Eladi Kera Tailam (Asana Eladi coconut oil) – useful in the treatment of skin diseases and disorders related to head and ear.
  • Chemparuthyadi Keratailam – useful in eczema, and pediatric conditions.
  • Dhurdhurapatradi Keratailam - Useful in dandruff, itching and eczema.
  • Eladi coconut oil – Useful in skin conditions.
  • Karpooradi coconut oil – pains, cramps, rheumatic joint complaints.
  • Kayyanyadi coconut oil – Used in the treatment of headache. improves quality of hair.

Contemporary views about coconut oil –

Different views regarding coconut oil -

  • Coconut oil is rich in saturated fatty acid, which is bad for heart and cholesterol. Coconut oil is considered under solid fats, and is advised to be replaced with oils wherever possible.
  • Coconut oil is a major source of Lauric acid, a fatty acid, which is claimed to benefit in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus.
  • Though coconut oil is rich in saturated fatty acid, there is structural difference. It is rich in medium size triglycerides.
  • Wikipedia enlists two clinical trials with coconut oil -
  • A single-blind randomized controlled trial on children with pneumonia at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center found that coconut oil accelerated the normalization of respiratory rate and resolution of crackles.
  • A randomized double-blind clinical trial with 40 women exhibiting obesity found that supplementation with coconut oil promoted a reduction in obesity without causing dyslipidemia.

Coconut oil is good or bad? Discussion and conclusion:

  • According to Ayurveda, coconut oil is nourishing in nature, when taken internally. Hence used in emaciation, debility etc.
  • Ayurveda also explains coconut oil’s benefits in respiratory condition, which is supported by the clinical trial proving its efficacy in Pneumonia in children.
  • Ayurveda hails external use of coconut oil to promote hair growth, wound healing, as natural coolant and in conditions like eczema.
  • Coconut oil is processed with medicinal herbs and used in many diseases.
  • Convincing research evidence is present to prove that coconut is not really the direct cause for obesity or high cholesterol. In Kerala, a southern state of India, coconut oil is used in almost all the dishes. (My favourite is Banana chips. Must admit, I love it. :) )If coconut oil was really the cause for obesity, Kerala should have been the abode of obese people, which is not the case
  • Having said that, it is not advisable for people with obesity and high cholesterol to include coconut oil in the diet.
  • For preparing hair oils, no other base is as good as coconut oil.
  • Other uses of coconut oil are – skin moisturizer & softener.
  • For a normal healthy individual, coconut oil is very good to be included in regular diet, but in limited quantities.
  • Use it in limits and enjoy its benefits.

Note: I do not believe or endorse ‘thin’ and ‘non sticky’ coconut oil for hair. Natural form of coconut oil is the best form to apply to hair or to skin.

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Dr JV Hebbar is an Ayurveda Doctor, Assistant Professor, From Mangalore, India. Click here to consult Dr Hebbar
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Comments

  1. Thank you. Very detailed Information….

  2. I’ve been thinking about adding coconut milk to my diet. Thank you for the article.

  3. Hi Doctor,
    Just wanted to check with you on the usage of Asana Eladi Tailam . Are there any do’s and dont’s for applying this oil on the head.

    Thanks.

    • Asana Eladi Tailam is an herbal oil prepared in sesame oil base. It is used for the application over head for the treatment of diseases like earache, headache, giddiness, and other diseases related to eyes, nose and throat. There are no big do’s and don’ts while using this oil. Just follow the doctor’s instructions.

  4. I am told oil extracted from fresh coconut or coconut milk has totally different properties from the oil extracted from copra (dried coconut). Is this true? Which one should we use?

    • The one prepared with fresh coconuts has more benefits than the coconut oil prepared with copras. Because The drying of copras is often done very rapidly with high temperatures. And copra-coconut oils are edible only after refining, bleaching and deodorizing.

  5. abhijit nair says:

    Sir,
    i have problem of hair loss. is there any problem if i apply eladi coconut oil on head?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      There are no problem or apparent side effect with applying eladi coconut oil. But it is usually not used for hair loss. Consult your Ayurvedic doctor for an advice.

  6. Can pregnant women use eladi coconut oil ?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Yes, it can be used for external application, for a very limited time period, in small quantities.

  7. Shereefa says:

    Thankyou for this lovely article. Is coconut oil good for massage and skin care routine for vata dominant people?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Because coconut oil is natural coolant, and Vata has coldness as one of its qualities, in cold condition, it is best to avoid in Vata imbalance conditions. If it is heated a little, then it is useful in vata dominant people.

  8. Can eladi kera thailam be used as a daily massage oil for skin on the face and body?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Yes, it can be used as daily massage oil. If you find it costly for daily use, you can mix equal quantity of sesame oil / coconut oil to it.

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