Coconut oil is something we”ve mentioned in a variety of posts around here, and that”s because it”s just that useful and versatile, beneficial in both the kitchen and the bathroom. Today I wanted to give you a go-to guide on the basics of coconut oil and some favorite uses.

Health Benefits

Years ago branded a no-no, along with other saturated fats, coconut oil has been making a comeback as many of those claims have now been refuted. It can now be seen as an essential element to a healthy diet due to its antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, which come from it being one of our best sources (besides breast milk) for the saturated fatty acid, lauric acid. It is also slow to oxidize and thus very (naturally) shelf-stable and not prone to rancidity.

Additionally, in Nourishing Traditions

, Sally Fallon points out that, “coconut oil, like butter, promotes normal brain development, is less likely to cause weight gain than polyunsaturated oils, contributes to strong bones and has anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial effects.”

Virgin coconut oil makes my hot list for the simple reason that it is a traditional, nourishing fat, rather than an industrialized, hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oil. Industrial oils may be less expensive, but herein lies a perfect example of you get what you pay for. For me, the benefits and versatility outweigh the cost of coconut oil by a landslide.

Photo by Shutterstock

Ways to Use Coconut Oil

The more I read, research and experience, the more amazingly never-ending this list seems! Coconut oil can be used:

  • as a moisturizer {I use it daily on my face}
  • to control frizzy hair– just a dab in my wet hair keeps my little frizzies by my temples under control
  • as an ingredient in homemade deodorant
  • as a digestion aid~ a spoonful a day seems to help keep constipation away {I used this with my daughter when she was younger and she still asks for it when she sees me cooking/baking with it}
  • in place of other oils {such as canola and vegetable} in cooking/baking
  • to grease the pan {perfect for pancakes and waffles}
  • frying {mmm, think coconut shrimp!}
  • in place of shortening or even butter, if you happen to run out
  • for popping popcorn {I”ve yet to try this but heard it”s delicious!}
  • to promote healthy milk supply in nursing mothers
  • as a lubricant in the bedroom {with the added benefit of being antiviral to fight yeast infections– just don’t use in conjunction with latex}

A Few More Notes

Coconut oil has a melting temperature of just 76 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning, that in the summer the jar in my medicine cabinet is liquid and makes for a luxurious after-shower body oil. In the winter, it stays solid, and works more like a pomade that begins to melt with with just the body heat from your fingertips. When used sparingly, it absorbs fairly quickly, leaving your skin silky but not too greasy.

To use in recipes calling for a liquid oil, I simply melt the oil first before mixing (and whisking it in). A silicone brush dipped into a spoonful of the oil, even in its solid form, works great on a hot pan or griddle.

Unrefined virgin (and cold-pressed) is best for eating, since processing is what damages nutrients in all vegetable oils. Refined is fine for personal care use.

In my opinion, the diversity that can be seen in one simple ingredient with its myriad benefits and uses is a true testament to getting back to nature and back to basics, to the way things were created and designed to be used.

More information:

What”s your favorite way to use coconut oil? What new use to you want to explore?