Most people think of coconuts as a great source of sweet chocolate bar and dessert ingredients. There is much more to this versatile fruit than that, especially when virgin coconut oil is extracted, as Henrylito D. Tacio reports.
20 August 2011, Davao City. Coconuts are variously described as “Man’s most useful tree,” “King of the tropical flora,” “Tree of abundance,” “Tree of heaven,” and “Tree of life.” Known in the science world as Cocos nucifera, it is the most important of cultivated palms and the most widely distributed of all palms. And it has entered folklore as a multi-provider.
One historian wrote: “A man sleeps in the shade of the tree. He is awakened when a nut falls, drinks the water, and eats some of the meat. He then feeds the rest of the meat to the chickens, which produce eggs, milk, and meat. The leaves provide thatch for the roof and walls of his coconut hut, and are also woven into hats, baskets, and mats.” In short, it does everything.
But the most popular product that comes from coconut is its oil. It is used as a basic ingredient in soap products, is a basic ingredient of toothpaste for sensitive teeth, can be applied to skin to treat insect bites and sunburn, can be used in cooking, and is even used as a drink in some regions.
But its use is being discouraged in Western countries as it contains highly saturated fats, which have been described as bad for the heart. But the fat in coconut oil is a medium-chain saturated fat that is easily metabolized into energy.
“These fatty acids are different from those commonly found in other food sources and are burned almost immediately for energy production, so they are not converted into body fat or cholesterol and do not affect blood cholesterol levels,” says Dr. Bruce Fife, a nutritionist and naturopathic physician who wrote The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil.
In the Philippines, one of the foremost believers of coconut oil was Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit. Described as the Father of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO), Dayrit asserts that VCO is sort of a drug “that regulates the body’s functions and defense mechanism. It restores the normal balance of tissues or cells that have become dysfunctional.”
Much research still has to be done on the benefits of VCO but preliminary findings and anecdotal reports are very promising. It reportedly removes toxins, manages diabetes, controls allergy, strengthens the digestive system, and enhances the immune system. Also said to be anti-viral and anti-bacterial, VCO is ideal for skin and hair care. VCO is also rich in lauric acid, an acid naturally found in mother’s milk that helps develop and strengthen the immune system of newborn babies.
How does VCO differ from common coconut oil? VCO is a naturally processed product from fresh coconut meat. It is the purest form of coconut oil, water white in color and free from heat and chemical treatments unlike ordinary coconut oil which has usually undergone refining, bleaching and deodorisation that give it no taste at all due to refining.
With VCO, the coconut meat is shredded, then “cold pressed” to get the coconut milk. After fermenting, the oil is separated from the curd.
According to a leaflet prepared by the Laguna-based National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH), VCO “is very potent against bacteria, yeasts, protozoa and enveloped viruses.” BIOTECH also says VCO is good for the heart, both reducing the risk of disease and helping lower blood cholesterol.
One big fan of VCO is Filipino columnist Conrado de Quiros. “Taking virgin coconut oil has not made my gout disappear, or lessened its visits,” de Quiros wrote in his newspaper column. “But it has made walking much easier, something I’ve been at pains to do for some time now.”
de Quiros likened his gout attacks to a car engine losing oil, which causes friction among the pistons. He speculates that the VCO is replenishing the lost fluids in his knee, but adds that “I personally don’t care; I just like what I’m feeling right now.”
If VCO is taken orally, about two tablespoons (of virgin coconut oil) will ensure your system has enough protection; that's about the same as one-half coconut and one glass of coconut milk.
If, like de Quiros, you like the idea of VCO repairing your body's damaged parts, you will join an increasing number of fans in natural food and vegan circles. VCO has even been featured in a New York Times article, which described it as having a “haunting, nutty, vanilla flavor” that also has a touch of sweetness. And if it does you good too, that can't be bad.