Coconut is one of the most useful plants in the world, providing a multitude of uses, from arrack to food staple, sugar to vinegar, fibers and fodder, thatching and lumber, and virgin coconut oil among many others. In addition, it yield 3 to 4 tons of copra (nut meat) per hectare and over two tons of oil.
Coconut is an unarmed, erect,
tall palm reaching a height of 25 meters. Trunk is stout, 30 to 50
centimeters in diameter, thickened at the base; marked with annular scars.
Leaves are crowded at the apex of the trunk, 3.5 to 6 meters long, with a stout
petiole, 1 meter or more in length. Leaflets are bright green, numerous, linear-lanceolate,
flaccid, 60 to 100 centimeters long. Spadix is about 1 meter long, erect, drooping,
straw-colored, simply branched. Male flowers are small and yellowish with small, ovate, valvate sepals and oblong, valvate petals. Female flowers are much larger, rounded, with imbricate sepals and shorter convolute petals. Fruit is variable in size, shape and color,
obovoid to subglobose, often obscurely 3-angled, 15 to 25 centimeters long.
Endosperm forms a thick white layer of fleshy fibrous substance adherent to
the membranous testa which is adherent to the stony-black shell. The shell is covered
by a fibrous husk. The embryo is opposite one pore.
- Extensively cultivated
in the Philippines, especially in regions where the dry season is not too prolonged.
- Native of Polynesia.
- Pantropic in cultivation.
- Introduced during prehistoric times.
• Fixed oil, 57.5
- 71%; volatile oil, wax containing the myricyl ester of cerotic
• Coconut oil is composed mostly of triglycerides of saturated fatty acids - Lauric (dodecanoic acid, 40 to 55%) and myristic acid (tetradecanoic acid, 15 to 20%), and other fatty acids at concentrations of 5 to 10 %.
• High-grade coconut oil is nearly colorless, bland tasting, with a peculiar odor of coconuts, consisting largely of glyceryl ester of lauric and myristic acids, and glyceryl ester of other fatty acids as caproic, capryllic, capric, and oleic.
• Meat: protein, 6.3%; vitamins A, B, and C; nonyl alcohol; methyl
heptyl ketone; methyl undecyl ketone; capronic, decylic, caprylic,
lauric and myristic acids; lecithin; stigmasterin, phytosterin;
choline; globulin; galactoaraban; galactomannan.
• Water, 93%; protein, 0.5%; ash, 1%; saccharose; oxidase; catalase,
• Phytochemical screening of constituents of endosperm showed the presence of terpenoids, alkaloids, resins, glycosides and steroids. Macronutrient analyses yielded carbohydrates, proteins, reducing sugar, fats and oil.
• Coconut water vs coconut milk: Coconut water is the aqueous part of the coconut endosperm; coconut milk—gata in the Philippines, santan in Malaysia and Indonesia—is the liquid product obtained by grating the solid endosperm, with or without the addition of water. Coconut water is mainly water (about 94%) while coconut milk yields about 50% water, fat and protein. (31)
• Coconut Water:
Coconut water contains sugar, fiber, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals with an isotonic electrolyte balance.
- 100 g (3.5 oz) of water yields 79 kj (19 kcal) of energy; 3.71 g carbohydrates (sugars 2.61 g, dietary fiber 1.1 g); 0.2 g of fat; 0.72 g of protein; negligible amounts of B vitamins, 3 µg of folate, 2.4 mg of vitamin C; 25 mg of magnesium and 250 mg of potassium; and 94.99 g of water. (31)
- Sugar analysis yielded a total of 2.61 g/100g with sucrose 9.18 mg/mL, glucose 7.25 mg/mL and fructose 5.25 mg/mL. Sugar alcohols were mannitol 0.8 mg/mL, sorbitol 15, myo-inositol 0.01, and scyllo-inositol 0.05. (38)
- Considered antitumor, antidotal, antiseptic, aperient, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, depurative, diuretic, pediculicide, refrigerant, stomachic, styptic, suppurative, vermifuge.
- Roots considered antiscorbutic, astringent, and diuretic.
- Fresh coconut water considered astringent and possibly vermifuge. Also considered demulcent, and aperient in large doses.
- Endosperm cocomilk is considered refrigerant, nutrient, aperient, diuretic and anthelmintic.
Roots, bark, "bloom" of the leaf, the cabbage, flowers, and the fruit (husk, shell, water, endosperm, oil.)
