What can't coconut oil do? This edible oil, extracted from the copra or meat of a coconut, has done what most other food, beauty, and health trends have not: demonstrated real lasting power. Indeed, the "superfood" continues to make headlines, with its many uses the subject of debate, study, and fervent support. From the obvious (cooking) to the less so (home improvement), there are likely many coconut oil uses you're not yet aware of.
Around the house, coconut oil can be used to polish wood furniture, season cast iron skillets, or remove gum from hair. It can also be a sweet-scented WD-40 spray substitute. Health-wise, the antibacterial, antifungal properties of coconut oil make it perfect for soothing a sunburn, healing newly tattooed skin, or getting rid of an ear infection. Who knew?
There are two types of coconut oil: refined and virgin; and depending on what you're using the oil for, it could make a difference.
- Refined coconut oil: This is oil that's been taken from copra that's been sun dried or dried in a kiln; two processes that strip away some of the oil's nutrients as well as flavor punch.
- Virgin coconut oil: This is oil that's been extracted from fresh copra, before any drying process takes place. The result is an oil with a more pronounced flavor.
Coconut oil, both refined and virgin, is made up of more than 80 percent saturated fat, higher than butter, which is about 63 percent. This is the center of the whole pros-cons debate when it comes to consumption. For non-cooking uses of coconut oil, however, this debate is of no consequence.
There are many ways coconut oil can be used around the home, as well as in our beauty regimen and our daily health. These non-food uses are really what makes coconut oil stand out and have us question whether or not there's anything the plant oil can't do.
As we noted earlier, coconut oil can be used as a substitute for WD-40 spray. So long as you have a jar of coconut oil around, you have a way to fix a stubborn zipper or quiet a squeaky door. The moisturizing powers of coconut oil can also polish up our furniture and shine up a dull cutting board or cabinets. A natural product, coconut oil can bring out the natural colors of wood while eliminating the use of chemical-based cleaners/polishers in the home.
For quick DIY treatments and preventative care, look no further than your pantry for some coconut oil. Want to prevent a bloody nose in dry winter weather? Simply line the inside of your nose with the oil to keep your nasal membranes from drying out and cracking. Need a home remedy for skin irritations like eczema, a sunburn, or diaper rash? Just apply coconut oil to the inflamed area on your skin and let its antifungal properties take over. Looking for an energy boost? Relief for indigestion? A spoonful of coconut oil every day could be the solution you've been looking for.
Speaking of energy, the same remedy can be used for our pets. A teaspoon of coconut oil added to their water bowl could result in a more active dog or cat. As Dr. Colleen Smith, DVM, VCVA, CVCP, tells PetMD, "Coconut oil can increase energy levels, improve skin and coat, improve digestion, and reduce allergic reactions." As with our own consumption though, experts advise to monitor any weight gain in our pets, should we try this method of raising their energy level.
Another key to all of these coconut oil uses is the product's affordability. A jar of coconut oil isn't expensive at all, and when you factor in all of its possible uses, its value goes up even further.
Many of these uses fall under the body and beauty category, and while beauty brands have certainly jumped on the coconut oil train, there are plenty of ways you can use the oil on your own, straight from the jar. For instance, the health, wellness, beauty, and style magazine Self checked out nine uses and chose coconut oil as a makeup remover as its top hack. Meanwhile, the women's health monthly Prevention placed a spotlight on coconut oil as a simple, natural balm for dry skin.
For your DIY beauty coconut oil uses, consider it as a skin moisturizer (including a coconut oil night mask), a shaving cream replacement, or a salve. For your hair, coconut oil can be used to treat damaged or unruly locks, much in the same way as a hot oil treatment can. In addition to nourishing the scalp, coconut oil can coat the hair and protect it from losing sebum too rapidly.
As noted earlier, there's an ongoing debate on the food benefits of coconut oil. Though coconut oil is high in saturated fats, the kind of fat — medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs — aren't stored in the body and thus, those who swear by the oil will tell you that this is what makes all the difference.
According to WebMD, athletes turn to MCTs for "nutritional support during training, as well as for decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass." A popular source for these MCTs these days is the versatile coconut oil, which is hailed by fans for its fat-burning ability. This said, a recent survey by The New York Times, in partnership with the Morning Consult, found that the court of public opinion is vastly different from that of nutritionists when it comes to certain foods, among them coconut oil.
While 72 percent of the public would describe coconut oil as "healthy," less than 40 percent of the nutritionists surveyed could say the same (37 percent). Thus, when talking about the food uses for coconut oil, do some research. As in most all cases, it's always best to have as much information as possible to make an informed decision.
For recipes, we don't recommend slathering it on everything, but using it in moderation, for added flavor (e.g., drizzled on popcorn, a light spread on toast) and in a pinch, as a substitute (e.g., if you're out of butter or vegetable oil when baking).
Note that the melting point for coconut oil is 78º F, and thus at room temperature, it's a solid. Refined coconut oil is best suited for higher-heat cooking and baking, while virgin coconut oil is ideal for light sauteing and no-cook recipes.
As you can see, coconut oil has at least 21 miraculous uses, with new ones arising all the time. In fact, here are 21 more, which leads us to again ask, what can't coconut oil do? We can eat and cook with it, use it for body and beauty care, and improve our homes. Yes, well past the trendy stage, coconut oil looks to be the real deal, and in our lives to stay.