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31 Incredible Ways to Use Coconut Oil

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Coconut oil is incredibly popular and for good reason. It offers many health benefits, has a delicate taste and is widely available. It's also an extremely versatile oil with a number of uses you may not be aware of.

Coconut oil is incredibly popular and for good reason. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Here are 31 clever uses for coconut oil.

1. Protection From Sun

Coconut oil may protect your skin from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can cause wrinkling, brown spots and raise your risk of skin cancer.

In fact, one study found that it blocks about 20 percent of the sun's UV rays (1).

However, keep in mind that it doesn't provide the same amount of protection as conventional sunscreen, which blocks about 90 percent of UV rays.

Another study estimated that coconut oil has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 7, which is still lower than the minimum recommended in some countries (2).

2. Increase Your Metabolism

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are fatty acids that are quickly absorbed and can increase the amount of calories you burn (3).

Controlled studies have shown that MCTs can significantly boost your metabolic rate, at least temporarily (4, 5).

One study found that, on average, 15–30 grams of MCTs increased calorie expenditure by around 120 calories over a 24-hour period (6).

3. Cook Safely at High Temperatures

Coconut oil has a very high saturated fat content. In fact, about 87 percent of its fat is saturated (7).

This feature makes it one of the best fats for high-heat cooking, including frying.

Saturated fats retain their structure when heated to high temperatures, unlike the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in vegetable oils.

Oils such as corn and safflower are converted into toxic compounds when heated. These may have harmful effects on health (8).

There is no reason to fear the saturated fats in coconut oil. New studies show that they have no link to heart disease risk.

4. Improve Your Dental Health

Coconut oil can be a powerful weapon against bacteria, including Streptococcus mutans. This is the bacteria in the mouth that causes dental plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.

In one study, swishing with coconut oil for 10 minutes (known as oil pulling) reduced these bacteria as effectively as rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash (9).

In another study, swishing daily with coconut oil significantly reduced inflammation and plaque in teenagers with gingivitis (inflamed gums) (10).

5. Relieve Skin Irritation and Eczema

Research shows that coconut oil improves dermatitis and other skin disorders at least as well as mineral oil and other conventional moisturizers (11, 12, 13).

In a study of children with eczema, 47 percent of those treated with coconut oil had major improvements (13).

6. Improve Brain Function

The MCTs in coconut oil are broken down by the liver and turned into ketones, which can act as an alternative energy source for the brain (14).

Several studies have found MCTs to have impressive benefits for brain disorders, including epilepsy and Alzheimer's (15, 16, 17).

Some researchers recommend using coconut oil as a source of MCTs to increase the production of ketones (14).

7. Make Healthy Mayonnaise

Commercial mayonnaise often contains soybean oil, added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

However, it's easy to make your own mayo with much healthier ingredients, including coconut oil or olive oil.

Recipe number two on this list uses coconut oil as one of the fats for a healthy homemade mayonnaise.

8. Moisturize Your Skin

Coconut oil makes a wonderful moisturizer for your legs, arms and elbows.

You can use it on your face as well, although this isn't recommended for those with very oily skin.

It can also help repair cracked heels. Simply apply a thin coat to your heels at bedtime, put on socks and continue on a nightly basis until your heels are smooth.

9. Fight Infections

Virgin coconut oil has strong antibacterial properties that can help treat infections.

One study found that it helped stop the growth of the intestinal bacteria Clostridium difficile, commonly known as “C. diff," which causes severe diarrhea (18).

It also appears to fight several other bacteria and yeasts—an effect generally attributed to lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut oil (19).

10. Increase Your HDL Cholesterol

Coconut oil has been shown to raise cholesterol levels in some people.

However, its strongest and most consistent effect is an increase in HDL cholesterol, which is known as the “good" cholesterol (20, 21, 22).

One study of women with abdominal obesity found that HDL increased in a group consuming coconut oil (22).

In contrast, women consuming soybean oil had a decrease in HDL cholesterol (22).

11. Provide Relief from Insect Bites and Stings

Coconut oil's anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve the pain or itch caused by insect bites or stings. It may also reduce swelling and decrease risk of infection.

