Imagine if there were an all natural oil that was great for cooking with, could improve the look of your hair, skin and nails, help reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure and deliver a large number of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Well actually you do not have to imagine because such an oil does exist – coconut oil.
Coconut Oil in History
Putting coconut oil to all kinds of different uses is hardly a new idea. People from all over the world have used it for cooking for centuries and the peoples of Africa and Asia have been using it for various medicinal purposes for just as long.
The coconut was given its English name by European explorers in the 1500s. When they first encountered this strange fruit the three holes found at the bottom reminded them of a monkey’s face, and the Spanish word coco means just that so the name seemed to fit and it stuck.
Where Coconut Oil Comes From
The coconut palm is fairly hardy tree but it does thrive only in tropical conditions. Although native to Southeast Asia and Polynesia over time they have also become prolific in India, all over South America, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii and Florida and California in the US.
It actually takes about a year for a single coconut to reach harvestable maturity but as the tree blooms 13 times a year there are coconuts available year round.
Oil can be extracted from a coconut in one of two ways. Dry processing extracts the “meat” from the shell and it is then dried, either in the sun or in a kiln until it becomes “copra”. This copra is dissolved by solvents to produce the oil. Wet processing is more difficult and expensive, it involves the lengthy boiling of raw coconut but many people believe that this method produces a purer, more potent product.
Cooking with Coconut Oil
In many tropical countries coconut oil is the cooking oil of choice. And these days it is gaining popularity with both American and European chefs as an extra ingredient to enhance the flavor of everything from cakes and pastries to vegetables and shrimp.
This is an oil especially loved by vegans, who consume no dairy products at all so cannot use butter in their cooking. It has been found that substituting it for butter in sweet recipes produces soft and flaky pastry, wonderful tasting icing and delicious cakes, all without the need to use any dairy.
Coconut Oil Benefits for Health
There are a lot of misunderstanding about coconut oil in regards to health because it contains saturated fats so therefore people tend to assume it must be bad for them. That is not actually the case though because there are what are called good fats and bad fats but many people do not understand the difference. Coconut oil has now, is in actual fact, been found to be very good for the heart. 50% of its fat make up is luric acid which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Oil from a coconut is also a great natural weapon against all kinds of infections especially throat and urinary tract infections. It can also be used to treat diaper rash and athletes foot.
A number of people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or even Crohn’s Disease have found that a daily dose helps relive some of their most painful symptoms, especially indigestion and constipation.
Coconut Oil Weight Loss Benefits
Despite its high saturated fat content coconut oil can actually be helpful to those trying to lose weight. It contains short and medium chain fatty acids that help stimulate the metabolism as well as promote healthy thyroid function. People who live in tropical coastal areas use it in their cooking on a daily basis and many of them say that is why there is a lower rate of obesity amongst their communities.
Another recently vocal fan of coconut oil for maintaining a healthy weight and general health is supermodel Miranda Kerr, who speaking to Cosmopolitan magazine said that she consumes at least four tablespoons of the oil undiluted a day, either on a salad or in green tea and credits it with helping her lose weight after the birth of her son.
Coconut Oil For Hair Health
Coconut oil is an amazing natural hair health care product. Regular massage of the head and hair with the oil soothes a dry scalp and helps prevent dandruff and it still leaves the hair softer and shinier than expensive chemical laden conditioners. It also helps repair damaged hair and restore its shine. Coconut oil has long been an ingredient in many shampoos and conditioners for this reason but the actual oil on its own is even more effective.
Coconut oil is also used in the Pacific to remove hair lice and their eggs, a far gentler solution than the chemicals many people use to try to combat the problem.
Coconut Oil for Skin Health
Used as a massage oil coconut oil is wonderful and soothes dry skin instantly. Those with psoriasis or ecxzema often find relief from their painful symptoms in this way.
Topically applied to the face on a regular basis it can help prevent wrinkles and soften the ones that you might already have, due in part to the large number of antioxidants it contains. Many acne sufferers also find that a regular light application of it helps reduce the redness and swelling of their acne pimples.
Organic Coconut Oils
Organic coconut oils, or pure virgin coconut oils, are created using the wet processing method described earlier in this article. Many oil users feel that organic coconut oil is purer than that made from the copra produced by the dry processing method. It is also said by many that its taste is far superior when it comes to cooking with, or consuming the oil itself.