Coconut Oil

Medicinal Use of Coconut Oil: Pharmaceutical Potentials

The medicinal use of coconut oil is rooted in its rich history as a treasured ingredient in traditional medicine across various cultures for centuries. Derived from the meat of mature coconuts, coconut oil has garnered increasing interest in its pharmaceutical applications due to the scientific community uncovering its many ways of positively impacting human health.

Historical use of Coconut Oil

Throughout history, various cultures have harnessed the healing power of coconut oil for medicinal purposes. Traditionally, medicinal use of coconut oil has been widely utilized to treat ailments ranging from skin conditions and digestive issues to respiratory problems.

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Ancient Ayurvedic medicine, for example, has long recognized coconut oil’s ability to balance bodily doshas and promote overall well-being. In tropical regions where coconuts thrive, coconut oil was prized for its versatile medicinal applications. As modern research delves into the science behind coconut oil’s health benefits, its medicinal roots continue to inspire medical professionals and researchers to explore its potential in pharmaceutical applications.

What Chemical Compounds are in Coconut Oil?

To understand the potential medicinal use of coconut oil, it is essential to explore its chemical composition.

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Most of the fat in coconut oil is medium-chain fatty acid. Any fatty acid with chain length 12 and less is considered medium-chain fatty acid. About 7% of coconut oil is caprylic acid (C8), approximately 9% of the oil is capric acid (C10), and its lauric acid (C12) content is roughly 50%.

Lauric acid is known for its antimicrobial properties. Furthermore, coconut oil contains vitamin E, vitamin K, and polyphenols, which contribute to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory attributes. This rich nutritional profile provides the foundation for coconut oil’s therapeutic effects and pharmaceutical potential.

Does Coconut Oil Have Antimicrobial Properties?

Coconut oil has a very potent antimicrobial property. This is due to its lauric acid content, which, as mentioned previously, amount to roughly 50% of the oil. Lauric acid exhibits strong antimicrobial effects against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

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When ingested, our body breaks down lauric acid to produce monolaurin, a compound with powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties. Monolaurin is effective in combatting bacterial infections, including strains resistant to antibiotics. As antibiotic resistance becomes a global health concern, this medicinal use of coconut oil emerges as a natural and sustainable solution in the fight against infectious diseases.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Coconut Oil

In our daily activities, we may inadvertently feel stressed out, inhale pollutant, get overexposed to sunlight, or eat unhealthy diet. These experiences can result in oxidative stress, caused by free radicals entering the body. Given years, unfixed and piled up oxidative stress may become chronic inflammation. Although inflammation is body’s natural protective response to unwanted substance, it may lead to various health issues. Examples are cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, and neurodegenerative disorders.

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According to research, coconut oil can alleviate oxidative stress-associated inflammatory response. Another study highlights the importance of anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic properties of virgin coconut oil. Polyphenols isolated from virgin coconut oil also shows positive result in alleviating inflammation in rats. Hence, the anti-inflammatory potential of coconut oil paves the way for novel pharmaceutical applications in combating chronic inflammatory diseases.

Is Coconut Oil Good for Your Hair and Skin?

One of the most popular uses of coconut oil is in skincare and haircare.

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Its emollient or moisturizing properties helping to lock in moisture and prevent dryness. Additionally, coconut oil has been explored for its potential in treating various skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. In the realm of hair care, coconut oil may improve hair health by reducing protein loss, preventing damage, dandruff treatment.

Coconut Oil Pharmaceutical Use: Cardiovascular Health and Cholesterol Regulation

Common wisdom of maintaining cardiovascular health is to avoid saturated fat. As coconut oil contains 80 – 90% saturated fat, it is understandable if health associations suggest limiting coconut oil consumption. However, there are two types of saturated fat in coconut oil: medium-chain fatty acid and long-chain fatty acid.

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When coconut oil is stripped of its longer-chain fatty acid, it becomes the commercially known MCT oil. MCT oil generally consist of capric acid and caprylic acid. When paired with suitable diet, MCT oil can help lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL) while increasing “good cholesterol” (HDL).

Additionally, coconut oil’s primary fatty acid, lauric acid, has also been studied for its effect on cardiovascular health. Researches yield mixed result. Nevertheless, it is best to talk to your healthcare provider as each case differs individually.

Weight Management and Metabolism

Coconut oil’s potential role in weight management has caught the attention of health enthusiasts. Some studies indicate that the MCTs in coconut oil may enhance metabolism and promote feelings of fullness, potentially aiding in weight loss efforts.

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MCTs are rapidly metabolized by the liver, converting into energy rather than stored as fat. This efficient energy conversion can promote feelings of fullness, aiding in appetite control and calorie reduction. Additionally, coconut oil may enhance metabolic rate, leading to increased calorie expenditure and potential support for weight loss efforts. However, it is essential to incorporate coconut oil into a balanced diet and active lifestyle, as it is not a standalone solution for weight management. Consultation with a healthcare professional is advised, considering individual health factors before making significant dietary changes involving coconut oil.

Cognitive Enhancement and Brain Health

Researchers have explored the potential cognitive benefits of coconut oil, especially for brain health and memory. The MCTs in coconut oil are believed to provide a readily available source of energy for the brain, which may enhance cognitive function.

