There’s been a lot of hype about coconut oil lately, and there are so many claims being made that it sounds nothing short of a miracle. Well it’s really not a cure-all, and what works for other people may not work for you, but it still is pretty dandy to have around. With a little bit of resourcefulness and a dash of creativity, you can find over fifty everyday uses for it.
- Moisturize Your Skin: The very first thing on this list, before even delving into the “edible” benefits of coconut oil, has to be moisturizing. In lieu of your regular lotion, coconut oil delivers a refreshing, healing, burst of moisture that penetrates your skin and works to truly heal it (not just soak in and dry up!) It can feel oily at first, but that’s why it’s important to only use a little-it goes a long way. Give it a minute and it will dry beautifully. Use as you would regular lotion.
- Conditioner: When the teeny tiny overlapping plates that make up our outer hair shaft get rumpled and out of whack, coconut oil is there to smooth those tiny little cells right back into place, and hold them there. You can use it on your entire scalp/head for deep conditioning, but you can generally just use it on your ends, where it’s the hardest for the body’s natural oils to reach, and where the most breakage occurs.
- Make Homemade Soap: If you’re interested in soap making, coconut oil serves as a wonderful pure base that can simplify ingredients, add hardness to the soap, and help break down grease and oils. It can break them down so effectively, in fact, that too much will have a drying effect (when in soap form.) To prevent this, you need to “superfat” your soap-that is, adding more oil than the lye turns to soap. All you need is coconut oil, water, and lye. Don’t be shy of lye. While it should be handled with care, I find it essential to soap making, and it eliminates a slew of other chemicals that you would need to add to recreate its effects.
- Weight Loss: Coconut oil and weight loss-what’s really going on? Well, if you sit around eating coconut oil, you aren’t going to lose weight. However, if used to substitute other fats, it can help you drop the pounds by taking the place of those other calories. Unlike most saturated fats, it’s mainly comprised of medium chain fatty acids, versus long chain fatty acids. This difference in molecular structure means that it doesn’t get packed away as fat as easily and instead is sent straight to the liver to be metabolized, giving you a boost in energy. This energy in turn makes exercising easier, and the exercise in turn helps you lose weight. Another major factor that it plays is as an appetite suppressant. Craving something you shouldn’t be? Have a tablespoon or 2 of coconut oil, and that sensation won’t last long!
- Energy Booster: If weight loss isn’t your goal, just run with the fact (no pun intended) that it gives you a great boost in energy-and who doesn’t need some help in that department every now and again? Some people also feel it helps boost their mental alertness.
- Itchy Dogs: My pup has atopic dermatitis, also known as the world’s worst allergies. He gets goopy eyes, scabby ears from scratching them too much, and will literally scratch himself raw and bloody without treatment. In addition to his daily care regime, he gets coconut oil. From the inside out, coconut oil can help nourish the dry, irritated, or inflamed skin that is the result of the inappropriate response to various allergens. It did not cure him of his allergies, though there are people who say it has gotten rid of their dog’s allergies completely, but it does help reduce the itching. If your pup chews their paws and stains them red/pink/brown it can help in that department as well, as that is also a sign of allergies. Start with ½ teaspoon a day and work your way up to 1 tablespoon for 40+ pound dogs, and 1-2 teaspoons for dogs that weigh less. They usually go crazy for it!
- Fungal Infections: The medium chain fatty acids found abundantly in coconut oil are incredibly effective natural fungicides. In a (coco)nut shell, they naturally insert themselves into the fungal membrane, which is crucial to maintaining the life of the fungus. This destruction of the membrane leads to the destruction of the fungus as a whole and voila! The fungus is eradicated. It is important to be diligent with applications of the coconut oil until your symptoms have cleared.
- Cold Sores: Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, generally type 1, and as such they have no cure. If you harken back to science class, you’ll recall that bacteria can be wiped out, while a virus cannot. So how can coconut oil possibly help? It doesn’t wipe out the virus, but it can inhibit its assembly and how it spreads. Coconut oil contains a substance known as lauric acid. When combined with glycerol, it creates a substance known as monolaurin. Studies done so far have shown that monolaurin affects the lipid envelope of the virus, and prevents the virus from reproducing how it normally would. In turn, it is not able to spread as efficiently and tends not to last as long. Apply a bit of coconut oil directly to the sore several times a day.
