Coconut oil comes from the fatty meat of the coconut. It has been used in cooking and baking as a substitute for butter or other fats. Coconut oil has been used to promote heart health and to ease digestion. It can be taken as an oil or pill. Coconut oil can also be applied to the skin and hair. It has been used to moisturize and slow signs of aging and damage. Coconut oil has also been used as a mouthwash or toothpaste to promote oral health.
There are no advised doses for coconut oil.
What Research Shows
May Be Effective
Not Enough Data to Assess
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
It is likely safe for most adults to use coconut oil on the skin and to take it orally in small doses for a short time. Allergic reactions may happen in people who are allergic to coconut. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. It is also not known whether it is safe to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.
A. Alzheimer Disease
A1. de la Rubia Ortí JE, García-Pardo MP, et al. Improvement of Main Cognitive Functions in Patients with Alzheimer's Disease after Treatment with Coconut Oil Enriched Mediterranean Diet: A Pilot Study. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;65(2):577-587.
B. Atopic Dermatitis in Children
B1. Evangelista MT, Abad-Casintahan F, et al. The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol. 2014 Jan;53(1):100-108.
C. Coronary Artery Disease
C1. Cardoso DA, Moreira AS, et al. A coconut extra virgin-oil rich diet increases HDL cholesterol and decreases waist circumference and body mass in coronary artery disease patients. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(5):2144-2152.
D. Head Lice
D1. Burgess IF, Brunton ER, et al. Clinical trial showing superiority of a coconut and anise spray over permethrin 0.43% lotion for head louse infestation, ISRCTN96469780. Eur J Pediatr. 2010 Jan;169(1):55-62.
E. Oral Health
E1. Kaushik M1, Reddy P, et al. The Effect of Coconut Oil Pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2016;17(1):38-41.
F. Preterm Infant Support
F1. Nangia S, Paul VK, et al. Topical Oil Application and Trans-Epidermal Water Loss in Preterm Very Low Birth Weight Infants-A Randomized Trial. J Trop Pediatr. 2015 Dec;61(6):414-20.
F2. Pupala SS, Rao S, et al. Topical application of coconut oil to the skin of preterm infants: a systematic review. Eur J Pediatr. 2019;2:10.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
Last Updated: 6/29/2020
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