To try this, gently rub a small amount onto the bite and cover with a bandage.

12. Make Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate

Homemade dark chocolate is a delicious way to get coconut oil's health benefits.

Just remember to store it in the refrigerator or freezer, since coconut oil melts at 76 F (24 C).

Here's a delicious recipe for sugar-free dark chocolate candy bars made with coconut oil.

13. Reduce Belly Fat

Coconut oil may help reduce belly fat, also known as visceral fat, which is linked to increased health risks such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes (21, 22, 23).

In one study, obese men lost 1 inch (2.54 cm) from their waist fat by adding 2 tablespoons (1 oz or 30 ml) of coconut oil to their diet (21).

Another study looked at women on calorie-restricted diets. Those who took 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day had a decrease in waist size, while the soybean oil group actually had a slight increase (22).

14. Protect Your Hair from Damage

Coconut oil can help keep your hair healthy.

One study compared the effects of coconut oil, mineral oil and sunflower oil on hair.

Only coconut oil significantly reduced protein loss from hair when applied before or after shampooing. This result occurred with damaged as well as healthy hair.

The researchers concluded that the unique structure of lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut oil, can penetrate the hair shaft in a way that most other fats can't (24).

15. Massage Your Newborn

Massaging newborns with oil has been shown to promote normal weight gain and growth.

One study suggests that coconut oil may be the best type of oil to use for this purpose.

Premature babies who were massaged with coconut oil for 30 days gained significantly more weight than those massaged with mineral oil for the same time period (25).

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16. Decrease Hunger and Food Intake

The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil may help reduce hunger, leading to a spontaneous decrease in calorie intake (3, 26, 27).

In a small study, men who followed a high-MCT diet took in fewer calories and lost more weight than men who ate diets with low or medium MCT content (27).

17. Improve Wound Healing

One study found that rats whose wounds were treated with coconut oil had a reduction in inflammatory markers and increased production of collagen, a major component of skin. As a result, their wounds healed much faster (28).

To speed healing of minor cuts or scrapes, apply a little bit of coconut oil directly to the wound and cover it with a bandage.

18. Boost Bone Health

Animal research suggests that the the antioxidants in virgin coconut oil may protect bone health by neutralizing free radicals, which can damage bone cells (29, 30).

A 6-week study of rats showed that the group receiving 8 percent of their calories from coconut oil had significantly more bone volume and improved bone structure (30).

19. Make a Nontoxic Insect Repellent

Some essential oils may be a natural way to keep bugs away and avoiding bites and stings.

However, rather than applying these oils directly to your skin, they need to be combined with a carrier oil.

In one study, combining Thai essential oils with coconut oil provided more than 98 percent protection from the bites of certain mosquitoes (31).

20. Combat Candida

Candida albicans is the fungus responsible for yeast infections, which commonly occur in warm, moist areas of the body such as the mouth or vagina.

Test-tube studies suggest that coconut oil may help fight candida infections (32, 33).

Researchers found coconut oil to be as effective as fluconazole, the antifungal medication typically prescribed for candida infections (33).

21. Remove Stains

Coconut oil can be used to get rid of stains, including spills on carpets and furniture.

Combine one part coconut oil with one part baking soda and mix into a paste. Apply to the stain, wait 5 minutes and wipe away.

22. Reduce Inflammation

Several animal studies show that eating coconut oil provides strong anti-inflammatory effects (34, 35, 36).

Human studies suggest eating coconut oil may reduce markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, especially when compared to highly unsaturated oils (37, 38).

23. Natural Deodorant

Sweat itself has no smell. However, the bacteria living on your skin can produce undesirable odors.

Coconut oil's strong antibacterial properties make it a great natural deodorant that contains no chemicals.

Here is an easy recipe for an effective natural deodorant made with coconut oil and other natural ingredients.

24. Quick Energy Source

Coconut oil contains fats called medium-chain triglycerides, which are digested differently than the long-chain triglycerides found in most foods.

These fats go directly from the gut to the liver, where they can be used as a quick source of energy that won't raise blood sugar levels (3).

