Coconut oil has gained a lot of attention over the last few years for its innumerable uses and benefits, some of which may actually surprise you. Used throughout the world for centuries, coconut oil is finally making its comeback in the U.S. This simple guide will help you better understand what coconut oil is, which type to look for, and where you can use it throughout your home and in your life.
WHAT is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is commercially manufactured from the meat of a coconut. The oil is removed from the nut through a form of smoke drying, sun drying, kiln drying, a combination of these processes, or a wet-milling method. The heat-applied approaches are regarded as more refined, removing the oil from an already dried nut, whereas the wet-milling process is considered less refined, pressing the liquids from fresh, moist fruit. Coconut oil is high in fatty acids and antioxidants and has a wide range of edible and non-edible uses.
WHY Use Coconut Oil?
Regular use of coconut oil has been found to boost metabolism, improve immune system functions, act as powerful antioxidants, and soften and smooth skin. Coconut oil is widely beneficial in the kitchen due to its long shelf life and high heat resistance. As an antioxidant, whether taken internally or applied externally, coconut oil helps prevent free radical damage that often leads to aged, wrinkled skin.
TYPES of Coconut Oil.
Surprisingly, coconut oil manufacturing has fairly light regulations, so the terms associated with these oils are loosely based. A very basic understanding of each type of oil will help you determine which brand to choose the next time you go shopping:
Unrefined: Technically speaking, completely unrefined coconut oil is fresh from the fruit straight off the tree. Commonly in the industry, however, unrefined means the oil is extracted from fresh coconut meat rather than dried. Also, unrefined oil is not exposed to high temperatures that can remove some of its many nutrients and does not require the use of bleaching or additives.
Refined: This type of oil is produced from what is known as corpa, or dried coconut. High heat, bleaching clays, and a deodorizing process are used in the production of refined coconut oil. Some manufacturers use a chemical solvent to extract as much oil from the coconut as possible.
Virgin: There is currently no governing agency that controls the use of this term. Generally speaking, virgin coconut oils are less refined (the two terms “unrefined” and “virgin” are often used interchangeably) and expel oils from wet fruit rather than dried corpas. This process is believed to strip less of the nutrients from the oil and tests show that virgin coconut oil actually contains higher amounts of antioxidants.
Extra Virgin: Since these terms are not regimented by an organization, there is often no difference between virgin and extra virgin coconut oil.
Manually vs. Chemically Extracted: Manually expressed coconut oil (also called expeller-pressed) is considered a more optimal coconut oil compared to chemically expressed oils. Chemicals used for extraction can be harsh, unsafe, and strip many essential nutrients from the product.
Hydrogenated: This is the least favorable option for a source of edible coconut oil, in that the hydrogenation process can create small amounts of trans fats in the coconut oil.
HOW to Use Coconut Oil?
Now that you understand the basics of coconut oil, learning about its many applications is fun and beneficial. Coconut oil has a myriad of uses and here’s just a sample to get your wheels spinning:
In the Kitchen:
- Cooking oil with a remarkably high smoke point
- To season cast iron skillets
- Wooden cutting board conditioner
- In smoothies for a natural energy boost
In the Bathroom:
- Natural skin moisturizer
- Detangler for hair
- Face lotion with anti-aging properties
- Eye makeup remover
- In homemade deodorant
- Bath oil to soften water
In the Living Room:
- Healthy wood furniture polish
In the Bedroom:
- Go-to carrier oil for topical applications of essential oils
- Natural chapstick
- Massage oil
In the Nursery:
- Gentle enough for baby’s skin
- Diaper cream
- Prevent stretch marks during pregnancy
- Helps fight “cradle cap”
- Soothes irritable, teething gums
- Homemade “Vapor Rub”
For the Outdoors:
- Anti-itch treatment for mosquito bites
- Insect repellent
- Antimicrobial properties help heal cuts and scrapes faster
Now, who’s ready to do some experimenting with coconut oil?
 Marina, A.M., Mn, Y.B.C., Nazima, S.A.H. & Amin, I. (2009). Chemical properties of virgin coconut oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, Vol. 86.4, Pgs. 301-307.
 International Journal of Humanities and Peace. (2005). “Coconut Oil: the Low Calorie Fat.
 Shilway, B. (2014). What type of coconut oil is best? How to choose a coconut oil. http://coconutoil.com/what-type-of-coconut-oil-is-best-how-to-choose-a-coconut-oil/
Katrina Gelderbloem Non Toxic Hair, Nails & Skin Promoter
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