Beneficial Uses Of Coconut Oil
What is the Cocos Nucifera
The Cocos nucifera is a tall coconut palm tree which can be found growing in a number of South and Southeast Asian including in countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Indonesia.
In the Maldives the symbol of the coconut tree can be found on the country’s national emblem plus it happens to be the national tree of the island.
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Why is the Coconut Tree Called the Tree of Life?
The coconut tree can grow as tall as 90 feet and bears delicious fruits known as coconuts. What’s interesting about the fruit is that it has three layers: a husk with a hard covering on its surface, a shell and fleshy meat (found inside the shell).
Each layer has a purpose and is not discarded but used to produce a variety of goods to help people in their day to day lives which is one reason why the coconut tree has been called the ‘Tree of Life’
What is a Coconut Husk?
The coconut husk which is the outer layer contains fibers known as coir.
A coconut which is fully ripe produces a brown color husk. Brown color husks are used for making products like brushes, doormats, as a filling for mattresses or as compost for certain flowering plants e. g. orchids.
Unripe coconuts have white colored fiber which is used for making ropes, strings and even nets to catch fish.
What is a Coconut Shell?
The shell is the second layer of the coconut which appears when the husk is removed.
The shell is used for making spoons, cups, figurines and is even burnt along with firewood to provide fuel for cooking.
Burnt pieces of coconut shells look like charcoal bricks and burns quickly.
What is the White Fleshy Part of the Coconut?
Inside the shell is the white fleshy part (mesocarp) of the coconut which holds the flavored water popularly known as coconut water.
The coconut flesh can be eaten raw or grated to extract milk and oil.
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What Nutrients are Contained in Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil has been used in many parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands in food and medicines since traditional times.
The Coconut Research Center claims coconut oil contains healing fatty acids called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which helps to reduce the risk of ‘atherosclerosis and heart disease.’
What is Refined Coconut Oil?
There are two varieties of coconut oil processed: refined coconut oil and unrefined coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil is also called ‘virgin’ or ‘extra virgin’ coconut oil.
Refined coconut oil is made from copra. So what is copra? When the white fleshy part of the coconut is dried its called copra.
Refined coconut oil is less expensive and made through the refining process called RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized).
During the RBD process the white fleshy part is first dried in the sun, in a kiln, or by sending smoke through it. Then the copra is bleached to get rid of impurities. The natural scent of the copra is also removed using high temperatures.
Refined coconut oil is mainly used in cooking since its impurities and strong odor have been removed.
How is Unrefined Coconut Oil Made?
One way virgin coconut oil or unrefined coconut oil is extracted from coconuts is through the wet-milling process
In the wet-milling process the fresh coconut flesh is first grated into tiny pieces. The coconut gratings are then dried using heat. Next it is pressed using a machine to squeeze out the oil.
Apart from coconut oil a by-product is also made during the process which is coconut meal. The meal has a high concentration of proteins and is used as livestock feed.
The wet-milling process is mostly used in countries like Sri Lanka and India.
Virgin coconut oil is more expensive since there are hardly any chemicals added to it and its natural state has not been changed during the processing period as refined coconut oil has.
Virgin coconut oil also contains higher levels of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) which makes it healthier than the refined kind.
Virgin coconut oil is mainly used for hair and skin care. The Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) or Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) are packed with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties hence making it a much sought after treatment to promote healthy skin and hair.
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How to use Virgin Coconut Oil for Healthy Hair?
To treat dry brittle hair and reduce hair breakage and split ends do the following treatment three times a week.
Wash your hair with a mild baby shampoo in warm water during your usual shower or bath. Then massage some virgin coconut oil onto the hair strands. Leave overnight and rinse off the next day with a mild baby shampoo.
How to use Virgin Coconut Oil for Healthy Skin?
To treat dry skin massage some virgin coconut oil onto the body after a warm bath or shower. Leave on for half an hour and rinse off with warm water.
You can also soak in a warm bath for 15 to 20 minutes which has 1 tablespoon coconut oil added to it to treat dry skin.
There are many articles on the internet suggesting the use of virgin coconut oil to treat acne, psoriasis and eczema. I strongly suggest you consult your health care provider/doctor before trying out such treatments.
© 2014 Suranee Perera