Too familiar to need description, the coconut is a large palm reaching up to 100 ft (30 m) in height with a single, smooth trunk and long-ribbed leaves up to 20 ft (6 m) in length.
Habitat & Cultivation
Thought to have originated in Southeast Asia, coconut is now found throughout the tropics. It thrives in sandy, salty soils (typically coastal) and requires abundant sun and rain. Propagated by seed, the one-seeded nut grows out through one of the three germinating pores at its base. In 2009, coconut was grown commercially in 80 countries, with a total production of 61.7 million tons. A coconut palm can produce up to 10,000 nuts during its lifetime.
Kernel (fresh or dried), water. Every part of coconut is useful.
Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, mostly medium-chain fatty acids (lauric, myristic, caprylic, and capric acids). Coconut water contains significant levels of minerals, notably potassium. Virgin coconut oil is entirely non-toxic.
History & Folklore
The coconut palm is described as “Kalpavriksha” (meaning “the all-giving tree”) in ancient Indian texts.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Coconut oil and cream have established antimicrobial and immunostimulant activity. With antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties, the oil and cream can be used to counter many commonly occurring infections, such as influenza, cold sores, shingles, and fungal problems. Coconut has a beneficial action on the gut flora and can prove useful (alongside other treatment) in clearing intestinal worms and parasites.
Coconut oil and cream aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients (notably calcium and magnesium), and may be taken as part of a regimen to prevent or treat osteoporosis. Coconut water is reported to lower blood pressure, in part due to its high potassium content, while the oil helps prevent arteriosclerosis.
It is also thought to lower cholesterol levels, aid weight loss, and lower blood glucose levels. Coconut oil helps keep skin and hair healthy and is a common ingredient in skin creams and shampoos. Coconut merits its name of “all-giving tree.”