When I purchased my first jar of virgin coconut oil, I did it because of my skin issues. See, I'm allergic to everything — and often it manifests on my skin in the form of ugly red hives. As if this weren't enough of a burden, mosquitoes love me; they adore me. One bite quickly develops into a huge, unsightly red lump that itches until I scar myself by scratching so much. Well, coconut oil did the trick. I used it to spot-treat hives, bug bites and patches of itchy skin.
Lo and behold, it worked.
It wasn't until I used it consistently through the mosquitoes-driving-Viv-crazy months that I discovered just how much of a multitasker virgin coconut oil is.
Because I cook on a cast iron skillet, use the oven lots and am outrageously clumsy, I tend to burn myself a lot. Even if you don't burn yourself as often as I do, it's good to have some virgin coconut oil on hand to spread on burns to help soothe them. Slather on some virgin coconut oil to help relieve aches and soreness — it makes for excellent massage oil. Got an angry baby with diaper rash? Grab that virgin coconut oil.
Not surprisingly, it makes for great hair conditioner for those with dry hair. It also makes for great lip balm when stubborn winter winds leave your lips chapped beyond recognition. And I was absolutely thrilled to discover that you can brush some onto your eyelashes and massage it into your nails and cuticles to help strengthen them all. Got dry or rough heels? Virgin coconut oil to the rescue.
I still don't buy into it slowing the aging process (why are we so afraid of getting old?) or eliminating stubborn belly fat simply by taking a couple of pill supplements a day every day. And I'm still not sold on eating a spoonful a day, nor using it as replacement for oil in cooking or for shortening in some baking recipes. After all it is made up of more than 90% saturated fats.
To be fair, however, Len Piche, a nutritional scientist, registered dietitian and professor in the Foods and Nutrition program at Brescia University College at Western University in London points out that while no health professional will encourage people to increase the level of saturated fats in their diets, some of the saturated fats that make up virgin coconut oil are shorter-chain fatty acids that “aren't implicated in some of the chronic diseases” associated with saturated fat.
While I'm not ready to try it out in my cooking and baking just yet, and certainly never long-term, what I have used it for is to season my cast iron pan and to condition my wooden cutting board. Overall, when used responsibly and not expected to cure diseases or make us flat-tummied Dorian Grays, virgin coconut oil still has a bunch of uses that are pretty darn neat.