Is Coconut a Cure-All? Some Experts Say Yes

Coconut trees are plentiful in the South Pacific, so it’s no surprise that resourceful islanders in Fiji have been using their bounty for thousand of years to eat, cook, soothe their skin, condition their hair, and use as tableware — when hollowed out, halved and polished, coconuts make pretty good bowls, particularly for the national ceremonial drink called kava.

More significantly, recent studies have suggested that coconut oil — made by scraping the ripe coconut, squeezing its milk through a cloth, and leaving it for three days to separate into water, solids and clear oil — has exceptional healing properties that may help sufferers of everything from Alzheimer’s and thyroid disease to viral, bacterial and fungal infections.

Chef Lance Seeto, executive chef at 1808 Restaurant at the Castaway resort in Fiji and the author of “Coconut Bliss: A Memoir, Cookbook, and Inspirational Story of Life Living With an Ancient Culture,” is a big believer in the benefits of coconut oil. “It’s natural medicine, it strengthens the immune system, and can prevent disease and infections. It burns nontoxic and it’s better than processed vegetable oil, which may have a breast cancer link. It’s good for the brain,” says Seeto, who sips three capfuls a day. “There’s a reason the islanders don’t have as many food allergies, autoimmune disorders, diseases like diabetes. Genes play a part, but their diet has these healthy fats, and less dairy and gluten.” (It should be noted, however that coconut oil is high in saturated fat and is not low-calorie. One tablespoon contains 117 calories and 14 grams of fat, and 12 of those grams are saturated fat.)

Seeto, born in Papua New Guinea to Chinese parents and raised in Melbourne, Australia, settled in Fiji four years ago, after falling in love with the culture and cuisine. His Fijian-Asian restaurant’s recipes use a lot of local ingredients, organic herbs and spices, and coconut oil, with an emphasis on foods that are in season. “Mother Nature intended us to eat things at certain times of the year,” reminds the chef, whose TV show “Taste of Paradise — The Food of Life” can be seen in 11 countries in the South Pacific.

One of the more ubiquitous uses of coconut oil in Fiji is as a skin emollient, straight from the tree or bottled by Pure Fiji, which mixes it with botanical extracts like mango, frangipani, and passionflower and supplies it to all the major hotels. The company employs more than 500 people in seven villages to process the coconuts before the products are packaged locally in Suva. It also makes products for use in spas, such as a coconut oil and cane sugar scrub and coconut oil mixed with dilo oil, from the locally grown dilo tree. It’s the basis of the dilo banana wrap treatment, which is popular at spas like Baravi at the Yasawa Island Resort.

“It’s good for almost all skin ailments, insect bites, sunburn, rashes, cuts and wounds. It promotes healing,” says massage therapist Cathy Nukuse, who learned to use it as a child. We use it on our babies’ skin, and it helps pregnant women. We cut up the leaves in small pieces and put it in coconut oil. You can also pick the leaves and rub your hands together — the green liquid that comes out, you can sip that as a herbal remedy.”

Article by Gerri Miller



Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Years ago, the teaching was that coconuts were bad for you. Now they teach different.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

I think I need to get some coconut oil for my dry skin!

Pat P.
Pat P3 years ago

It's best if virgin/extra virgin, unrefined and organic, with some being cold-pressed, expeller-pressed or processed by a centrifuge. It should taste and smell good by the spoonful--like mild slightly sweet fresh coconut. It should be very white when solid and colorless when melted. Although it has a high smoke point, the less refined (meaning better), the lower the smoke point. It is a fairly stable oil, and doesn't become rancid quickly. Although not necessary, refrigeration will probably lengthen shelf-life while solidifying it, but will not take long to melt. I like Nutiva, although I haven't made a lot of comparisons.

Due to its popularity and trendiness, there are a lot of brands on the market and some pretty lousy ones--highly processed with a lot of chemicals and high heat. Many of them taste awful, and are less healthy. Watch out for additives. If it is hydrogenated (bad), it should be indicated in the ingredients list (not necessarily under trans fats, since the law in the U.S. allows anything under 1 g to be considered as having "0".

Like many trendy foods, multiple health claims abound--many unfounded. For now, it appears to have a lot of benefits, but, certainly, not a "cure-all". Just make certain you get the best ones--which, of course, cost more--and do your research.

Sonia Valencia
Sonia Valencia3 years ago

I need to buy me some coconut oil!

Dale O.

While coconut oil is marvellous for many things, I have to agree with Robert K and some others that there is no such thing as a 'cure all' for everything. I do enjoy the taste.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

Thank you. Bookmarked for further research.

Sharon Perry
sharon L Perry3 years ago

I love the coconut yogurt. yummy.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Donnie H.
Donnie H3 years ago

I use organic virgin 'unrefined' coconut oil for eating and baking some things, but it has a slightly sweet taste and a strong aroma. I use organic 'refined' coconut oil for cooking savory foods and use on my skin, because it has little taste and odor. I also use the 'refined' oil on my Sheltie's heavy coat, because it helps to comb out mats. I give her a bit of the 'unrefined' oil to eat. But she doesn't lick the 'refined' off her hair. It doesn't stain so works very well. 'Refined' oil also works to keep ice balls from forming on my dogs feet during freezing weather, too. I rub in all over the pads and between the toes.

Jane H.
Jane H3 years ago

I love coconuts!!