Known in the Philippines as the “tree of life”, the coconut palm is an amazing source of food and medicine – virtually all parts of the tree can be used in one way or another for nutrition or healing.
The fruit of the coconut palm (i.e. the coconut) is probably the most widely used.
Coconut water comprises 95% water, and is rich in proteins, sugars and salts. It can be used as a diuretic, and as such is useful as a remedy for diarrhea. It can also be used for treating urinary problems and intestinal worm issues. In addition, this naturally sweet drink helps support the thyroid gland and is a great beverage for diabetics.
The flesh of the nut can be eaten as a food, and is often used in smoothies and raw desserts.
The Much Maligned Coconut Oil
Prior to the 1950s, coconut oil was widely used in the food industry in the United States, until coconut oil was mistakenly accused of contributing to the development of cardiovascular disease.
It seemed a Minnesota research then found drastic increase in rats’ cholesterol levels, after feeding fully hydrogenated coconut oil to the animals. The research probably sparked off the bad reputation of coconut oil as an unhealthy saturated fat.
Even though Harvard scientists later reviewed the study and concluded that it was not the coconut oil per se that contributed to the cholesterol changes, but the full hydrogenation of the oil to render it completely void of any essential fatty acids, the undeserved reputation of the nut-oil stuck till today.
The Cardiovascular-Protecting Benefits of Coconut Oil
This is really unfortunate, because coconut oil has been found in studies to not only NOT increase unhealthy cholesterol, it actually increases beneficial HDL cholesterol in the body. In addition, coconut oil actually helps increase the body’s metabolic rate and promotes weight loss. And contrary to conventional belief, (unadulterated) coconut oil can actually protect you from heart diseases.
The medium-chain saturated fatty acids in coconut, such as lauric acid and capric acid, can be converted in our bodies to compounds with powerful antiviral, antibacterial and antiprotozoal properties.
Studies suggest the benefits of these fatty acids (lauric acid is converted to monolaurin, while capric acid is converted to monocaprin) against viruses like herpes simplex 1, HIV and measles, pathogenic bacteria like H. pylori (often resistant to antibiotic drugs), as well as other microorganisms like ringworm, Candida albicans, and Giardia lamblia.
 Collins, Elise Marie. An A-Z Guide to Healing Foods: A Shopper’s Companion. San Francisco, California: Conari Press, 2009. Print.
 Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.
Cindy L. TJOL is trained in Psychology, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has several years of experience writing on natural health on the internet. Follow her on her blog and read her other articles at Insights On Health.com.