"MedicalWebPage", "FAQPage"

Coconut Oil: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more


Coconut is a simple fruit with multiple gifts to offer! It is also known as coco, nariyal, coco-da-bahia, etc. The scientific name of the coconut tree is Cocos nucifera (L.), and it belongs to the family Arecaceae. The plant originated from Southeast Asia and islands between the Pacific and Indian Ocean; it was brought to India and East Africa. The coconut palm is either utilized as a whole or in sections to produce milk, husk or the widely used coconut oil. Coconut oil is prepared by pressing dried coconut meat (copra) or fresh coconut meat. The oil prepared using fresh coconut meat is known as virgin coconut oil, and the one prepared using dried coconut meat (copra i.e. the dried brown covering) is called refined coconut oil. Coconut oil has benefits much more than you can expect. Here are a few benefits of virgin coconut oil and some special considerations to be kept in mind if you plan to include coconut oil in your diet.1,2 

Nutritional Value of coconut oil: 

Coconut oil contains various nutritional components including bioactive compounds such as that are given below:  

coconut oil health benefits
Nutritional components Value per 100 g 
Energy 833 kcal 
Fat 99 g 
Carbohydrates 0.84 g 
Calcium 1 mg 
Iron 0.1 mg 

Table 1: Nutritional value of coconut oil3 

Properties of Coconut oil: 

The consumption of coconut oil shows numerous scientifically proven properties. Some of these properties are mentioned below: 

  • It may have antioxidant properties. 
  • It may act as an anticancer agent. 
  • It might have anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • It may have anti-nociceptive properties, inhibit sensation of pain. 
  • It may have antimicrobial properties. 
  • It may have anti-fungal properties.1 

Potential Uses of Coconut oil for Overall Health: 

Some of the potential benefits of coconut oil are described as follows: 

1. Potential uses of Coconut oil on hair   

Coconut oil prevents damage to various hair types. Rele et al. conducted a review in 2003 to assess the effect of different treatments on hair. This study concluded that, among all other treatments, coconut oil was the only oil found to reduce protein loss for damaged and undamaged hair types. In addition, coconut oil is a triglyceride of lauric acid, has a high affinity for hair proteins, that can penetrate hair shafts due to its low molecular weight. This indicates that coconut oil may have a positive impact on hair. However, we need more studies to support these claims.4 

2. Potential uses of Coconut oil on lipid profile  

Coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid known to have several benefits. Teng et al. conducted a systematic review in 2020 to assess the effects of coconut oil consumption on lipid profile. The summary estimate of 12 meta-analysis studies showed that consumption of coconut oil increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL- good cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. A better lipid profile is demonstrated with the use of virgin coconut oil. This indicates that using coconut oil may improve HDL but can also have a harmful effect by increasing low-density lipoprotein. Therefore, more studies are needed to support the use of coconut oil in humans, especially those focused on virgin coconut oil.5 

3. Potential uses of Coconut oil for cancer 

Few studies support the anticancer role of coconut oil. Verma et al. conducted a study in 2019 to assess the in-vitro anticancer activity of virgin coconut oil in cancer cell lines in the liver. This study showed positive results for cancer cell lines treated with virgin coconut oil. In addition, the fatty acid component of coconut oil is known to target the liver by portal circulation directly. This indicates that using coconut oil may help manage liver cancers. However, more studies are needed to support these claims.6 

4. Potential uses of Coconut oil for Alzheimer’s disease 

Alzheimer’s disease is a prevalent neurodegenerative disease characterised by a decline in cognition. Jose et al. conducted a study in 2017 to assess the effect of coconut oil consumption in Alzheimer’s disease. The results of this study showed that the consumption of coconut oil had a positive impact on cognitive function. This suggests that coconut oil may help manage Alzheimer’s disease by improving cognition. However, more studies are needed to support these claims.7 

5. Potential uses of Coconut oil on bacterial, viral and fungal infections 

The antiviral and antibacterial properties of coconut oil are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. Khairiyah et al. conducted a literature review in 2017 on the nutraceutical properties of coconut oil, which suggested that consumption of coconut oil can have a positive impact on gram positive bacterial infections.  Imelda et al. conducted a study in 2021 to assess the effect of virgin coconut oil on Covid-19 patients. The results of this study support the use of virgin coconut oil by reducing C-reactive protein levels that may help manage viral infections like Covid-19. Additionally, the presence of caprylic acid and lauric acid may help in managing fungal infections. The above-mentioned studies indicate that consumption of coconut oil may help in managing bacterial, viral and fungal infections.  However, more studies are needed to support these claims.8,9 

6. Other potential uses of coconut oil 

  • Being a good source of polyphenols, it may help reduce inflammation and thus may have a potential to reduce gingivitis and plaque.10 
  • It may help in managing atopic dermatitis.11 
  • It may help obese individuals to manage body weight.11 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of coconut oil in various conditions, these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of coconut oil on human health.  

How to Use Coconut oil? 

