Fact-checked by Dr. Anthony Gustin, DC, MS

Written by Lauren Ciccarelli

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How many different coconut oil uses do you know?

Or do you still have no idea how to use the jar collecting cobwebs in your pantry?

We’ve all heard how beneficial coconut oil is, and a recent survey showed 72% of people consider coconut oil healthy[*].

But using it is another story.

And that’s totally not cool because there are over 2,000 studies on coconut oil’s benefits for your health[*].

Since this plant-based fat is cherished by vegans, vegetarians and ketoers alike, today we’re sailing the wide sea of coconut oil uses and landing on topics like:

So let’s crack this ‘nut and see what’s so special inside.

What is Coconut Oil?

Pacific Islanders refer to coconut trees as the “Tree of Life” because the coconut meat, water, milk and oil can be used for so many life-sustaining activities.

Unlike olive or avocado oil, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. It quickly starts to melt in your hands and becomes a liquid when heated.

Coconut oil is made by extracting the oils from the white meat of the coconut.

This specific process defines the different types of coconut oil you’ll find on the shelves. It’s also a pretty good indicator of the types of health benefits you can expect.

Virgin or unrefined coconut oil is widely regarded as the king of coconut oils. Here, the meat of fresh, mature coconuts is extracted without the need of super high temperatures or chemicals.

This process is known as “wet milling” because the oil comes from fresh, wet — not dried or dehydrated — coconut pulp.

You want this coconut oil because it contains the highest amount of antioxidants and MCTs.

Refined coconut oil goes through a much more chemical-heavy refinement process with lots of high heat. Manufacturers strip the coconut meat and then bleach and deodorize it so it hardly has any trace of the health perks you’re seeking.

Partially hydrogenated coconut oil is just like other types of hydrogenated oil — they contain trans fats and aren’t healthy at all. Avoid at all costs!

MCT oil makes up around 65% of the fatty acids in coconut oil. MCT oil is a concentrated amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and remains a liquid at room temperature.

Check out the average macros for one tablespoon of coconut oil[*]:

  • 121 calories
  • 14g of fat:
    • 12g saturated fat
    • 1g monounsaturated fat
    • 1g polyunsaturated fat
  • 0g protein
  • 0g carbs/fiber
  • 0mg cholesterol

As you can see, coconut oil is pure, glorious fat.

But what makes it different from other healthy fats like avocado and olive oil?

Medium-Chain Fatty Acids for Days

Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat, which isn’t the unhealthy monster we once thought.

Unlike fats from animal products like butter, which are made of mostly long-chain fatty acids, the saturated fat in coconut oil contains over 85% medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs).

Coconut oil houses three super healthy MCFAs specifically:

  1. Lauric acid
  2. Capric acid
  3. Caprylic acid

MCFAs are responsible for many of the health benefits claimed under the coconut oil umbrella.

And there aren’t many foods on the planet boasting this trio of awesomeness, which is why coconut oil is so prized.

See, when your body digests other types of fat, it has to go through a long process just for your body to be able to use it.

MCFAs don’t listen to that noise.

When you nosh on MCFAs, they make a beeline right for your liver. There, they’ll either be immediately used for energy (fantastic!) or turn into ketones for energy later (even better!).

They only need to jump through three hoops before your body puts them to work.

So that means MCFAs are:

  • Easy for your body to digest
  • An ideal source of fuel and energy
  • Less likely to be stored as fat

And don’t forget about mighty MCTs.

As we discussed in our guide on MCT oil, this unique type of fatty acid found in coconut oil is a much faster source of energy than other fatty acids.

MCTs boost your clarity and sharpness for a lasting mental and physical energy boost.

So what does all this mean for your health?

Coconut Oil Uses for Better Health

Find out how to use coconut oil for everything from protecting your heart to healing infections:

Using Coconut Oil for Weight Loss

Speed up your metabolism, suppress your appetite and lose more weight with these coconut oil uses:

Coconut oil uses

#1. Torch calories. MCTs aren’t just killer for your brain and mental energy. They’ve been shown to temporarily boost your metabolic rate too[*].

