The Wonders of Coconut Oil

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?


Nicole lives near the beach in Southern California with her husband and three young kiddos. She writes a a lifestyle blog about creativity, family life, community, and all sorts of other fun stuff, and also keeps a homeschool journal called The Bennettar Academy. Her most recent (free!) ebook is about why and how to make more time for reading.

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  1. We became huge fans of coconut oil this year with the birth of our son. I originally got it as a diaper rash cream that’s safe to use with cloth diapers, but now enjoy cooking with it, using it as a lotion and plan to try making my own deodorant soon! Great post.

  2. I like to use it in homemade deodorant and as a moisturizer.

  3. We use it in deodorant, as moisturizer, in cooking and baking (it’s the only oil we will use in cooking and/or baking unless it’s very low heat and then we use olive oil, as well), and yes, it is fabulous for popcorn!!! 🙂

  4. I’ll give an Amen to using it for making popcorn on the stove! Veery yummy.

  5. What wonderful stuff! 🙂

    I’ve never heard of using it for making popcorn before, but I’m going to give it a try. Sounds wonderful!

  6. I am another lover of coconut oil. I just tried it with popcorn the other night and have to tell you that it not only made the popcorn very yummy, it also enabled more of the kernels to pop so we had more popcorn to enjoy. It is a great oil. And I too use it on my face as a moisturizer.

  7. I use it to make deodorant and in cooking/baking. I love roasting vegetables in the oven with it and using them in Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables from Deliciously Organic. Yum! I’ll have to try some of these other uses you mentioned!

  8. It also is a great natural replacement for products such as Ky-Jelly and other lubricants. 🙂 Massages with it are lovely!

  9. I use it for soap making. My daughter cooks with it and I think I will start cooking with it as well.

  10. I bought some coconut oil to slowly start making the switch to it a few months ago, thinking it might be difficult to get used to for some reason. I liked the coconut oil so much that we are using it for everything that calls for oil now! Its great to use to oil your cast iron cookware too. I also make hard lotion bars with it (besides the deodorant and moisturizer.). I love when a product is so versatile!

  11. Duquesa Lamers says:

    You said to encourage a healthy milk supply in nursing mothers…..would you just take a spoonful a day for that or what?
    I was told by our local LLL leader to put it on my nipples and in babes mouth when I suspected the onset of thrush and all symptoms went away! Now I use it at the first tinge of sore nipples and have never had a problem with thrush.
    When cooking with it, how do you measure it out because of it’s solid at room temp property? Do you heat it up and then measure it out? I’m new to using it in the kitchen. Thanks so much!

  12. We’ve been using coconut oil for cooking the last several months and we really like it. It is great to pop popcorn in and in biscuits. When it is cold to measure it I use a measuring cup from The Pampered Chef that is great for shortening or peanut butter (I don’t remember what it is called.) Then if if need it softer I set it in a container in hot water or melt it in a small pan on the the stove. It doesn’t take long to melt and it doesn’t even have to get very warm to melt it. I was wondering if anyone has tried it in pie crust with pumpkin pie, does the flavor mix well with the pumpkin?

  13. Great post – coconut oil has been my fat of choice for the last three years, and I miss it so much right now! (I’m in Korea for two months and can’t find it.) It is one of the most versatile things you can have in your home – I buy it by the gallon from Tropical Traditions.

  14. It’s awesome as a diaper rash cream – Agreed! And I also feel that it healed my infant son’s mild-eczema. Since then I love using it as our family’s body lotion. Truly amazing!

  15. I use lots of extra virgin coconut oil externally. As for eating of it, I limit to 2 teaspoons daily, but I have to agree with commentators here coconut oil popcorn is fabulous!!!!

  16. We use it for diaper rash, too! It also helped when my son’s cradle cap started spreading onto his forehead…has been very helpful in healing that up!

  17. I’ve never used coconut oil but I am definitely on planning to buy some, thanks for the great tips!

  18. I’ve been using coconut oil in my deodorant and as a moisturizer for several months now, but I just recently created a batch of toothpaste with it. I used 3 tbsp of baking soda to 2 tbsp of coconut oil and then added tea tree, peppermint and clove oil to my preference. It’s been working quite nicely. Prior to this toothpaste I was using a homemade paste of baking soda, water, tea tree and peppermint oil, but I’ve found that the addition of the coconut oil keeps the baking soda from irritating my gums; it used to feel like I was scrubbing them right off!

