illuminate skin and hair.
even aid in killing bacteria — all while keeping you
smelling like the tropics.
oil, that goopy saturated fat, is having its moment in the
thought used to consider coconut oil unhealthy; now that
research is proving otherwise, people are increasingly
interested in reaping its benefits. For starters, coconut oil
fats contain metabolism-boosting medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)
and lauric acid, which has antimicrobial effects and may be
able to increase good (HDL) cholesterol in the blood,
according to recent studies published by the National
Institutes of Health.
of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian tradition of medicine, are
particularly familiar with the effects of coconut oil.
has been part of Indian food and culture for thousands of
years and has a natural affinity to heal the body," says
Jay Apte, a doctor of Ayurveda, which focuses on diet and
balanced lifestyle to heal the body.
now that Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra talk about it, more people
are listening," says Apte, who holds a master’s degree
in pharmacology and sees patients at her Ayurveda and
Panchakarma Center in Mountain View, Calif.
National Institutes of Health studies should prompt more
discussion in Western medical circles. One, released in
December, shows that virgin coconut oil could help control
cases of the stubborn Clostridium difficile, an
antibiotic-resistant diarrhea usually acquired in a hospital.
Another pilot study, published this year in the Journal of
Alzheimer’s Disease, looked at coconut oil’s potential to
remove amyloid plaques that build up in the brain, causing
damage to neural pathways.
until a randomized, double-blind clinical trial is conducted,
it is not possible to know whether coconut oil has any
beneficial effect in battling Alzheimer’s disease.
Wallingford Homes, of Alamo, Calif., wasn’t looking for a
cure-all, just a way to brighten her complexion. A few years
ago, she mustered up the courage to ask her Guatemalan house
cleaner how she managed to look "so beautifully
answer? Coconut oil. Homes had a tub of the stuff under her
bathroom sink, so she dug her fingers into it and thought,
"This can’t be right." Several tubs and dozens of
compliments later, she is a convert.
put it in my smoothies to give me a boost," says Homes,
now 59. "I put it on toast instead of butter. I fry food
in it. I use it all over my body to seal in moisture right
after the shower. I think it’s given me radiance."
dermatologist Janet H. Prystowsky recommends coconut oil as a
makeup remover and cites a study published in the
November-December 2008 edition of the journal Dermatitis that
shows its effect on healing dermatitis.
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who have dermatitis are prone to picking up skin infections,
and because lauric acid has some antiseptic and antiviral
properties, it (coconut oil) could potentially help them avoid
that," she says. Same goes for dandruff.
is often the result of yeast organisms that love growing in
the scalp, so if you can minimize the presence of that
organism (with coconut oil), you might notice your scalp is
less itchy," she says.
intrigues the New York-based dermatologist most about coconut
oil is its potential benefits to the hair. She cited a study
published in the March-April 2003 edition of the Journal of
Cosmetic Science that examined damaged hair pretreated with
mineral oil and coconut oil. It found that the strands coated
with coconut oil had a decrease in protein loss.
think, anecdotally, it can help dry, coarse or curly hair,
too," she says.
hearing similar anecdotal chatter about "oil
pulling," the ancient practice of swishing oil in the
mouth, Pleasant Hill chiropractic nutritionist Gary Yaeger
started researching and experimenting with coconut oil
morning, he and his wife, a dental hygienist, chew up one
tablespoon of the oil and swish it in their mouths for 20
minutes. The benefits? They are numerous, he says, but depend
on the person and their health, says Yaeger, who has been in
practice for 20 years.
may notice teeth whitening and the antimicrobial element could
help them get rid of chronic bad breath," he says.
"It has for me."
Yaeger — and the American Dental Association, for that
matter — say that oil pulling is not a replacement for
flossing and brushing teeth. "If someone has a dental
issue, I will send them straight to a dentist, because we want
to get that looked at right away," he says.
the Ayurveda expert, recommends oil pulling — though usually
with sesame oil, since it is high in calcium — to heal mouth
sores, clean the tongue, and kill bacteria. "Practicing
it daily can also have a calming effect on the mind," she
Vandana Bali, of San Francisco, started oil pulling a year ago
— she sets her timer and swishes while preparing her tea and
breakfast — she says she is more alert in the mornings.
Also, she no longer wakes up congested. Then — her teeth.
went to my dentist this past August and didn’t say anything
about the pulling," says Bali, 45. "The first thing
she said to me was, ‘OK, what are you doing? Your gums are
pink. Your teeth are white. Your mouth looks super healthy.’
admits that she’s always had "good teeth" and that
using coconut oil has been part of a larger, total
transformation in her health and lifestyle.
became a vegetarian and practice yoga and don’t drink
alcohol or caffeine anymore," she says. "I think all
of these things, in addition to using coconut oil, allow me to
be in balance."