- Coffee Creamer: In replacement of higher calorie coffee creamers (such milk and sugar) stir a little coconut oil into your coffee for a sweet (but not “too sweet”) and healthy touch. Make sure to stir it in well! If you notice it floating to the top, try stirring partway through your drink, or just add a little less next time. Make sure your joe is piping hot when you add it in, otherwise you might get some unwanted un-melted coconut oil popping up.
- Healthy Wood Polish: Most wood polishcoats surfaces in a slick layer of synthetic chemicals, which makes the wood look all sleek and shiny…for a little bit. Coconut oil, on the other hand, sinks into the wood and keeps it looking “healthy” longer. The appearance is much more natural, and it stays that way. It may not look as dramatic as a store bought polisher, but I find it a much more pleasant and effective option to keeping wood looking it’s best.
- Lower Cholesterol and Risk of Heart Disease: Cholesterol is a waxy substance found your cells, which helps continuously build more vital cells. It goes about its way through your blood stream attached to proteins known as lipoproteins. There are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL.) HDL is the “good” cholesterol-you want to lower LDL, but raise HDL. LDL carries cholesterol throughout your body and delivers it to organs and tissues. The problem is, if you have too much cholesterol, the excess keeps circulating. The constantly circulating LDL will eventually penetrate blood vessel walls where they build up plaques and narrow blood vessels, sometimes to the point blocking blood flow, causing coronary artery disease. HDL, on the other hand, picks up excess cholesterol and brings it to your liver to be broken down. Coconut oil, probably due to its high levels of lauric acid, will boost HDL. There’s no solid evidence saying that coconut oil alone will prevent heart disease, but there is solid evidence that it boosts HDL, therefore lowering cholesterol, and hypothetically reducing the risk of heart disease. Take ½-1 tablespoon daily.
- Reduce Risk (or effect) of Alzheimer’s : Alzheimer’s is devastating to all who experience it, whether personally or with a friend or family member. It is no wonder that we search so desperately for a cure. The word that coconut oil could possibly “cure” or prevent Alzheimer’s started circulating with vigor when a pediatrician published a book about feeding coconut oil to her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and got positive results. Other studies have confirmed that ketones, which are essentially “brain food” provided to keep the brain functioning when the body runs lower on glucose, can help improve memory, and potentially “reverse” the effects of Alzheimer’s. It’s a much more complex subject and process, but that’s it in a really wrapped up nutshell. The dosing that I have uncovered implies 2 teaspoons taken daily with food to help improve cognitive function.
- Soothe Fly Bites: Oh the sweet relief of coconut oil. When the black flies start biting, it’s the first thing to reach for. I use it the most on my horse come summertime to soothe any nasty bites that she gets, but don’t hesitate to dab a little on myself (or the dogs.) Just get a little on your fingertips and apply it directly to the bite.
- Oil/Butter Replacement: There’s no better way to get the benefits of coconut oil than to replace other less desirable fats with it. When cooking or baking, substitute it for butter or just about any oil. It lends moisture, freshness, and richness to baked goods, and a subtle complimentary flavour to savoury dishes. How much you substitute will depend on the recipe you are making. For baking, most people will fall in the 1:1 ratio or 80% coconut oil 20% water when subbing for butter. For basic cakes, cookies, and brownies I find 1:1 to be sufficient. When it comes to more complex pastries that get their flaky puffiness when steam is escaping, you may find yourself tweaking the amount a little. For oil substituting, subbing 1:1 is a good route to go.
- SPF Lip Balm: Lips are quite exposed to the elements, and it’s not like there are “lip scarves” or “mouth mittens” to protect them from the harsh world. One thing that’s especially over-looked is sun exposure. You should really apply sunscreen to your lips for full protection, but coconut oil also has a mild SPF protection. It can’t rival SPF 80 (indeed it has an SPF of about 4-6) but even that little bit can help. Apply some coconut oil just before heading out into the sun, and reapply every few hours. I like to melt mine down with just ¼ teaspoon or so of beeswax, as I find it easier to apply, and it has more staying power.