One study showed scientists participants could increase their calorie burning by an average of 120 calories in just 24 hours with a daily, yet low intake of MCT oil[*].

#2. Curb your appetite and eat fewer calories. Eating more fat helps suppress your appetite. The MCTs in coconut oil have been studied for their awesome ability to reduce hunger cravings and make you feel fuller faster[*].

The participants who ate the most MCTs at breakfast in one study also ate fewer calories at lunch[*]. And men eating the most MCTs in another study consumed an average 256 fewer calories each day[*].

#3. Lose fat reserves. When rats in one study were given caprylic acid, one of the MCFAs in coconut oil, their bodies broke down fat at a rate that seemed like they were fasting, or blazing through their excess fat reserves[*].

#4. Shrink your waist. You don’t need a waist trainer to lose a few inches around your midsection. Men adding two tablespoons of coconut oil to their diets lost one inch from their waist in just one week[*]!

And women in another study adding the same amount of coconut oil each day decreased their waist sizes too[*].

#5. Build muscle. You’ll find coconut oil and coconut milk in many muscle-building products and supplements, yet these use processed and artificial forms of MCFAs instead of the real deal.

That’s because MCT oil helps secrete insulin and insulin is necessary for building muscle[*].

So you can add a tablespoon of MCT oil or a scoop of MCT oil powder to your protein shake for maximum growth sans sugar.

While you’re working out those pecs, coconut oil also works out your brain.

Using Coconut Oil for Better Mental Health

When your brain runs on glucose, it needs insulin to get inside your cells to work.

The MCFAs and MCTs in coconut oil don’t need insulin; they’re turned into ketones which your brain cells can easily absorb and use ASAP for:

#6. A quick mental boost. A brain running on fat results in more efficient brain cells since they’re not waiting around for insulin. It also means less brain fog and more mental clarity[*].

Try this homemade energy drink and you’ll bypass the sugars found in store-bought versions and even sneak in a bit of fiber:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ tablespoon chia seeds
  • Water
  • Fresh lemon or lime juice

#7. Prevent and manage cognitive and neurodegenerative disorders. Besides giving you a shot of energy, coconut oil has also been studied for its positive effects on participants with:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease[*]
  • Epilepsy[*]
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)[*]

#8. Lessen symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientists believe Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is connected to long term insulin resistance and glucose uptake malfunctioning in the brain.

Since ketones don’t require insulin, they may be a better energy source for these brain cells. Switching to fat instead of glucose has been shown to reduce symptoms of AD[*].

And when participants with AD were given a drink containing emulsified MCTs, they improved their memory and recall ability[*].

Get Rid of Infections, Fungi and Bacteria Naturally

Easily absorbed, lauric acid turns into monolaurin to give coconut oil antiviral, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses[*].

Capric acid mingles with bacterial enzymes in your body and converts to monocaprin, a serious antimicrobial powerhouse to keep bad bacteria on guard too.

Even caprylic acid touts antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

These three hard-working MCFAs may:

#9. Keep your gut healthy. Studies show coconut oil can prevent an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast while also preventing the spread of intestinal bacteria Clostridium difficile, which causes intense diarrhea[*].

Fans say coconut oil can even promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut to help heal and repair leaky gut syndrome.

#10. Ban constipation. Coconut oil is able to penetrate your digestive tract, get rid of harmful bacteria, reduce bloating and keep your bowel movements regular.

#11. Prevent UTI and kidney infections. Instead of taking an antibiotic, which will totally kill all the good bacteria along with the bad, taking a bit of coconut oil every day may prevent UTIs and kidney infections.

#12. Cold sore treatment. Dab coconut oil where you suspect or have a cold sore several times a day to speed up healing and find relief from the pain. The lauric acid in coconut oil enters the virus to stop it from spreading.

#13. Insect bite and itch-relief. Coconut oil’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory nature may help reduce swelling, relieve pain and provide itch relief for bites and stings while decreasing the chances of infection when rubbed on.

#14. Better dental health. Have you ever tried the ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling? Basically, you swish around liquid coconut oil in your mouth like mouthwash while bacteria and leftover food particles become attracted and trapped in the fat.

