Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called “The Tree of Life.” Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among around the world.
In traditional medicine coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems in humans, including the following: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhoea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumours, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds. But coconut oil is also safe to use for pets.
In his book ‘Coconut Therapy for Pets”, Bruce Fife says the following:
“What can you do if your cat has worms? Use coconut oil. What can you do about smelly doggy breath? Try coconut oil. What if your cat has an ear infection? Again, coconut oil. Believe it or not, coconut oil is a highly effective treatment for a wide variety of common health problems. For this reason, coconut oil has gained a reputation as a superfood—a food that provides health benefits far beyond its nutritional content.
Coconuts and coconut oil have a long history of safe and effective use as food and as medicine for both humans and animals. Most animals love the taste of coconut. Whether you own cats, dogs, ferrets, parrots, canaries, chickens, horses, goats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, or other animals, they can all benefit from the nutritional and medicinal properties of coconut oil.
Some of the many benefits include:
- Improves the appearance of the skin, hair, and feathers
- Reduces or eliminates body odour and bad breath
- Improves energy and balances metabolism
- Helps reduce excess body fat and maintain proper weight
- Prevents and fights bacterial, viral, and yeast infections
- Strengthens immune function
- Helps relive kennel cough
- Improves oral health and whitens teeth
- Helps ease allergy symptoms
- Sooths itchy or irritated skin
- Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
- Protects against digestive disorders such as ulcers and colitis
- Expels or kills intestinal parasites
- Helps keep blood sugar in balance
- Helps build strong bones
- Helps prevent and ease joint pain and ligament problems
- Speeds healing from cuts, burns, insect bites, and other injuries
- Protects against fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites”
Clearly, when we look at natural animal food or health remedies, we have to consider where and how we can use coconut oil!
Uses of Coconut Oil:
Coconut oil is an excellent conditioner and is one of the best natural nutrients for hair or coats. It helps in the healthy growth of hair and gives hair a shiny quality. It is also highly effective in reducing protein loss which can lead to various unattractive or unhealthy qualities in hair. Regularly massaging your pet’s coat with coconut oil will ensure that the skin is free of dandruff, even if the skin is chronically dry. I have used this with great effect on a pig that suffered with dandruff.
There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for heart health. This is because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats. In reality, coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as you commonly find in vegetable oils. Coconut oil does not lead to increase in LDL levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries.
As mentioned, coconut oil is an excellent massage oil for the skin. It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skin, including dry skin. The benefit of coconut oil on the skin is comparable to that of mineral oil. Fortunately, unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin from the application of coconut oil. Coconut oil therefore is a safe solution for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems such as dermatitis and eczema. For that exact reason, coconut oil forms the base ingredient of various body care products like soaps, lotions, and creams. Coconut oil also helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its well-known antioxidant properties.
Coconut oil is very useful for weight loss as it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning more energy and helping obese and overweight animals lose the weight; and with so many obese or diabetic animals nowadays, we certainly need all the help we can get! It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. It is also easy to digest and it helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and endocrine system.
Coconut oil is also good for the immune system. It strengthens the immune system because it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Coconut oil helps in fighting harmful bacteria like listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.
Coconut oil helps to improve the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion-related problems. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Healing and infections
When applied to infected areas, coconut oil forms a chemical layer that protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Coconut oil is highly effective on bruises because it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues.
Infections: Coconut oil is very effective against a variety of infections due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. According to the Coconut Research Centre, coconut oil kills the viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, and other serious health risks. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhoea. Finally, coconut oil is also effective in the elimination of fungi and yeast that cause ringworm, thrush, and certain skin rashes.
Coconut oil is strongly recommended for a number of other benefits that are explained below. Using coconut oils has been shown to mildly help the following:
Liver: The presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids helps in preventing liver diseases because those substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing the work load of the liver and also preventing accumulation of fat.
Kidney: Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases. It also helps to dissolve kidney stones.
Pancreatitis: Coconut oil is also believed to be useful in treating pancreatitis.
Stress relief: Coconut oil is very soothing and hence it helps in removing stress. Applying coconut oil to the head, followed by a gentle massage, helps to eliminate mental fatigue.
Diabetes: Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also promotes the effective utilization of blood glucose, thereby preventing and treating diabetes.
Bones: As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of the body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium and magnesium which are necessary for the development of bones.
Dental care: Calcium is an important component of our pets’ teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in developing strong teeth. Coconut oil also stops tooth decay.
Coconut Oil as a carrier oil: Coconut oil can be very efficient as carrier oil. Carrier oils are those oils which easily penetrate or absorb into the skin and thus facilitate seepage or absorption of other oils (such as essential oils) and herbal extracts through the skin when mixed into it. Due to its anti-fungal and anti-microbial property coconut oil keeps the oils, herbal extracts and medicines that are mixed in it protected from microbial or fungal interactions. It also does not alter the properties of the oils and herbs mixed within it. I often offer my dogs, cats and horses less palatable herbs/garlic (and any medication they may need to take) inside a nice blob of coconut oil- works a treat!
Varieties of Coconut Oil:
There are primarily 6 varieties of coconut oil that you will find on the market. These are pure coconut oil, refined coconut oil, organic coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, organic virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil.
Pure Coconut Oil: This oil is the most well-known. It is extracted from dried coconut kernels, which are also called copra. It is crude, unrefined and without any additives. It is mainly extracted by compression of copra in a mill, either driven by bullocks or by power. However, the variety extracted by bullock driven oil mills is preferred. Pure coconut oil has multiple uses such as edible oil, massaging oil, hair oil, cosmetic usage, as well as medicinal and industrial use.
Refined Coconut Oil: This is sometimes also called the RBD coconut oil, which is an abbreviated form for refined, bleached & deodorized coconut oil. As the name suggests, this type is obtained by mechanically and chemically refining, bleaching and deodorizing the crude coconut oil, to make it thin, colourless, odourless and without any type of particle (such as proteins) suspended in it. What we then get is only pure saturated fats.
Virgin Coconut Oil: Virgin coconut oil is derived from the milk obtained from fresh coconut meat, and not from copra, by processes like fermentation, centrifugal separation and enzyme action. Care is taken to use no or as little heat as possible in the extraction of this oil. Produced in this way, the oil tastes and smells the best and is laden with antioxidants and medium chain fatty acids. It also has remarkable anti-microbial properties. This is one of the most respected and trusted varieties of coconut oil.
Organic Coconut Oil: The coconut oil that has been extracted from coconuts obtained from coconut palms raised only on organic manure and no synthetic fertilizers or insecticides. The production of organic coconut oil is also completed without involving any chemical in its extraction or processing. This is another well-respected variety of coconut oil.
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: This type of oil is basically virgin coconut oil produced from the organic coconuts, in an organic way. This is perhaps the best and purest form of coconut oil one can imagine, but it is rare. I would suggest using this variety for internal /healing purposes.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Among all the varieties of coconut oil, this is the most challenged and controversial variety, as its very existence is doubtful and the name hardly makes any sense. Furthermore, there are no set standards for virginity of coconut oil. Moreover, reputed firms and governmental bodies are still hesitant to say anything on the matter, nor are they selling it. Basically, further research is definitely required.
The properties of coconut oil do not differ much with their varieties and remain more or less the same. So, think well and make a wise decision before you decide to purchase one of the varieties.
Food for Thought
We believe no house should be without this amazing product. Not only is it useful for making or providing natural herbal remedies for our animal friends, it’s really tasty and great for cooking too!