Footnote: The information for this article was in part gathered from a 2018 study and survey of 24 students of Ayurveda who experimented with coconut oil. During the study, students ate coconut oil for 3 days and journaled the pharmacological effects. This study was sponsored by the Joyful Belly School of Ayurveda, and specifically the Mastering Ayurvedic Digestion & Nutrition certification course.
Fronds of a coconut palm sway in a tropical breeze, surrounded by endless sandy beaches, summer sun, and the turquoise horizon of crystal clear ocean. Stress and deadlines melt away in the cool shade, restoring your body. A sip of a pina colada recalls a recent pleasant gathering with your friends. You breathe a bit more easily. Coconut is a delight for the senses and the body, the very symbol of tropical paradise. One client shared, "It has a sweet and tropical flavor, that reminds me of an island in the Caribbean by the beach" This idyllic and fun tree nut restores your balance and harmony.
Coconut has been hailed as a "cure all" by Pacific Islanders. This magnificent statement has been validated over thousands of years of beneficial use. It is enjoyed by many cultures as a staple part of their diets. The ancient Ayurvedic texts call coconut by the Sanskrit term kalpa vriksha, which translates to "the tree that supplies all that is needed to live." More specifically, coconut oil is sweet, cool and nourishing yet unusually light. It makes an ideal liver tonic.
Unusually Light & Refreshing
Coconut's lightness is surprising, as most oils are heavy. Coconut oil feels refreshing. One student writes, "it's like a nice dip into a cool pool on a hot summer day" Coconut oil is actually ideal for late summer, as it simultaneously clears residual summer heat (pacifying Pitta), and nourishes your body for the winter months ahead (pacifying Vata).
A Balm for Your Nerves
Are you overly nervous and strung out? Your nerves may be parched for fats. All nerves are coated in a fatty layer called the myelin sheath, which guides nerve impulses and insulates the neuron from hyperactivity. When the fatty layer is dried out or deficient, your nerves will be easily agitated and anxious, thirsting for a balm that can ease this overstimulation. A teaspoon of coconut oil restores tranquility, bringing the serenity of the tropics closer to home. One student writes, "It (coconut oil) was pleasant and made me feel at ease." A client writes, "Coconut oil restores me in a very comforting and nourishing way. It's like being wrapped in a silky blanket." With unctuous silkiness and rich enticing aroma, coconut oil may be the ultimate 'neuron' comfort food, with a satisfaction that is 'marrow deep'.
A Boost For Your Energy
While most nourishing, oily foods depress metabolism, coconut oil is unusual in its ability to support the thyroid and improve metabolism.The fats in coconut oil are light, easy to digest, and quickly converted to energy. One client writes, "Coconut oil kept me energetic during the day." Another declares, "I love coconut and noticed that it gave me a good sustained energy throughout the day. I even opted out of coffee the first morning because it felt like my body was awake and energized from the coconut oil"
You'll feel energized by coconut's lightness instead of feeling weighed down. One client notes, "It was lighter than other oils I have consumed. It did not hang heavy on my digestion but felt rather light and soothing to my stomach."
Coconut's stimulating richness restores your vigor and vitality with a nutty aroma that gratifies the senses. It is a nourishing alternative to coffee that treats the root cause of exhaustion without the jitters of caffeine. Try supplementing your diet with coconut oil daily to boost your energy efficiently and effectively!
Strengthen Your Liver & Soften Your Emotions
Coconut oil has a luxurious richness that feeds you and your liver. Ayurveda suggests that an agitated liver should be moistened with fats, and pleased by sweet, delightful aromas like rose petals and coconut. By nature an ambitious organ, the liver falls victim to intense, hot blooded emotions and pitta internal heat conditions. Coconut oil replenishes a liver deficient in fats, and has special cooling properties to soothe an overheated liver. This makes it the ideal liver tonic.
Notice how coconut oil refreshes and relaxes the eyes - this is a sign of its healing effect on the liver. Coconut oil protects the liver from damage done through alcohol. An agitated liver equals agitated emotions. Coconut cools and eases the tension accompanying liver overactivity, restoring grace and kindness. Your relationships will benefit from your new, more yielding & charitable disposition. One student writes, "It made me feel cooler and calmed. It was very good for helping my Pitta emotions."
Moisturizes & Cools Dry, Overheated Skin
Looking for supple, younger looking skin? Coconut oil is not only getting a medical makeover, it will give you one too. Your skin will drink this beauty oil up! It will protect your skin, help you retain a balanced level of moisture, and heals dry or damaged skin - all without leaving an oily messy feeling. It is one of the best Pitta pacifying oils for Ayurvedic massage.
One client writes, "The oiliness was soothing to my nerves, and prevented my skin from drying out all day." Another writes, "When I use it for Abhyanga, it softens and moistens my skin. It even seems to "plump" my skin like botox but subtly." One Vata client exclaims,"I am a Vata type and need it for lubricating my body and skin. It's been really nice considering the chronic dryness that I was experiencing before."