It can be used in the following ways: 

  • Coconut oil can be used for cooking. Majority of the South Indian cooking is done using coconut oil. 
  • It is recommended to start with consuming 1 teaspoon of coconut oil daily which can gradually be increased after consultation with a doctor.9 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking coconut oil. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with coconut oil without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Side Effects of Coconut oil: 

A few side effects related to the consumption of coconut oil include the following:9 

  • Consuming coconut oil increases the level of low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol. 
  • Due to the presence of saturated fatty acids, excess consumption can be unhealthy and can increase the risk of stroke and cardiac diseases. 

However, if you experience any adverse reactions to coconut oil, it is advised to discontinue its intake and immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

Precautions to take with Coconut oil: 

Eating coconut oil is okay if taken in moderate amounts. However, general precautions must be followed in the following conditions: 

  • It is advised to avoid the use of coconut oil consumption during breastfeeding and in children, because the data regarding safety of its use is limited. 
  • People who have a high cholesterol should the consumption of coconut oils, as there are a few studies which suggest its use can increase bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein.11 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

There are no significant interactions of coconut oil with other drugs. However, you must always seek the advice of your Ayurvedic physician about the possible interaction of coconut oil with other drugs, and follow the prescription thoroughly, as they will know your health condition and other medications you are taking. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What is the scientific name of coconut? 

The scientific name of coconut is Cocos nucifera (L.), and it belongs to the family Arecacea.1 

2) What is the difference between virgin and refined coconut oil? 

The oil prepared using fresh coconut meat is known as virgin coconut oil, and the one prepared using dried coconut meat (copra i.e., the dried brown covering) is called refined coconut oil.2 

3)  Can coconut oil help in managing gingivitis?  

Studies show a positive result between the consumption of coconut oils and gingivitis, attributed to the presence of polyphenols which show an anti-inflammatory effect. However, more studies must be done to support this claim in humans. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor for proper treatment of gingivitis. 

4) Can coconut oil help manage liver cancers? 

Yes, in-vitro studies show that consumption of coconut oil may have a positive impact on liver cancers; however, more studies are needed to ensure this. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor for a proper treatment of liver cancer and do not consider consumption of coconut oil as an alternative to modern medicine.5 

5) What are the side effects of coconut oil consumption?

Consuming coconut oil in excess can result in headaches, nausea, swollen glands, dizziness, chills and loose stools.9 

You may be interested in: Dolo 650 uses and side effects


  1. Lima, E B C et al. “Cocos nucifera (L.) (Arecaceae): A phytochemical and pharmacological review.” Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas vol. 48,11 (2015): 953-64. Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4671521/
  1. Coconut oil (2021) The Nutrition Source. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/ (Accessed: November 28, 2022).  
  1. Coconut oil (no date) Coconut oil nutrition facts and analysis. Available at: https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Coconut_oil_82101500_nutritional_value.html (Accessed: November 28, 2022).  
  1. Rele, Aarti S, and R B Mohile. “Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage.” Journal of cosmetic science vol. 54,2 (2003): 175-92. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12715094/ 
  1. Teng, Monica et al. “Impact of coconut oil consumption on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition reviews vol. 78,3 (2020): 249-259. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuz074. Available at:  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31769848/ 
  1.  Verma, Poonam et al. “In Vitro Anticancer Activity of Virgin Coconut Oil and its Fractions in Liver and Oral Cancer Cells.” Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry vol. 19,18 (2019): 2223-2230. doi:10.2174/1871520619666191021160752. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31736449/ 
  1. De la Rubia Ortí, José Enrique et al. “Influencia del aceite de coco en enfermos de alzhéimer a nivel cognitivo” [How does coconut oil affect cognitive performance in alzheimer patients?]. Nutricion hospitalaria vol. 34,2 352-356. 30 Mar. 2017, doi:10.20960/nh.780. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28421789/ 
  1. Mat, Khairiyah et al. “Coconut Palm: Food, Feed, and Nutraceutical Properties.” Animals: an open access journal from MDPI vol. 12,16 2107. 17 Aug. 2022, doi:10.3390/ani12162107. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9405385/ 
  1. Angeles-Agdeppa, Imelda et al. “Virgin coconut oil is effective in lowering C-reactive protein levels among suspect and probable cases of COVID-19.” Journal of functional foods vol. 83 (2021): 104557. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2021.104557. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34055047/ 
  1. Garg, D.P. (2022) 11 evidence backed health benefits of coconut oil – pharmeasy, PharmEasy Blog. Available at: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/miraculous-health-benefits-coconut-oil/ (Accessed: November 28, 2022). 
  1. Wallace, Taylor C. “Health Effects of Coconut Oil-A Narrative Review of Current Evidence.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition vol. 38,2 (2019): 97-107. doi:10.1080/07315724.2018.1497562. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30395784/ 
  1. Coconut oil: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews (no date) WebMD. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1092/coconut-oil (Accessed: November 28, 2022).  

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

You may also like

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments