Coconuts are known for their immense versatility ranging from traditional uses in certain societies to modern uses, based on scientific analysis. They are the fruit of the coconut palm, and are grown abundantly in many tropical and subtropical countries like India. Coconuts are known for their large quantity of water, and when immature, they are harvested for this water which is very refreshing to drink and loaded with minerals. Mature coconuts still have a little amount of water, but by then the endosperm has formed a thick white kernel which is processed to yield oil. Coconut palms produce their first fruit in six to ten years, reaching peak production in 15-20 years. In ideal conditions, a single tree can yield 75 fruits in a year.
Coconuts are processed to yield both oil and what is called coconut milk. Coconut oil, an edible oil, is extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts. It has a high fat content, which renders it more resistant to oxidation or rancidity allowing it to last up to six months at 24 degrees C without spoiling. Its high fat content also makes its regular consumption a contentious issue, with most doctors advising against it.
However, in recent times, certain hidden benefits of coconut oil have come to light, vindicating its regular use without harm in some societies like Indian, Sri Lankan, Thai etc.
These benefits accrue to the cold pressed virgin coconut oil.
· Many skin specialists recommend coconut oil application for dry skin. As an excellent massage oil, it is a safe solution for dry and flaking skin, which are sometimes symptoms of skin problems like eczema and psoriasis. It is a soothing balm for most forms of dermatitis.
· It is excellent for hair growth and curing dandruff. It provides the essential proteins for nourishing and healing hair that is damaged.
· It contains lauric acid which is beneficial for the heart by reducing high cholesterol levels in the blood and preventing high blood pressure
· It is easy to digest. Hence it increases the metabolic rate and helps in weight loss. It is also beneficial to the thyroid and endocrine systems.
· It strengthens the immune system with its constituent antimicrobial lipids namely lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid which can fight harmful fungus, bacteria and viruses.
· Used as a cooking oil, it aids digestion and for the same reason above, it prevents any stomach infection caused by bacteria, fungus or viruses.
· It is believed to be effective in the treatment of pancreatitis
· It dissolves kidney stones and is considered helpful in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases.
· Bones and teeth are also thought to benefit from coconut oil on account of it improving the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium.
· Coconut oil controls the blood sugar and improves the secretion of insulin. Hence it is beneficial for diabetic patients.
· There is research to suggest that the oil is beneficial for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
· It is held that coconut oil is beneficial for cancer patients and people suffering from HIV.