Coconut (Cocos nucifera)
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
- The coconut fruit comes from the coconut palm, which grows in tropical climates around the world. Coconut and coconut water are both often used for cooking. Coconut water contains sugar, fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Research suggests that coconut water can help rehydrate the body and restore blood volume after exercise. It may also be an effective moisturizer for mild-to-moderately dry skin and may help lower blood pressure.
- Some studies have shown that coconut lowers cholesterol. However, there are conflicting results, and more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Coconut water has been shown to rehydrate the body after exercise. However, larger-scale studies are needed to confirm this effect.
Coconut flour may help control high blood sugar levels. However, more studies are needed before conclusions can be made.
According to limited research, a coconut drink may shorten the duration of diarrhea in children. More trials are needed to confirm this benefit.
Limited research has compared the moisturizing effects of coconut oil and mineral oil for people with dry skin. Although coconut oil appears to be as effective as mineral oil, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.
According to results from several studies, coconut may lower cholesterol levels. More trials are needed to confirm this benefit.
|C||Hypertension (high blood pressure)
According to limited research, coconut may lower blood pressure. However, more research is needed before further conclusions can be made.
|C||Infant development / neonatal care
Limited research suggests that coconut may improve infants’ nutrition. More trials are needed to determine the benefits of feeding coconut alone to babies.
A mixture of coconut oil, anise oil, and ylang ylang oil has been shown to effectively control lice. However, more high-quality research is needed to determine the effectiveness of using coconut alone.
A mixture of soybean, coconut, olive, and fish oils was found to be effective for improving liver function. However, studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of coconut alone.
|C||Psoriasis (long-term skin inflammation)
According to limited research, significant effects of coconut oil as a therapy for psoriasis were lacking. More trials are needed before conclusions can be made on the effectiveness of coconut oil for this condition.
*Key to grades:
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
- Abscesses (pus), alopecia (hair loss), amenorrhea (lack of menstrual periods), antibacterial, aphrodisiac (sex drive), asthma, astringent (skin tightening), bronchitis, bruises, burns, cachexia (loss of appetite), colds, constipation, cough, diuretic (promotes urination), dysentery (intestinal inflammation), dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual period), earache, fever, gingivitis, heart disease, influenza (flu), insect repellent, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), menorrhagia (heavy menstrual period), nausea, pregnancy, rash, scabies (itchy skin caused by mites), scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), skin conditions, sore throat, stomachache, swelling, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid (bacterial disease), venereal diseases (sexually transmitted diseases), vomiting (blood), wounds.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
- To treat dehydration after exercise, coconut water has been taken by mouth.
- To manage diabetes, bakery products containing 50-250 grams of coconut flour have been taken by mouth.
- To lower cholesterol, oatmeal raisin cookies containing coconut oil have been taken by mouth in combination with lovastatin for six weeks. Lunches containing 60 percent coconut oil from fat have been taken by mouth for five weeks. Coconut oil has been taken by mouth with or without psyllium fiber for seven days.
- To treat high blood pressure, coconut water has been taken by mouth.
- To treat dry skin, virgin coconut oil has been applied to the legs twice daily for two weeks.
- To treat psoriasis, coconut oil has been applied to half the body before undergoing irradiation treatments.
Children (under 18 years old)
- To treat diarrhea, coconut water has been taken by mouth.
- In infants, massages using five milliliters of coconut oil have been performed four times daily during the first month of life.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
- Avoid using in people who are allergic or sensitive to coconut, coconut oil, coconut palm pollen, any parts of coconut, or members of the Arecaceae family.
Side Effects and Warnings
- Coconut oil, coconut flakes, coconut flour, and coconut water are generally considered safe when eaten or applied to the skin.
- Coconut oil may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
- Avoid in people who have cholera, dehydration, or kidney problems.
- Use cautiously in people who have high cholesterol.
- Coconut oil may cause allergic reactions in the lungs or skin and increased cholesterol levels.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- There is currently a lack of scientific evidence on the use of coconut oil during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Levels of a compound from coconut oil called lauric acid may remain in breast milk for 10-24 hours.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
- Coconut oil may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
- Coconut oil may also interact with cholesterol-lowering agents.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
- Coconut oil may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
- Coconut oil may also interact with cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements and psyllium.
- This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
- Agero AL and Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis 2004;15(3):109-116. View Abstract
- Alleyne T, Roache S, Thomas C, et al. The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby: two tropical food drinks. West Indian Med J 2005;54(1):3-8. View Abstract
- Antebi H, Mansoor O, Ferrier C, et al. Liver function and plasma antioxidant status in intensive care unit patients requiring total parenteral nutrition: comparison of 2 fat emulsions. JPEN J Parenter.Enteral Nutr 2004;28(3):142-148. View Abstract
- Fuchs GJ, Farris RP, DeWier M, et al. Effect of dietary fat on cardiovascular risk factors in infancy. Pediatrics 1994;93(5):756-763. View Abstract
- Hayes KC, Pronczuk A, Wood RA, et al. Modulation of infant formula fat profile alters the low-density lipoprotein/high-density lipoprotein ratio and plasma fatty acid distribution relative to those with breast-feeding. J Pediatr 1992;120(4 Pt 2):S109-S116. View Abstract
- Innis SM, Akrabawi SS, Diersen-Schade DA, et al. Visual acuity and blood lipids in term infants fed human milk or formulae. Lipids 1997;32(1):63-72. View Abstract
- Koo WW, Hammami M, Margeson DP, et al. Reduced bone mineralization in infants fed palm olein-containing formula: a randomized, double-blinded, prospective trial. Pediatrics 2003;111(5 Pt 1):1017-1023. View Abstract
- Lloyd B, Halter RJ, Kuchan MJ, et al. Formula tolerance in postbreastfed and exclusively formula-fed infants. Pediatrics 1999;103(1):E7. View Abstract
- McKenney JM, Proctor JD, Wright JT, et al. The effect of supplemental dietary fat on plasma cholesterol levels in lovastatin-treated hypercholesterolemic patients. Pharmacotherapy 1995;15(5):565-572. View Abstract
- Nelson SE, Frantz JA, and Ziegler EE. Absorption of fat and calcium by infants fed a milk-based formula containing palm olein. J Am Coll Nutr 1998;17(4):327-332. View Abstract
- Nelson SE, Rogers RR, Frantz JA, et al. Palm olein in infant formula: absorption of fat and minerals by normal infants. Am J Clin Nutr 1996;64(3):291-296. View Abstract
- Masa RL and Masa DB. The cholesterol-lowering effect of coconut flakes in humans with moderately raised serum cholesterol. J Med Food 2004;7(2):136-140. View Abstract
- Saat M, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG, et al. Rehydration after exercise with fresh young coconut water, carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage and plain water. J Physiol Anthropol.Appl Human Sci 2002;21(2):93-104. View Abstract
- Sunoto. Home prepared oral rehydration solution. Paediatr.Indones. 1987;27(11-12):237-250. View Abstract
- Svahn JC, Feldl F, Raiha NC, et al. Fatty acid content of plasma lipid fractions, blood lipids, and apolipoproteins in children fed milk products containing different quantity and quality of fat. J Pediatr Gastroenterol.Nutr 2000;31(2):152-161. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.