Edibility / Culinary / Nutrition
- Use oil for cooking; take meat and/or gata (cream) as food.
- The ubod part is a delicacy used in a variety of preparations: lumpia, achara, salads.
A good source of iron and calcium.
- The cocomilk, the juice expressed from the grated endosperm was a popular substitute for cow's milk during World War II.
Fresh coconut juice is considered astringent; allowed to stand, it loses astringency.
- The endosperm is eaten in its various stages of development: (1) malauhog - the early mucoid stage (2) tagop - the stage between malauhog and malakanin (3) malakanin, a consistency best used for salads. (Alañgan is the mature stage of the endosperm, not suitable for culinary use.) The coconut water of malauhog is mildly sweet, becoming increasingly acidic as the coconut matures.
- Myriads of use in
the traditional systems worldwide: abscesses, asthma, baldness, burns
and bruises,, cough and colds, kidney stones, scabies, ulcers, among
- Constipation: Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of gata (cream).
- Dandruff: Massage oil on scalp, leave overnight, and wash hair.
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting: Drink water of young fruit, as tolerated.
Water from the young coconut has been used as a substitute for dextrose
infusion in emergent situations during World War II.
- Dry skin: Apply oil and massage into affected area.
- Young roots astringent for sore throats.
- Ash of bark used for scabies.
- In New Guinea, young
leaves chewed to a past and applied to cuts to stop the bleeding.
- In Java used for dysentery and other intestinal complaints.
- In Amboinia oil used as vermifuge.
- In Jamaica, used for coughs.
- Malays use poultice of roots in syphilis and gonorrhea; also, for rheumatism.
- In India, young roots employed as astringent gargle for sore throat. Also, boiled with ginger and salt, used in fevers.
- In the Gold Coast, bark used for curing toothache and earache.
- In Nigeria, coconut water twice daily prescribed for treatment of diabetes. Also used to prevent abortion.
- In India ash of the bark used as dentrifice and as antiseptic. Ash is also used for scabies. The soft, downy, light-brown substance on the lower surface of the leaves used as styptic. Husk used in the treatment of tapeworms; in Punjab and Cashmere, used for throat inflammation. The tar obtained from burning the shell considered rubefacient; used for ringworm, itches and other parasitic infections.
- In India,
a toddy-poultice (fresh toddy and rice flour) used as application for gangrenous ulcerations, indolent ulcers, and carbuncles. Heating coconut shells yield an oil that is used for ringworm infections.
- In Malaya. ash obtained from the coconut shell used for swellings, pains in the stomach, and for rheumatism. Coconut water is also used as diuretic.
- In Mexico, coconut water used as diuretic and anthelmintic.
- Roots used for strengthening the gums.
- In Brazil, husks used in the treatment of diarrhea and arthritis.
- Decoction of ground roots drunk in cases of small pox.
- Flowers reported to be astringent; chewed in immature state for gonorrhea. Flowers have also been used for diabetes, dysentery, leprosy and urinary discharges.
- In Mexico, decoction of the fibers of the trunk used as diuretic.
- Tar obtained from burning the shell is used for toothache.
- Water is fed to infants with diarrhea.
- In emergencies, water has been used as intravenous drips. Anecdotal reports of use during cholera epidemics.
- Toddy: Tuba, or toddy, is considered a pleasant drink, stimulating and mildly laxative. In India, the toddy is considered refrigerant and diuretic.
Most versatile of
all palms with its wide range of utility: as lumber, food, drink, alcohol,
vinegar, thatching material, manufacture of baskets, rope, hats, brooms;
shell for making charcoal and utensils as cups, bowls, spoons; oil for
food, massage, and as base for medications for external use; cooking,
illumination, soap making; decorative for celebrations and religious
- Lauric acid, the dominant fatty acid in coconut oil, finds application
in cooking, detergents, soaps and cosmetics.
- Water as Intravenous Hydration Fluid: Water in the undamaged coconut is considered sterile. In emergencies, sterile coconut water in the unopened coconut fruit has been used as intravenous drips. There are anecdotal reports of use during cholera epidemics and as emergency transfusions during World War II.