Spit this mix out after 15–20 minutes and you may notice:

  • Less inflammation (gingivitis) and plaque[*]
  • Less Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which is responsible for plaque, gum disease and tooth decay, as swishing with traditional mouthwash[*]

#15. Treat yeast infections naturally with coconut oil. One study found coconut oil may be just as effective as fluconazole, the antifungal medication most commonly prescribed to treat Candida albicans, or the fungus causing yeast infections[*].

Coconut Oil Saves the Day for Ladies and Babies

In addition to treating yeast infections, coconut oil loves helping out women and babies:

#16. Prevent and treat pregnancy stretch marks. While the science is still out on this tip, many women report fading their stretch marks by rubbing coconut oil on their tummies during pregnancy and afterwards.

#17. Massaging newborns with baby oil helps them grow and gain weight normally, but one study says using coconut oil for this purpose helped premature babies gain “significantly” more weight in 30 days than those being rubbed with mineral oil[*].

#18. Natural nursing nipple cream. Instead of using Lanolin on your nipples, coconut oil provides natural, soothing relief that’s even healthy for your baby.

#19. Speed healing after birth. When applied directly to your perineum after birth, coconut oil has amazing wound healing and antibacterial properties to ensure an infection-free heal.

#20. Diaper rash relief. Rubbing coconut oil where your baby experiences diaper rash will help reduce the swelling, redness and burn to soothe away the tears.

#21. Balance your hormones naturally during menopause with coconut oil’s positive role on your estrogen levels[*].

Coconut Oil Uses for Better Hair, Skin, Nails and More

Instead of reaching for chemical-laced hair and skin products, let coconut oil be your new natural go-to for your beauty regime.

Coconut Oil is TLC for Your Tresses

Research shows only the unique structure of lauric acid found in coconut oil has the power to penetrate your hair shaft when other fats cannot. This results in less protein loss and damage during washing[*].

As New York City salon owner Nunzio Saviano explained to Today[*]:

“[Coconut oil] locks the moisture in. That’s what keeps the hair nice and healthy looking. When your hair is dehydrated, that’s when you get flyaways and it gets really frizzy.”

Armed with this intel, use it for:

#22. Coconut oil hair mask. Coconut oil is solid at room temp but becomes the best conditioner your hair has ever seen in the shower.

Just shampoo as usual, run your jar under the warm running water, scoop out a bit, apply to your hair and let it sit for at least five minutes before rinsing. Hello, moisture, shine and oh-so-soft touchability!

#23. Dandruff cure. There’s nothing worse than dandruff, which means your hair is crying out for moisture. Massage a pea-sized amount of coconut oil to your roots every night and wake up with fewer flakes.

#24. Add shine and frizz control. Unruly hair? Dull strands begging for attention? You could reach for pricier argan or moroccan oil, but coconut oil works just as well for a fraction of the price.

Just add a tiny bit to your fingers, warm it up and apply to the bottom half of your locks (so as not to weigh down your roots or make them look greasy).

You’ll fight frizz and add a layer of healthy shine. Some users even say their tresses grow longer and stronger the more they apply coconut oil.

#25. Ouch-free detangler. Warm up coconut oil between your palms and run it through wet hair before combing to get out all the knots and tangles.

Relieve Your Skin Woes Using Coconut Oil

Coconut oil isn’t just a miracle worker for your hair; it’s also one of your skin’s favorite ingredients too. Use it as a:

#26. Natural skin moisturizer. Skip the chemicals and alcohol found in commercial moisturizers by rubbing a bit of coconut oil on your warm, freshly showered skin and letting it penetrate.

Coconut oil has been studied for its dry-skin relief and has been found to be effective for skin disorders such as:

  • Dermatitis[*]
  • Eczema[*]
  • Psoriasis, or dry, rough, scaly, itchy skin[*]
  • Keratosis pilaris, or what’s commonly known as “chicken skin”. Coconut oil as a moisturizer has been known to alleviate some of the red discoloration and rough bumps.

Some users swear coconut oil has been able to lighten their dark spots when rubbed in as well.

#27. Body exfoliator. Mix half a cup of coconut oil with half a cup of salt or sugar and rub the mixture all over your skin to slough off dead skin cells in the shower. This mix moisturizes and leaves your skin feeling soft instead of dry.