25. Heal Ragged Cuticles

Coconut oil can be used to improve your cuticles, including hangnails.

Simply apply a small amount of coconut oil to your cuticles and massage for a few moments. Do this several times a week for the best results.

26. Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis is characterized by pain and immobility of the joints due to inflammation.

Animal research suggests that antioxidants called polyphenols found in coconut oil may be able to relieve some symptoms of arthritis.

A study of arthritic rats found that treatment with polyphenols from coconut oil reduced swelling and several inflammatory markers (39).

27. Make Your Wood Furniture Shine

Coconut oil may help keep your furniture looking shiny and well-cared-for.

In addition to bringing out the beauty in natural wood, it seems to act as a dust repellent. It also has a pleasant, delicate aroma, unlike many commercial furniture polishes that contain strong fragrances.

28. Remove Eye Makeup

Coconut oil is a gentle and effective eye makeup remover. Apply with a cotton pad and wipe gently until all traces of makeup are gone.

29. Improve Liver Health

Animal research has found that the saturated fats in coconut oil can help protect the liver from damage due to alcohol or toxin exposure (40, 41).

In one study, mice treated with coconut oil after exposure to a toxic compound had a decrease in inflammatory liver markers and increased activity of beneficial liver enzymes (41).

30. Soothe Chapped Lips

Coconut oil makes an ideal natural lip balm.

It glides on smoothly, leaves your lips moist for hours and even provides some protection from the sun.

Here's an easy recipe for making your own lip balm with coconut oil.

31. Make Homemade Salad Dressing

Commercial salad dressings are often loaded with sugar and preservatives.

Here's a great recipe for a coconut oil salad dressing that tastes wonderful and is made with nourishing ingredients.

Take Home Message

Coconut oil has several health benefits, but it also has many other clever and practical uses that you may not have considered before. Make sure to always have plenty of coconut oil on hand. You never know when you might need it.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Brazilians living in The Netherlands organized a demonstration in solidarity with rainforest protectors and against the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 1 in The Hague, Netherlands. Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Tara Smith

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have jumped 84 percent during President Jair Bolsonaro's first year in office and in July 2019 alone, an area of rainforest the size of Manhattan was lost every day. The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they're not beyond human culpability.

Bolsonaro ran for president promising to "integrate the Amazon into the Brazilian economy". Once elected, he slashed the Brazilian environmental protection agency budget by 95 percent and relaxed safeguards for mining projects on indigenous lands. Farmers cited their support for Bolsonaro's approach as they set fires to clear rainforest for cattle grazing.

Bolsonaro's vandalism will be most painful for the indigenous people who call the Amazon home. But destruction of the world's largest rainforest may accelerate climate change and so cause further suffering worldwide. For that reason, Brazil's former environment minister, Marina Silva, called the Amazon fires a crime against humanity.

From a legal perspective, this might be a helpful way of prosecuting environmental destruction. Crimes against humanity are international crimes, like genocide and war crimes, which are considered to harm both the immediate victims and humanity as a whole. As such, all of humankind has an interest in their punishment and deterrence.

Historical Precedent

Crimes against humanity were first classified as an international crime during the Nuremberg trials that followed World War II. Two German Generals, Alfred Jodl and Lothar Rendulic, were charged with war crimes for implementing scorched earth policies in Finland and Norway. No one was charged with crimes against humanity for causing the unprecedented environmental damage that scarred the post-war landscapes though.

Our understanding of the Earth's ecology has matured since then, yet so has our capacity to pollute and destroy. It's now clear that the consequences of environmental destruction don't stop at national borders. All humanity is placed in jeopardy when burning rainforests flood the atmosphere with CO₂ and exacerbate climate change.

Holding someone like Bolsonaro to account for this by charging him with crimes against humanity would be a world first. If successful, it could set a precedent which might stimulate more aggressive legal action against environmental crimes. But do the Amazon fires fit the criteria?

Prosecuting crimes against humanity requires proof of widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population. If a specific part of the global population is persecuted, this is an affront to the global conscience. In the same way, domestic crimes are an affront to the population of the state in which they occur.