Coconut oil and MCFA
(medium chain fatty acids)
- Increasingly popular,
natural coconut oil is now being touted as the most beneficial of all
oils. Although high in saturated fat, it is the richest natural source
of health-promoting MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids). The recommendation
is 3 1/2 teaspoons (50 gms) of coconut oil daily, estimated from the
amount equivalent to the MCFAs found in human breast milk, known to
be effective in nourishing and protecting infants Alternative sources
teaspoons of pure coconut oil
of fresh coconut meat (about half a coconut)
cups of dried, shredded coconut
of coconut milk
There is no known toxicity
for coconut oil. The FDA includes it in its GRAS list (Generally
Recommended As Safe). An easy supplemental use is to use it as
cooking oil. It tolerates moderately high-cooking temperatures,
but best to keep it below smoking point of 350 degrees. As in
any other cooking oil, avoid overheating because of toxic by-products.
When available, the best is the "virgin" coconut oil,
made from fresh coconuts, extracted by boiling, fermentation,
refrigeration, mechanical press or centrifuge, not subjected
to high temperatures or chemical solvents.
Also available as RBD (Refined,
Bleached, and Deodorized) coconut oil, usually made from dried coconut,
copra, that might have undergone sun-drying, smoking or kiln processing,
using higher temperatures and chemical solvents. Consumers beware, there
are cochin oils, that may be labeled "virgin" which may be
made from cheap sun-dried copra, gaining impurities and mold in the
process. (Source: The Coconut Oil Miracle)
• Analgesic / Antioxidant:
Antinociceptive and free radical scavenging activities of Cocos nucifera
L. (Palmae) husk fiber aqueous extract: The study demonstrated
the analgesic and radical scavenging properties of CN aqueous extract
from the husk fiber. Topical treatment of rabbits with the extract did not induce significant dermic or ocular irritation. (1)
• Antioxidant: In vitro evaluation of antioxidant
properties of Cocos nucifera Linn. water: The antioxidant
activity as most significant in fresh samples of coconut water, diminishing
with heat. Maturity also drastically decreased the scavenging ability.
The scavenging ability may be partly attributed to the ascorbic acid, an important constituent of coconut water. (3)
The control of hypertension by use of coconut water and mauby:
two tropical food drinks provided significant decreases, approximately double the largest values seen with single interventions. (5)
• Anti-neoplastic / Husk Fiber: Study of aqueous extracts
of the husk showed antitumoral activity against a leukemia cell line.
Study suggests a very inexpensive source of new antineoplastic and anti-multidrug
resistant drugs. (6)
• Burn Wound Healing Property: Study concluded that the oil of Cocos nucifera is an effective burn wound healing agent. There was significant improvement in burn wound contraction in the group treated with the combination of CN and silver sulfadiazine. It suggests C nocifera can be a cheap and effective adjuvant to other topical agents. (8)
• Anti-Ulcerogenic: A study of warm water crude extract of coconut milk and a coconut water dispersion showed that coconut milk and water had protective effects on ulcerated gastric mucosa. The coconut milk provided stronger protection on indomethacin-induced ulceration than coconut water in rats. (9)
• Anthelminthic: A study of the liquid extracted from the bark of the green coconut and butanol extract on mice showed that the Cocos nucifera extracts may be useful in the control of intestinal nematodes. (10)
• Protein Content: Study showed native coconut proteins consisted of four major polypeptides. The proteins had a relatively high level of glutamic acid, arginine and aspartic acid. (11)
• Anti-Neoplastic Activity: Study of aqueous extracts of Cocos nucifera showed antitumoral activity against leukemia cell line K562 and suggests a potential for an inexpensive source of new antineoplastic and anti-multidrug resistant drugs. (12)
• Antimicrobial / Coconut Oil Cream Formulation: Study showed that coconut oil can be formulated into an elegant cream which is active on both fungal and bacterial organisms. (14)
• Antimalarial: Study showed the crude methanol extract to contain phytochemical constituents that significantly reduced the parasitemia in all 3 in vivo assessment assays. There was no significant increase in survival time of the infected mice. Results suggest the Malaysian folkloric medicinal application of C. nucifera has pharmacologic basis. (15)
• Cardiotonic Activity of Coconut Water: Study showed undiluted coconut water showed better responses compared to diluted coconut water. The dilution of coconut water restores cardiac activity on Frog's heart, ie., decreasing rapidity and force of contraction. (18)
• Leaf Extract / Toxicity Study:Toxicity study of leaf extracts in Swiss albino mice showed no noticeable toxicity in both acute and sub-chronic studies. (21)