According to Ayurveda, coconut oil cools excess heat in the skin, and helps alleviate discomfort caused by eczema, dry psoriasis, sunburn, and general dryness. Heavenly coconut oil has been used as an effective sunscreen for thousands of years by indigenous, pacific islanders. Give it a try. You will soon enjoy the benefits of this healthful and anti-aging oil. Your skin will look and feel younger, smoother and more radiant.
Coconut oil works great as a lip balm. One client writes, "I put some on my dry, cracked lips and instantly my lips felt nourished and hydrated." Another says, "My lips felt hydrated as if a sweet chap-stick were run across them."
The Science Behind Coconut Fat
This vital oil, once shunned as being unhealthy because it is high in saturated fats, is now considered by many as a magical health food. The difference between coconut oil and other saturated fats is in the size of the fat molecules. Long chain fats are hard to digest, and pass directly into the lymphatic system. The fats in coconut are medium chain fatty acids (MFCA's). MFCA's are transported via the hepatic portal vein to the liver. They never never enter the lymphatic system or blood stream, so they don't clog arteries like their longer chained relatives. Coconut oil actually lowers cholesterol and improves fat metabolism.
Instead, coconut oil is quickly digested, even without the aid of pancreatic enzymes. The healthy fats and fatty acids in coconut oil are quickly and easily absorbed, digested, metabolized and utilized by your body. This makes coconut oil ideal for nourishing the elderly and those debilitated from disease.
Overweight folks can use it to metabolize the fat they already have. Underweight people can use it to restore body fat. Athletes can use it for endurance and performance. Debilitated people can use it to build strength. Coconut oil also improves your body's ability to utilize blood sugar efficiently, which reduces the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
One client even noticed how it softened & lubricated their muscles, "My muscles felt a bit more smooth and I was able to take some of my yoga postures I typically get into a little more deeply than before. I did not feel as stiff and rigid." Another shared a similar experience: "My muscles felt very soothed after massaging them with coconut oil - I almost felt as if I was on a beach vacation!"
Coconut oil contains high levels of a fatty acid called lauric acid, an antiviral substance. Coconut oil has also been shown in research studies to have antimicrobial qualities, which have an adverse effect on fungus, bacteria, and yeast. Coconut oil also appears to have a natural anti-inflammatory effect, which ultimately supports your immune system. These properties have made Coconut oil popular as a carrier oil when treating infection with essential oils.
Coconut oil's antimicrobial properties makes it ideal for oil pulling and maintaining a healthy flora in the mouth. "After oil pulling my mouth felt sweet, cool and refreshed, as if a cooling sponge had just cleaned the inside of my mouth"
Effect on Elimination
The most common effect on bowels? Coconut oil lubricates the digestive tract, allowing for smoother, easier elimination. One client writes, "I recognize an easier smoother elimination and my bowels are not hard at all." Another says, coconut oil "was a great change from my normal mode of being constipated." Those with inflamed bowels found relief from coconut oils cooling qualities, and this lead to healthier stools overall.
Some experienced looser than normal elimination, "My elimination was a looser than normal while taking coconut oil in the morning." Others notices an increased sense of urgency. Fat has a cholagogue effect, meaning that it stimulates the release of bile. Bile has a mild laxative effect. The result is that coconut oil can increase the urge to eliminate.
Kapha's may find coconut oil too cold for them, especially at night. In that case, just add a bit of ginger or spice to warm it up. In general, Kapha's should moderate use of oil, even light oils like coconut.
BUYING & PREPARATION
For optimum results use extra virgin coconut oil that is unrefined. Look for these qualities when shopping for coconut oil: In solid form, it should glimmer with a white opaqueness, and when liquid should be colorless and crystal clear. When you use it (whether for your body, taken as a supplement or cooking with) the texture of coconut oil should feel thin, light and silky. The aroma and flavor should be inviting and fresh.
Coconut oil has a lower oxidation point therefore it won't become rancid quickly, compared with other oils. It's time to stock you pantry up with this tropical nectar. Being a stable oil with a shelf life of at least two years, coconut oil is extremely versatile.
Coconut oil is ideal for lighter foods & subtly flavored dishes. It may be mixed into a salad dressing paired with lime juice. It can be safely heated to high temperatures, so enjoy the sound of sizzling coconut oil as you fry okra, pumpkin without the risk of trans-fats or free radicals. Even after cooking, you will taste the enriching natural coconut flavor throughout your entire dish - simply delicious and nutritious!
Drizzle into soups or onto par boiled vegetables. Rice embellished with a tablespoon of coconut oil will have a delightful aroma. Its sweet and nutty flavor is perfect for desserts and treats, such as smoothies. Coconut oil is excellent for melt in your mouth popcorn. Use an alternative to butter in baking, where it makes a light and flaky crust.
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WHY EAT AN AYURVEDIC DIET?
Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. An Ayurvedic diet is
tailored to your individual body type and the specific imbalances you are working with
at any given time. Ayurveda shows you your specific body type’s needs and what
should be favored in your Ayurvedic menu. Watch as you eat less but feel more satisfied because what you
are eating truly nourishes you. Since Ayurveda believes all disease begins in the digestive
tract, food is your first medicine. By eating a healthy diet that’s ideal for your body, you
experience optimal health.
Functional Ayurveda helps you assess imbalances through 20 main biocharacteristics
Aggravating these characteristics weakens your body and causes imbalance.
By knowing which characteristics are habitually imbalanced in your body, you will be able to identify and correct imbalances before you get sick.
Every characteristic has an opposite which balances it (i.e. hot balances cold).
You restore balance by favoring diet and lifestyle choices that increase the opposite characteristic.
Taste is used to sense the most basic properties and effects of food.
Each taste has a specific medicinal effect on your body.
Cravings for food with certain tastes indicate your body is craving specific medicinal results from food.
Taste is experienced on the tongue and represents your body's reaction to foods.
Sweet taste causes physical satisfaction and attraction whereas bitter taste causes discomfort and aversion.
Kapha should use less sweet taste while Vata and Pitta would benefit from using more sweet taste.
One of the first signs of illness is that your taste and appetite for food changes.
The six tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.
Do you crave foods with any of the tastes below?
According to the biocharacteristic theory of medicine,
people tend to get sick, over and over again, due to habitual causes and imbalances that are unique to the person.
Your body type summarizes this tendency, showing you the 'type' of conditions and imbalances that frequently challenge your health & wellness.
Using body type, you can also identify remedies likely to improve your strength and resiliency.
Your body type identifies physical and mental characteristics as well as your personal strengths and weaknesses.
The calculation of your body type is based on your medical history.
The 3 functional body types
are Catabolic (Vata), Metabolic (Pitta), and Anabolic (Kapha).
Catabolic individuals tend to break down body mass into energy.
Metabolic individuals tend to burn or use energy.
Anabolic individuals tend to store energy as body mass.
Catabolic people tend to be easily stimulated, hyperactive, underweight and dry.
Metabolic people tend to be rosy-cheeked, easily irritated, focused, driven, and easily inflamed.
Anabolic people are heavy, stable and grounded, but if they store too much energy, they could gain weight easily and have congestion.
Ojas is the essence of healthy tissue, immunity, stable energy and happiness. Substances that improve ojas are recommended after long-term illness, debility, emotional and physical trauma, and even sadness.
Sattvic foods promote awareness and a refreshed mind by nourishing the body without taxing digestion. Sattvic foods do not stimulate desire or nervous energy. They create clarity instead of drowsiness or heaviness.
Experiences vary according to the person and constitution. Individual results may vary.
The list of herbal-actions below has not be approved by the FDA and should not be used to treat a medical condition.
Here are the herbal actions of Coconut Oil:
Bone & Joint:
Hair Growth Tonic
An herb or formula that encourages healthy hair growth.
An herb that strengthens the liver. It is helpful for people with a history of substance abuse, chronic liver issues from hepatitis and hemolytic anemias. Generally, liver tonics are oily, cool, sweet, mildly sour, or has beta-carotene.
Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. Food digests with ease when
right for your body type (dosha). Healthy digestion is seen as the cornerstone of well-being in
Ayurveda. Healthy digestion generally prevents illness. If you do get sick, a strong digestive fire
reduces the severity of illness and increases your resilience. It also improves your mood. Once
you begin eating Ayurvedically, you will feel refreshed, vital and strong.
Wonderful article John ~ thank you!
I was so glad to see that you suggested drizzling it onto cooked vegetables as I find that
when unrefined oils are added just before serving they are so much more digestible than if heated or cooked with the vegetables. This is what my Italian grandmother used to do!
Now we know ~ oils are best added uncooked for maximum nutrition and so much easier on our livers etc.
I esp. like to shower, and add a small amount of coconut oil to my whole body ~ it truly calms my vata energy down and makes me feel more content.
I love coconut oil and appreciate your research into all the ways it is beneficial. However, I'm reticent about using it internally after recently reading Dr. Vasant Lad's book, "Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing" where he recommends that coconut oil, like avocado oil, should be used for external use only (page 226). Can you shed any light on this? Thank you
There will always be differing opinions among Ayurvedic professionals. We suggest you observe how you feel after eating coconut oil to decide if it's right for you. These 2 articles can help you do that:https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/article/Sensing-the-Impact-of-Food-on-Your-Body/5580https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/article/Getting-the-Most-Out-of-Your-Ayurvedic-Food-Journal/5140
- Kimberly Kubicke, Asbury park, NJ, 03-17-17 (Reply)
a traditional home remedy for
This information has not been validated by the FDA and should not be used to treat a medical condition.
John Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a
healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda.
His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful.
John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda
, which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition.
John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia.
John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion.
John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing.
In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots,
and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church.
Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick.
That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.