  19. As I have gotten older, regular moisturizers and lotions don’t seem to get it for my dry skin, body and face. I think I may get some and try it!

  20. Love coconut oil! I’ve been using it in my homemade deodorant this year. (Equal parts baking soda and arrowroot and then enough coconut oil to make it smooth.) I love walking around with the faint hint of coconut around me, and it works better for me than any conventional deodorant every has.

  21. Being from the Caribbean, Iwas surrounded by coconuts. But never took on to the actual flavor of the natural drink inside the husk, the flavoring is quite different to the other flavors you find in food and other items- not sure how they achive that. I eat everything coconuts however, that I am NUTS about!

  22. Emily @ Random Recycling says:

    I put it in small tins and keep them stashed around the house and my office to use for moisturizing cracked winter skin. It’s the only thing that works and doesn’t irritate the skin.
    Curious about the nursing mother comment…I’m trying to increase my milk supply and would love to know how coconut oil could help.

  23. I get mine from Wilderness Family Naturals… I have had better luck with that company than Tropical Traditions. And, I use the tasteless expeller pressed organic version – it’s cheaper and works just as well. Some of the nutrients are lost perhaps, but it is still better than shortening which is what I am subbing it for… We do go through a lot of it too. I use it in all of my baking! However, I still only use olive oil for the skillet… diversity is still a good thing!

  24. kelleyaynn says:

    The suggestion about using it as a lubricant, and it’s antiviral properties helping yeast infections is incorrect. Yeast infections are caused by an overabundance of naturally occuring yeast, which is a fungus. It would be the anti-fungal properties of coconut oil that help yeast infections.

  25. Fabulous article on the many benefits of coconut oil! Definitely echo using it on diaper rashes. My favorite benefit is weight loss – coconut oil will rev up your metabolism. Many people see some weight loss just by adding it to their diet and making no other changes to their lifestyle. The best way to get more VCO in my diet is with a morning smoothie! Yum!

  26. I love coconut oil! I mostly just spread it on toast but will have to be more adventurous with it. Thanks for letting me know the melting point of it. When I first bought a jar of it, it was a solid, and then a few weeks later it turned liquid and I slightly freaked out. Now I use it as a barometer of sorts. When it turns liquid that means I can be comfortable wearing shorts in the house. I know that sounds silly, but I can’t wait til it turns liquid again!

  27. I figured out more new things on this fat reduction issue. 1 issue is a good nutrition is vital while dieting. A huge reduction in fast foods, sugary food, fried foods, sweet foods, beef, and whitened flour products could be necessary. Holding wastes parasites, and wastes may prevent goals for losing weight. While specific drugs in the short term solve the challenge, the terrible side effects aren’t worth it, and they also never offer more than a momentary solution. It is just a known fact that 95% of celebrity diets fail. Thank you for sharing your ideas on this weblog.

  28. I’ve read a lot about Coconut Oil but I haven’t tried it yet. They say that it is safe to use especially for nursing moms like me. I want to give it a try!

  29. I love Coconut !
    I have a lot of papaya in my garden, do you know how to make from him a mask?


  30. Hello,
    Thank you for your nice Information. I like it very much. I will try it at my home

  31. What is a good brand to use?

    • you can check your local natural foods store for various brands, but I like Tropical Traditions myself (I buy it online).

  32. I love this product It is a great moisturizer for my hair as well as my skin. The smell is subtle but pleasing. I leave it in my hair overnight and it easily washes out in the morning. It also keeps my skin soft. It works very well for dry cracked heels.

  33. Nice! I really enjoyed the website you provided hear. I’m sure I will be looking forward to putting it to great uses this Thanksgiving Day. I’ll be sure to pass this post on to my friends. Thanks you so much, I love your writing& 🙂

  34. beside substituting coconut oil i make awesome bread with flax substituting for the egg and oil buy the bag of flax at costco $7.00 it very moist and i use agave for the sugar substitute

  35. Nicole, you are absolutely right! I found your post on Pinterest and it inspired me to give it a try. This stuff is AMAZING! You can use it everywhere, it smells great, and it’s SO incredibly simple. I cannot believe I used to spend so much money on fancy products when all the good stuff was literally right in front of me. I am forever changed!!! 🙂

  36. Miraculous product. Initially terrified to put oil on my face for acne treatment. Cheap and EFFECTIVE (with the right amount) for acne and healthy hair.

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