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MCT oil does not require bile for digestion. Unlike long-chain triglycerides (LCTs), which need bile produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder to be broken down and absorbed, MCTs are shorter in length and have a unique structure that allows them to be rapidly absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Once consumed, MCTs travel through the digestive system and are quickly transported to the liver, where they are metabolized and converted into ketones, providing an immediate and efficient source of energy for the body and brain. This quick and direct absorption without the need for bile makes MCT oil a convenient and easily digestible source of beneficial fats, particularly for individuals with compromised bile production or gallbladder issues.

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Ketones serve as a more efficient fuel for brain cells, especially in conditions of reduced glucose availability, such as during fasting or following a low-carbohydrate diet. This ability to supply readily available energy to the brain has led to studies exploring the use of MCT oil in addressing cognitive disorders and enhancing mental clarity and focus.

Furthermore, MCT oil has shown promise in supporting brain health through its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are known contributors to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some studies suggest that MCT oil’s fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the brain, thus potentially slowing down the progression of age-related cognitive decline.

Additionally, MCT oil’s ability to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria may indirectly influence brain health, as there is a growing understanding of the gut-brain axis and its impact on cognitive function. While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of MCT oil’s cognitive benefits, its unique properties and preliminary findings make it a promising area of study for those seeking to support brain health and cognitive enhancement naturally.

 Coconut Oil Pharmaceutical Use: Neurological Disorders

While medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil are known to provide ketones as an alternative energy source for the brain, there are other compounds in coconut oil that contribute to its potential therapeutic effects. One such compound is lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid with antimicrobial properties that may help combat infections that could exacerbate neurological conditions.

medicinal use of coconut oil: potentially aids neurological disorders

Moreover, coconut oil contains polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect brain cells from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation, potentially benefiting individuals with neurodegenerative disorders. Though research is still ongoing, the diverse combination of beneficial compounds in coconut oil offers promising potential for supporting brain health and managing certain neurological conditions. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating coconut oil or any supplement into a treatment plan for neurological disorders.

Digestive Health and Gut Support

Again, coconut oil’s lauric acid’s antimicrobial properties can aid in combatting harmful bacteria and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

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Furthermore, coconut oil’s MCT has a potential to promote a balanced environment for beneficial gut bacteria. These compounds, along with polyphenols that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, contribute to a comprehensive gut support package from coconut oil. Incorporating coconut oil into the diet can offer digestive benefits and promote a well-functioning gut, but as with any dietary change, it is essential to moderate intake and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.

Oral Health and Dental Care

Virgin coconut oil (VCO) offers a range of oral health and dental care benefits, making it a popular natural remedy for maintaining oral hygiene. The medium-chain fatty acids found in VCO, including lauric acid, exhibit potent antimicrobial properties, helping to combat harmful bacteria in the mouth.

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Regular oil pulling, a traditional practice involving swishing VCO in the mouth, has been linked to reducing plaque buildup and promoting healthier gums. VCO’s anti-inflammatory properties may also assist in alleviating gum inflammation and soothing oral irritations. Furthermore, VCO’s ability to support a balanced oral microbiome can contribute to fresher breath and improved overall oral health. However, while VCO can be a valuable addition to a dental care routine, it is not a substitute for regular brushing, flossing, and professional dental check-ups. Always consult with a dentist before incorporating VCO or any new oral health practices.

 Coconut Oil Pharmaceutical Use: Hormonal Balance and Women’s Health

Coconut oil may help with hormonal imbalance due to its fatty acid content that nourishes the gut, adrenal glands, immune system, and hormones. A healthy gut is crucial for hormone regulation. Moreover, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil help transporting the hormones to their target areas, enabling them to perform their functions effectively.

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A study conducted in the Philippines found that coconut oil predicts a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women, which supports an earlier study that showed a protective effect of endogenous estrogen with increased HDL levels and reduced LDL levels.

Veterinary Uses of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has various veterinary uses due to its beneficial properties for pets. When applied topically, coconut oil can soothe and moisturize dry or irritated skin, providing relief from itchiness and promoting a healthy coat.

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Moreover, coconut oil’s antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties make it a natural remedy for skin infections and minor wounds. When ingested, coconut oil can support digestive health and provide a source of easily digestible energy for pets. Moreover, some studies suggest that coconut oil may aid in reducing inflammation and supporting joint health in older pets with arthritis. However, it is crucial to use coconut oil in moderation and seek guidance from a veterinarian for appropriate dosage and application methods tailored to each pet’s specific needs and health conditions.

Integrating Coconut Oil in Modern Pharma

The growing interest in natural remedies has sparked curiosity about the potential pharmaceutical applications of coconut oil-derived compounds. Integrating traditional wisdom with modern science presents exciting opportunities for advancements in healthcare.

Read More: Lauric Acid for Pharmaceutical Industry


Coconut oil’s medicinal and pharmaceutical potential is a captivating field of research, with numerous studies showcasing its diverse applications in healthcare. From skincare to neurological disorders, its versatility has piqued the interest of scientists and health enthusiasts alike. As the understanding of coconut oil deepens, it may emerge as a valuable ally in promoting health and well-being.

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