When prosecuting prominent Nazis in Nuremberg, the US chief prosecutor, Robert Jackson, argued that crimes against humanity are committed by individuals, not abstract entities. Only by holding individuals accountable for their actions can widespread atrocities be deterred in future.

The International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has promised to apply the approach first developed in Nuremberg to prosecute individuals for international crimes that result in significant environmental damage. Her recommendations don't create new environmental crimes, such as "ecocide", which would punish severe environmental damage as a crime in itself. They do signal, however, a growing appreciation of the role that environmental damage plays in causing harm and suffering to people.

The International Criminal Court was asked in 2014 to open an investigation into allegations of land-grabbing by the Cambodian government. In Cambodia, large corporations and investment firms were being given prime agricultural land by the government, displacing up to 770,000 Cambodians from 4m hectares of land. Prosecuting these actions as crimes against humanity would be a positive first step towards holding individuals like Bolsonaro accountable.

But given the global consequences of the Amazon fires, could environmental destruction of this nature be legally considered a crime against all humanity? Defining it as such would be unprecedented. The same charge could apply to many politicians and business people. It's been argued that oil and gas executives who've funded disinformation about climate change for decades should be chief among them.

Charging individuals for environmental crimes against humanity could be an effective deterrent. But whether the law will develop in time to prosecute people like Bolsonaro is, as yet, uncertain. Until the International Criminal Court prosecutes individuals for crimes against humanity based on their environmental damage, holding individuals criminally accountable for climate change remains unlikely.

This story originally appeared in The Conversation. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Author, social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaking on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, 2018. Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Natalie Hanman

Why are you publishing this book now?

I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?

When I look back, I don't think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It's more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that's always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What's stopping the left doing this?

In a North American context, it's the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we've got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what's left, we've got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we're not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there aregoing to be benefits: we'll have more livable cities, we'll have less polluted air, we'll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?

I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we're not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We're talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we're in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don't we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don't think it's coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.

That is one of the most chilling sections of your book: I think that's a link a lot of people haven't made.

This pattern has been clear for a while. White supremacy emerged not just because people felt like thinking up ideas that were going to get a lot of people killed but because it was useful to protect barbaric but highly profitable actions. The age of scientific racism begins alongside the transatlantic slave trade, it is a rationale for that brutality. If we are going to respond to climate change by fortressing our borders, then of course the theories that would justify that, that create these hierarchies of humanity, will come surging back. There have been signs of that for years, but it is getting harder to deny because you have killers who are screaming it from the rooftops.

One criticism you hear about the environment movement is that it is dominated by white people. How do you address that?

When you have a movement that is overwhelmingly representative of the most privileged sector of society then the approach is going to be much more fearful of change, because people who have a lot to lose tend to be more fearful of change, whereas people who have a lot to gain will tend to fight harder for it. That's the big benefit of having an approach to climate change that links it to those so called bread and butter issues: how are we going to get better paid jobs, affordable housing, a way for people to take care of their families?

I have had many conversations with environmentalists over the years where they seem really to believe that by linking fighting climate change with fighting poverty, or fighting for racial justice, it's going to make the fight harder. We have to get out of this "my crisis is bigger than your crisis: first we save the planet and then we fight poverty and racism, and violence against women". That doesn't work. That alienates the people who would fight hardest for change.

This debate has shifted a huge amount in the U.S. because of the leadership of the climate justice movement and because it is congresswomen of colour who are championing the Green New Deal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaibcome from communities that have gotten such a raw deal under the years of neoliberalism and longer, and are determined to represent, truly represent, the interests of those communities. They're not afraid of deep change because their communities desperately need it.

In the book, you write: "The hard truth is that the answer to the question 'What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?' is: nothing." Do you still believe that?

In terms of the carbon, the individual decisions that we make are not going to add up to anything like the kind of scale of change that we need. And I do believe that the fact that for so many people it's so much more comfortable to talk about our own personal consumption, than to talk about systemic change, is a product of neoliberalism, that we have been trained to see ourselves as consumers first. To me that's the benefit of bringing up these historical analogies, like the New Deal or the Marshall Plan – it brings our minds back to a time when we were able to think of change on that scale. Because we've been trained to think very small. It is incredibly significant that Greta Thunberg has turned her life into a living emergency.

