Science & Wisdom: Coconut Oil

A photo of coconuts cracked open
Photo by Irene Kredenets on Unsplash

The coconut (Cocos nucifera) is an incredible gift from nature that our human ancestors have honed ways to coax out and study the many properties that can benefit us when utilized appropriately. While that jar in your kitchen is great to improve the flavor, texture, and diversity of your meals, harnessing the benefits topically takes a little more wisdom than “open jar, rub on skin.” Luckily, it’s not (too much) more difficult than that.

For the past 5000 years, coconut oil has played a strong role in Ayurvedic medicine, benefiting the health of people native to the Indian Sub-Continent and surrounding areas. Mothers massage their children with coconut oil to give them strong bones and healthy skin free from infections and blemishes. Women condition damaged hair by applying the warmed oil infused with herbs before washing. Elders swish it in their mouths for oral hygiene. These days, the collective “info-mavens” of the internet (and the content-makers who copy and paste) will tell you that it can solve all of your problems.

Now that coconut has been well studied here in the west and “science” has given it the seal of approval by “proving” that it has properties that could benefit humans, wisdom (and her unrelenting ways) wishes to respectfully  remind us that just because a plant or substance innately has certain properties, does not mean they are immediately available to us in all forms and usages. Here is just a small sampling of the wisdom available to us from our ancestors that “making things easy and sellable” tends to overlook.

Scientific Benefit: Prevents free radical formation, removes damaged cells and encourages growth of healthier tissue

When infused with plant materials and bonded with water, occlusive oils, such as coconut oil, can penetrate into the lower layers of the skin. The oil soluble properties of the plants can help it prevent free radical formation, remove damaged cells and encourage growth of healthier tissue.  

Wisdom helps us to harness this benefit: We infuse 100% organic coconut oil with sustainably wildcrafted calendula and red clover in small batches. When infused with these herbs, coconut’s remarkable antibacterial and antioxidant properties are enhanced by the healing properties of calendula and red clover which makes it truly effective for soothing and bringing immediate relief to many kinds of skin ailments.

  • Calendula is known in the herbal world for being anti-inflammatory to skin and mucosa, a lymphagogue (meaning that it moves lymph), a vulnerary (meaning that it promotes healing of damaged tissue) as well as being antifungal and antibacterial.
  • Red clover is considered alterative and, like other alteratives, red clover is used to assist the body in removing metabolic waste products. One of the reasons why it is part of our Stress Bump for Chin Tea and Blessed Recovery Tea. This, in addition to its “blood-purifying” properties, indicates that it is useful on skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and other skin irritations that crack and ooze.

In addition, you can use herbs when you are cooking with oils–coconut included. Heat a little of the oil and add some crushed seeds. You can either cook your veggies in that (don’t forget a little acid–mmm, lime juice—to break apart the cell walls and release more available nutrition!) or pour that over your freshly cooked rice. Or both!

Scientific Benefit: Excellent source of lipids soothe and protect damaged skin and may even prevent premature aging

A black and white photo of the profile of a woman's bare shoulder, neck and chin
Photo by Lucija Ros on Unsplash

Healthy sebaceous glands supply the lipids we humans need to keep our skin elastic, wrinkle-free, and feeling fabulous. Coconut oil is also an excellent source of lipids which, when holding onto hydration sources (water) can moisturize the skin, relieving dryness and preventing flakiness. Ample moisture in the skin may also delay and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and sagging which can accelerate with age.

Coconut oil is believed to prevent premature aging and degenerative diseases because it has a unique molecular structure (medium chain fatty acids) and is the closest type of plant-derived fat to the incredibly healthful fats in human breast milk.

How wisdom helps us to harness this benefit: In order for coconut (or any oil) to be used to improve moisture or the skin’s natural lipid barrier, water needs to be emulsified into the oil so that it penetrates the matrix of the skin. You can do this by purchasing a lotion or cream that has an emulsifier or preservative to make it easy to use and shelf-stable or you can emulsify it immediately before application by spraying in a Mineral Mist (six pumps for each dime-size application).

Applying infused coconut oil to wet skin following a bath or shower is better than to dry skin, but when you put onto skin BEFORE a shower (after dry brushing…), the pulsing water from your shower helps it to both become a cleanser and a moisturizer and your skin will retain its own moisture better.

Example: For skin that is prone to dry patches and eczema, take a ½ tsp of infused coconut oil and put it in a small dish. Spray 6 pumps of Instant Alchemy Mineral Mist directly into the oil and mix around. It may tingle at first (especially if you are low in magnesium) but very soon it brings relief. For kids, we recommend using one of our herbal-infused Mineral Mists (like Sense & Sensitivity) if the tingle is too much.

Another example: Our Edith Rose Cream properly emulsifies organic coconut oil with pure rose water distillate, allows the skin to get the benefit of coconut oil without the irritation and potential barrier disruption that can happen when coconut is applied to the face neat.

Scientific Benefit: Disrupts and attacks malicious microorganisms

Modern studies show that specific lipids (particularly those available in coconut oil) can disrupt and attack viruses such as influenza, hepatitis C, herpes, measles; bacteria such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection; and fungi and yeast such as candida, ringworm, and thrush.

Around the world, coconut oil has been used in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections because coconut oil contains a large proportion of lauric acid—a saturated fat also found in sebaceous gland secretions. Coconut oil also contains a healthy dose of caprylic acid, a natural antimicrobial, algaecide, bactericide, fungicide, and antibacterial disinfectant.

How wisdom helps us to harness this benefit: When applied on wounds, it forms a barrier layer, protecting the area from dust, air, fungi, bacteria and viruses, while helping to heal damaged tissues. Our Infused Coconut Oil can also be applied over bruises, and is believed to speed the healing process significantly. If the skin needs moisture, apply a moisturizer (or our Moisture Duo) first and allow to absorb/dry. Apply the Infused Coconut Oil over the area-just where you need it.

Example: for a diaper rash, wash the baby’s bottom and dry completely. Apply a thin layer over clean, dry skin.

Beyond Science, There is Wisdom

Science is really good at taking things apart and seeing how they work. Science gives us some hints into why “folk medicine” has worked (or even not worked!) in the past. Beyond science, there is wisdom. Wisdom is knowing that just because science says we CAN do something, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily a good IDEA to do it. Wisdom is knowing that just because there are certain properties of a raw ingredient, does not make those properties accessible to us (as humans) simply because they exist.

Products Mentioned in This Article

Infused Coconut Oil
Instant Alchemy
Sense & Sensitivity Mineral Mist
Edith Rose Cream
Stress Tea Bump for Chin
Blessed Recovery Tea

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