• Antioxidant / Antimicrobial / Endocarp: Study of extracts of endocarp of Cocos nucifera reported strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Endocarps of cocos nucifera are discarded as waste. The study provides information for the potential utilization of coco agro wastes for therapeutic purposes. (22)
• Wine Production from Coconut: Wine was produced at 1:4 (must:sugar) from coconut using various sugar and yeast recipes (A-D). Recipes A-C showed very little difference in taste testing. There were not significant differences in the different recipes with the tested parameters. Wine from the control was similar in taste and characteristic with natural palm wine. The wines can be consumed within 48 hours of production withe storage. (23)
• Alcohol-Induced Hepatotoxicity / Attenuating Effects / Production from Coconut: Results of study suggests further study for coco nucifera's possible use as an alternative in the management of alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity. There was dose-dependent decrease in markers. Possibly CN improved the functions of the liver via the antioxidant pathway. (24)
• One-Layer Particle Board: Study validated the technical possibility of making one layer experimental particle board from coconut chips bonded with EMDI isocyanate resin. (25)
• Coconut Oil Hair Care: A 2003 study by the R&D Department of Nature Care Division in Mumbai, India conducted a study to determine possible properties of coconut oil in hair damage prevention. Results showed application of coconut oil to both damaged and undamaged hair resulted in reduction of protein loss. (26)
• Antibacterial / Mesocarp Extract: Study set out to confirm the anti-bacterial effect of cocos nucifera mesocarp powder using E. coli and S. typhi. The antibacterial activity was found highest in the benzene solvent against E Coli, and highest with diethyl ether for S. typhi. Active biocomponents in the mesocarp were identified as tocopherol, palmitoleyl alcohol, cycloartanol and ß-sitosterol. Results showed Cocos nucifera mesocarp powder can be utilized to develop indigenous antibiotics with a potential to replace conventional antibiotics. (27)
• Antimicrobial / Endocarp Extract: Study evaluated a distilled extract of endocarp (hard shell) for antimicrobial activity. Results showed potential growth inhibition of B. subtilis and Aspergillus species. (28)
• Antimalarial / Husk Fiber: Study evaluated the in vitro antimalarial and toxicity potentials of husk fiber extracts of Nigerian varieties of Cocos nucifera. The WAT ethyl acetate extract fraction yielded alkaloids, tannins, and flavonoids, and showed antimalarial activity, active in continuous culture against Plasmodium falcifarum, and in vivo against P. berghei. There were no adverse liver or cardiovascular effects; however, renal functions may be impaired at higher doses. (32)
• Antibacterial / Root Bark / UTI Pathogens: Study showed an aqueous extract of root of Cocos nucifera to be more effective in inhibiting the growth of UTI pathogens than the ethanolic extract and decoction. (33)
• Coconut Oil and Hair Growth: Study evaluated the potential of coconut oil towards hair growth mixed with two herbs, Nigella sativa and Aleurites moluccana. Coconut oil consists of lauric acid which has a high affinity and low molecular weight able to penetrate the hair shaft and promote hair growth. The mixture of coconut oil and Nigella sativa showed to be the most effective to promote hair growth than the others.
• Conceptive and Anti-Abortive: Study investigated the conceptive and anti-abortive effects of coconut water using female albino rats. Results concluded that Cocos nucifera water was able to aid pregnancy. The extract also promoted diuresis with minimal loss of electrolytes. (37)
• Effects of Coconut Oil on Learning Ability: Study investigates the effects of Cocos nucifera oil on the learning disability of Drosophila melanogaster appl mutants. Drosophila melanogaster, colloquially known as the fruit fly, is an organism used as a model of human disease, able to mimic Alzheimer's disease through similarities in brain structure and manipulation of genes. The study question was: Does administration of coconut oil in a solution of 1,500 ppm for a week affect the learning ability of Drosophila melanogaster APPL mutants trained to avoid apple cider vinegar? The hypothesis was that CN oil introduced into DM mutant's diet would decrease the amount of negative reinforcement required to adopt an avoidance behavior. The results of experimentation suggest CN oil may potentially benefit individuals with Alzheimer's disease. Study suggests further research and extension of study into other neurodegenerative disorders. (39)
• Absorption of Reactive Red-158 Dye: Study evaluated the use of chemically conditioned C. nucifera shell powder as a low cost, readily available, and renewable adsorbent for removal of reactive textile Red-158 dye from aqueous solutions.
- Ubiquitous in the rural
- Common cultivation as a plantation tree.
- Commerce of coconut oil capsules, virgin coconut oil.