Yes, she set sail for the UN climate summit in New York on a zero carbon yacht ...

Exactly. But this isn't about what Greta is doing as an individual. It's about what Greta is broadcasting in the choices that she makes as an activist, and I absolutely respect that. I think it's magnificent. She is using the power that she has to broadcast that this is an emergency, and trying to inspire politicians to treat it as an emergency. I don't think anybody is exempt from scrutinising their own decisions and behaviours but I think it is possible to overemphasise the individual choices. I have made a choice – and this has been true since I wrote No Logo, and I started getting these "what should I buy, where should I shop, what are the ethical clothes?" questions. My answer continues to be that I am not a lifestyle adviser, I am not anyone's shopping guru, and I make these decisions in my own life but I'm under no illusion that these decisions are going to make the difference.

Some people are choosing to go on birth strikes. What do you think about that?

I'm happy these discussions are coming into the public domain as opposed to being furtive issues we're afraid to talk about. It's been very isolating for people. It certainly was for me. One of the reasons I waited as long as I did to try and get pregnant, and I would say this to my partner all the time – what, you want to have a Mad Max water warrior fighting with their friends for food and water? It wasn't until I was part of the climate justice movement and I could see a path forward that I could even imagine having a kid. But I would never tell anybody how to answer this most intimate of questions. As a feminist who knows the brutal history of forced sterilisation and the ways in which women's bodies become battle zones when policymakers decide that they are going to try and control population, I think that the idea that there are regulatory solutions when it comes to whether or not to have kids is catastrophically ahistorical. We need to be struggling with our climate grief together and our climate fears together, through whatever decision we decide to make, but the discussion we need to have is how do we build a world so that those kids can have thriving, zero-carbon lives?

Over the summer, you encouraged people to read Richard Powers's novel, The Overstory. Why?

It's been incredibly important to me and I'm happy that so many people have written to me since. What Powers is writing about trees: that trees live in communities and are in communication, and plan and react together, and we've been completely wrong in the way we conceptualise them. It's the same conversation we're having about whether we are going to solve this as individuals or whether we are going to save the collective organism. It's also rare, in good fiction, to valorise activism, to treat it with real respect, failures and all, to acknowledge the heroism of the people who put their bodies on the line. I thought Powers did that in a really extraordinary way.

What are you views on what Extinction Rebellion has achieved?

One thing they have done so well is break us out of this classic campaign model we have been in for a long time, where you tell someone something scary, you ask them to click on something to do something about it, you skip out the whole phase where we need to grieve together and feel together and process what it is that we just saw. Because what I hear a lot from people is, ok, maybe those people back in the 1930s or 40s could organise neighbourhood by neighbourhood or workplace by workplace but we can't. We believe we've been so downgraded as a species that we are incapable of that. The only thing that is going to change that belief is getting face to face, in community, having experiences, off our screens, with one another on the streets and in nature, and winning some things and feeling that power.

You talk about stamina in the book. How do you keep going? Do you feel hopeful?

I have complicated feelings about the hope question. Not a day goes by that I don't have a moment of sheer panic, raw terror, complete conviction that we are doomed, and then I do pull myself out of it. I'm renewed by this new generation that is so determined, so forceful. I'm inspired by the willingness to engage in electoral politics, because my generation, when we were in our 20s and 30s, there was so much suspicion around getting our hands dirty with electoral politics that we lost a lot of opportunities. What gives me the most hope right now is that we've finally got the vision for what we want instead, or at least the first rough draft of it. This is the first time this has happened in my lifetime. And also, I did decide to have kids. I have a seven year old who is so completely obsessed and in love with the natural world. When I think about him, after we've spent an entire summer talking about the role of salmon in feeding the forests where he was born in British Columbia, and how they are linked to the health of the trees and the soil and the bears and the orcas and this entire magnificent ecosystem, and I think about what it would be like to have to tell him that there are no more salmon, it kills me. So that motivates me. And slays me.

This story was originally published by The Guardian, and is republished here as part of the Covering Climate Now partnership to strengthen the media's focus on the climate crisis.

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