| Coconut oil
is extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconut harvested from the
coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world it has provided the
primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for
Coconut oil is uniquely different from most other dietary oils
and for this reason, has found use in a multitude of applications in food,
medicine, and industry. What makes coconut oil different from most other dietary
oils is the basic building blocks or fatty acids making up the oil.
Types of oil available:
Virgin coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil
is produced from fresh coconuts (rather than dried, as in copra) with minimal
processing so that it retains a slight coconut flavor and aroma. Virgin coconut
oil is regarded as the highest quality coconut oil and is preferred for food
preparation and home medicinal use.
There are several ways to produce
virgin coconut oil, each of which can be processed under two general methods:
wet process or dry process.
In the wet process, coconut milk is made
first and then the oil is extracted from the milk. Coconut kernel is shredded,
mixed with a little water, and then squeezed or pressed to extract the oil. The
resulting oil/water mixture produces coconut cream or coconut milk depending on
the percentage of oil. The coconut milk is then allowed to separate naturally.
Since oil is lighter than water, the oil rises to the surface. This takes 12 to
24 hours. The oil can then be skimmed off. This is the traditional method of
making coconut oil from coconut milk and is the way many people make the oil at
home. Other methods incorporate heating, fermentation, refrigeration, or
centrifugal force to separate the oil from the water. Some minor heating is
generally done afterwards (often in a low temperature vacuum chamber) to drive
off excess moisture and produce a more purified product and to extend shelf
In the dry process the oil is extracted directly from the kernel.
The coconut kernel is first shredded and dried in an oven to about 10 to 12%
moisture. The dried, shredded coconut is then placed into a press and the virgin
oil is expelled.
The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), whose 18
members produce about 85% of the coconut sold commercially, has published its
Standards for Virgin Coconut Oil. The Philippines has established a Department
of Science and Technology (DOST) governmental standard.
Coconuts sundried in Kozhikode, Kerala for making copra, which is
used for making coconut oil
RBD stands for “refined, bleached, and
deodorized.” RBD oil is usually made from copra (dried coconut kernel). Copra
can be made by smoke drying, sun drying, or kiln drying. The dried copra is then
placed in a powerful hydraulic press with added heat and the oil is extracted.
This yields up practically all the oil present, amounting to more than 60% of
the dry weight of the coconut.
This “crude” coconut oil is not suitable
for consumption because it contains contaminants and must be refined with
further heating and filtering. Another method for extraction of a “high quality”
coconut oil involves the enzymatic action of alpha-amylase, polygalacturonases
and proteases on diluted coconut paste.
Unlike virgin coconut oil,
refined coconut oil has no coconut taste or aroma. RBD oil is used for home
cooking, commercial food processing, and cosmetic, industrial, and
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
RBD coconut oil
can be processed further into partially or fully hydrogenated oil to increase
its melting point. Since virgin and RBD coconut oils melt at 76° F (24° C)
foods, such as chocolate, tend to melt in warm climates. A higher melting point
is desirable in these warm climates so the oil is hydrogenated. The melting
point of hydrogenated coconut oil is 97-104° F (36-40° C).
In the process
of hydrogenation, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty
acids) are bombarded with hydrogen atoms to make them more saturated. Coconut
oil contains only 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated fatty acids. In this
process some of these are transformed into trans fatty
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil is a
fraction of the whole oil, in which the long-chain fatty acids are removed so
that only medium chain saturated fatty acids remain. Lauric acid, a 12 carbon
chain fatty acid, is often removed as well because of its high value for
industrial and medical purposes. Fractionated coconut oil may also be referred
to as caprylic/capric triglyceride oil or medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil
because it is primarily the medium chain caprylic (8 carbons) and capric (10
carbons) acids that make up the bulk of the oil.
MCT oil is most
frequently used for medical applications and special
Cosmetics and skin treatments:
Coconut oil is
excellent as a skin moisturizer and softener. A study shows that coconut oil is
effective and safe when used as a moisturizer, with absence of adverse
reactions. Coconut Oil is the source of two of the most powerful anti microbial
agents found in any food substances. These are Capric Acid and Lauric Acid. They
are the same acids that are found in mother’s milk and keep the baby protected
from infections. When these are applied on skin, some microbes (good ones)
present on skin convert these acids into Monocaprin and Monolaurin respectively,
thereby replacing the protective acid layer on the skin. Further, coconut oil
is a rich source of Vitamin-E. This keeps your skin healthy and ensures proper
functioning of sebum glands. Finally, Coconut Oil is soothing on skin and highly
penetrating. So, when applied on skin, it is absorbed readily. It also helps
heal any sort of wound on skin. And above all, Coconut Oil improves the rate of
metabolism. This also indirectly affects proper secretion and balance of
Fractionated coconut oil is also used in the
manufacture of essences, massage oils and cosmetics
In India and Sri
Lanka, coconut oil is commonly used for styling hair, and cooling or soothing
the head. People of Tamil Nadu and other coastal areas such as Kerala,
Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa bathe in warm water after applying coconut oil
all over the body and leaving it as is for an hour in the belief it keeps the
body, skin, and hair health.
Soaps and Detergents
Coconut oil has
long been regarded as one of the best base oils for soap, shampoo, and detergent
making. It produces a thick rich lather that is superior to other oils. Coconut
oil based soaps are prized because they can produce a foamy lather in any type
of water including mineral-rich hard waters and even seawater.
antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties of the medium chain fatty
acids in coconut oil, makes the soap an effective disinfectant. This natural
germ-fighting action eliminates the need to add antiseptic chemicals to the
Soaps can be made from any type of fat or oil. Soaps that are made
with 100% coconut oil are very cleansing and may even be too harsh on sensitive
skin, so most soap manufactures tone down the cleansing action by combining
coconut oil with other oils or conditioners.
Coconut oil is a natural
white color and produces a pure white soap. Other oils, such as olive, corn, and
palm many impart their natural coloring into the soap, producing green, yellow,
and orange colored products. White soap is often preferred because it is
perceived as an indication of purity and cleanliness.
Disclaimer: The information presented
herein is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not
been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or
prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements,
it is always advisable to consult with your own health care