#28. Cracked heel repair. Add extra sugar or salt to the exfoliator recipe in tip #27 to scrub off the stubborn dead skin on your feet and heels. Then apply a layer of coconut oil to moisturize and put on a pair of socks overnight while you sleep.

#29. Shave, soothe and prevent ingrown hairs. Coconut oil softens your skin and breaks down the barriers causing ingrown hairs. It also helps your razor glide smoothly to prevent nicks and cuts while moisturizing your skin in the process.

Bonus: You can also use it as an aftershave to calm, soothe and hydrate. And it also kills off bacteria causing razor bumps and infections.

#30. Lip balm for chapped lips. When you’re less than hydrated, your lips will be the first to let you know. Beat chapped, cracked and dry lips with moisturizing coconut oil. Stash a bit in an empty mint tin or contact lens holder for portability.

#31. Makeup remover. A teaspoon of melted coconut oil applied to your skin and then wiped away with a soft cotton cloth will remove even the most long-lasting makeup.

#32. Clear up your acne thanks to coconut oil’s natural ability to kill off the bacteria that clogs your pores and leads to breakouts.

#33. Undereye cream. Why spend tons on eye creams promising to moisturize your delicate eye area when you can rub warmed coconut oil there instead? Add this step to your nighttime routine to minimize puffiness, dark circles and wrinkles overnight.

#34. Cuticle softener. Do you pick at your cuticles because they’re dry and annoying? Rub coconut oil on them to hydrate and make your nails look healthier and shinier.

#35. Massage oil. Warm up coconut oil in your hands for a natural massage oil to spoil bae with a rubdown. Keep a separate jar of coconut oil by your bed and add a few drops of essential oil for pure aromatherapy bliss.

#36. All natural mosquito repellent. Skip the chemical mosquito repellents in favor of a more natural approach. Essential oils like citronella, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus and lavender when combined with coconut oil as a carrier oil applied directly to your skin can protect you from 98% of certain mosquito bites[*].

Cooking and Baking with Coconut Oil

Does cooking or baking with coconut oil make everything taste like coconut?

This myth is totally false.

Coconut oil is one of the most versatile, mild tasting cooking oils and can be used to:

#37. Improve your heart health and cholesterol by replacing unhealthy fats. Newsflash: saturated fat has a serious crush on your heart and wants it to stay healthy.

The lauric acid in coconut oil has been observed to not only lower cholesterol, but also reduce your blood pressure and keep your arteries more flexible so they don’t harden or clog up.

Coconut oil has been shown to raise your HDL or “good” cholesterol[*] and was even shown to reduce total and LDL cholesterol while raising HDL in another study[*].

Contrary to the canola oil myth, coconut oil can improve your heart health and lipid profile while consuming low-quality oils like canola and soybean increase your risk of disease and trigger damaging mechanisms in your body.

For example, commercial mayos use soybean oil — a heavily GMO product with possible hormonal interferences — as their base.

But you can replace that fat with avocado or coconut oil to create your own healthier mayonnaise, like this Healthy Keto Mayo recipe.

Or try using coconut oil in these keto recipes:

#38. Vegan-friendly fat and egg replacer. It’s not easy to be a vegan or vegetarian on a ketogenic diet, but it’s still possible. You can use coconut oil to replace the butter and eggs in most recipes.

#39. Upgraded coffee creamer. Coffee creamers are packed with sugar and artificial ingredients and offer nothing in the way of energy or health. Whip out your blender and add your hot coffee, a spoonful of coconut oil and whip it up. You’ll have a frothy, creamy treat — sans dairy —  known as Keto Bulletproof Coffee.

#40. Salad dressings made with liquid MCT oil instead of the soybean oil you’ll find in most commercial options will deliver a boost of energy during your midday slump.

Start With One Coconut Oil Use Each Day Until You Try Them All

We could wax poetically about coconut oil uses for another 40+ tips, but we know you’re busy.

So break open that jar and try one of our coconut oil uses today. Then work your way through this list to take full advantage of all the other stellar benefits coconut oil provides in your life.

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