- Exfoliating Body Scrub: One of my personal favourite uses for coconut oil is serving as a base for body or face scrubs. You can melt some down, stir in some sugar, let it cool, and then use as is. Or, for a fun little project, melt down about a half cup of coconut oil and pour into a muffin tin, soap mould, or anything of the like, and stir in 2-4 tablespoons of white or brown sugar. You can add more if you would like the texture to be coarser. I usually let it cool some before adding the sugar so you don’t just dissolve the grains. Pop it in the fridge and let it solidify and cool completely before removing from the mould. Slice off a piece when needed and use it to gently scrub and exfoliate your face/body (dampen your skin with water first.) Rinse off, apply moisturizer, and resist the urge to use it again until later in the week, otherwise you run the risk of drying your skin out.
- Make-Up Remover: Make-up is on your face. Your face is something you would like to protect. So when it comes to removing make-up, don’t turn for harsher store bought products. Go instead to coconut oil, which gently and safely removes all traces of make-up (and leaves your face feeling healthy and refreshed.) Simply scoop some onto your fingertips (it will melt quickly as you use it) and rub it over make-up in a circular motion, rinsing with water afterwards to remove traces of makeup and patting your face dry. It works well with eye make-up, waterproof or not, as well. You can use a mild soap if you wish to remove all traces of the oil.
- Massage Oil: The benefits of massage are countless, and we could all use one now and again. Rather than using a heavy lotion, simply use coconut oil. You can add essential oils for scent if you like, but I find the smell of coconut oil alone to be heavenly. It also leaves your skin truly moisturized and soft.
- Nail and Cuticle Treatment: Cuticles get raggedy, nails get broken, chipped, or dull, and it’s not unusual for them to need some TLC every now and then. While there is a plethora of store-bought creams designed specially to miraculously make them look ready for a photo shoot, they are typically over-priced and filled with weird ingredients. This is where coconut oil comes in. Rub a little into your cuticles and over/around your nails to help smooth out flaws and encourage healthy growth.
- Diaper Cream: Got a little one with a chapped or irritated bum? Look no further than pure coconut oil. I prefer it over the hodge-podge of ingredients found in store bought creams-I like to know what I am putting down there! With its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral actions, plus its soothing and moisturizing benefits, it makes the ideal “DIY” diaper cream. For a little extra soothing power, try melting it with a bit of shea butter and whipping the two together after they have solidified some. Apply only as much as needed to affected area as you would any other diaper cream.
- Nipple Cream: There’s nothing more magical than breastfeeding…right?? As amazing as it is, you just can’t ignore the painful cracked or chaffed nipples that often times come with it. And if you need nipple cream, you sure as heck don’t want to be putting anything strange where your little one is going to be putting their wee mouth. After breastfeeding, and a couple of times a day as needed, gently rub a small amount of coconut oil on and around the nipple. After you finish breastfeeding, be sure to pat the area dry before applying the coconut oil.
- Fight Inflammation : Coconut oil appears to have a direct effect on suppressing the natural chemicals responsible for mediating inflammation. The studies that have been done on this action so far point to lauric acid and capric acid as the biggest contributors, both of which are part of the magnificent medium chain fatty acids found naturally in coconut oil (capric acid alone makes up roughly 10% on its own.)
- Leather Polish: Use a soft dry cloth to brush any excess dirt or dust off leather and apply a small amount of coconut oil, rubbing it in in a circular motion. There’s no need to go overboard here! Buff to a healthy shine with a soft cloth.
- Remove Chewing Gum: Why does coconut oil remove chewing gum? I don’t know, but I don’t feel the need to question it. Whether its ground into your carpet or your kid is panicking because they think they have to chop off a big chunk of gummy hair, coconut oil has a weird way of getting the stuff out. Most likely, it sinks in and just makes it so the whole glob glides out over the fibres/hairs easily. This is one case where you can feel free to apply liberal amounts. Rub it thoroughly over the chewing gum and let it sit for 2-5 minutes (or longer, if you deem it necessary.) Use a soft, textured cloth to wipe the gum away. Follow up with a mild soap rinse (or shampooing) to remove any excess oil.
- Shaving Cream: Nothing is more frustrating than lathering up with a bunch of shaving cream in the shower just to have to all melt off again as the water hits it. Luckily, water rolls right off oil, which means you have solid protection that allows your razor to glide smoothly over your skin. It also leaves it soft, moisturized, and safe from painful bumps and burns. Apply as you would any other cream before shaving.