Salubrious Ingredient: Virgin Coconut Oil

Salubrious Ingredient: Virgin Coconut Oil
One of my favorite oils to use is virgin coconut oil. For those of you who are familiar with a lot of my bath product recipes, you've probably noticed that I use it in everything from my homemade deodorant to my creams, body butter and lotion bars/lip balms. The reason why I enjoy using virgin coconut oil so much is because it is loaded with things that are great for the body. This post explains some of the benefits of virgin coconut oil.

What is virgin coconut oil?

Virgin coconut oil, like virgin olive oil, is oil extracted from coconuts in its purest, or close to purest, form. Often you will see labels that say "cold-pressed," which means the same thing. It means the oil was derived without adding any or too much heat to the process, which can change the molecular structure of the oil. Arguably, coconut oil that has been processed further and mixed with additional additives could be cheaper, but it may also contain a bunch of extra additives that you don't need, and may have lost many of its beneficial properties in the refining process.

If you're confused by the label, you can determine whether you have virgin coconut oil when the oil is white and of a solid consistency at room temperature, and becomes liquid and clearer in color at higher temperatures.

What's the difference between virgin and extra virgin coconut oil?

"Extra virgin" would imply that the coconut oil is even purer than simply "virgin" coconut oil. However, unlike olive oil, I have not been able to find any official standard for a difference between processing "virgin" and "extra virgin" coconut oil.

What are the characteristics of virgin coconut oil?

Virgin coconut oil is said to have antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a great oil to use internally as well as topically. It is also loaded with lauric acid, which, when ingested, is converted into a compound that has antiviral and antimicrobial properties that combats fungus, bacteria and viruses that could harm the body.

Virgin coconut oil also contains fat, but the good kind of fat. Specifically, saturated fatty acids, most of which are medium-chain fatty acids. Medium-chain fatty acids are beneficial because they increase the body's metabolism while also supplying it with good cholesterol. This is completely different than the kind of harmful fatty acids you might find in fried foods.

There is also vitamin E in virgin coconut oil, which as most people know, is great for the skin and hair.

What effects does virgin coconut oil have on specific parts of the body?

Skin becomes very supple and soft when virgin coconut oil is topically applied regularly. The beneficial properties of virgin coconut oil help rejuvenate skin cells, which in turn also helps lighten blemishes and fade unsightly scars.

When virgin coconut oil is applied topically to the hair, hair becomes highly moisturized and conditioned, preventing easy breakage. It also helps strengthen the roots and strengthens hair follicles, preventing hair from falling out. Just remember to only apply little, or to wash your hair thoroughly after application to avoid a greasy head.

Some people use virgin coconut oil in all of their cooking, others simply remember to eat a tablespoon a day. However, I would recommend sticking to using it for cooking rather than consuming it by itself, as I have not been able to find any definitive scientific research saying that eating coconut oil in large amounts alone is beneficial to human health.

However, if anecdotes online and some health blogs are to be believed, virgin coconut oil taken internally is said to help improve a number of bodily functions, including improving immunity by combating infections and inflammation. It also supposedly improves digestion and metabolism. On this, I can attest to from personal experience. After incorporating virgin coconut oil as a cooking oil, I have definitely felt my digestion and metabolism has improved.

Other things some people tout is that virgin coconut oil helps boost the function of certain organs, such as the liver and kidney, and protects against heart disease and high blood pressure.

As virgin coconut oil has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, it can be applied to closed wounds and injuries to keep the area properly protected and reduce the amount of scarring. However, do this as your own risk as it is a holistic approach to wound care, and I don't think medical professionals are comfortable recommending it. Yet, I used coconut oil to protect and care for wounds before and it worked just as well, if not better, than prescribed topical creams. Simply apply virgin coconut oil to the wound, wiping off the access, and cover it with a clean gauze. However, it is vital to remember to change the dressing often.

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