[This article originally appeared on The Alternative Daily here.]
If you thought coconut oil was just for cooking, think again. Coconut oil is one of the most versatile ingredients out there. Whether it’s in your food, on your hair or even “down there,” coconut oil can give your body some TLC from the inside-out. Take our 10-day coconut oil challenge to revamp your beauty routine and improve your overall health.
Health benefits of coconut oil
Forget everything you thought you knew about saturated fat. When it comes from the right sources, it’s actually great for you! Coconut oil is so darn healthy because of its medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) content, which is easily digestible and absorbed by the body. In fact, coconut oil is so easy for the body to work with that it can increase resting metabolic rate and calories burned. Put simply, it’s great for weight loss. Not quite what you’d expect from something made up of 80 percent saturated fat, huh?
All very impressive so far, but the health benefits of eating coconut oil don’t stop there. Multiple studies in humans and rats have shown that coconut oil can:
Lower blood pressure
Reduce oxidative stress
Increase cognitive function and memory
Decrease body fat, particularly in the abdomen
Increase HDL “good” cholesterol for better heart health
Improve sleep, sexual function and appetite for breast cancer patients
Hands down, this tropical treasure is a must-have. Now, let’s get started on the coconut oil challenge. In order to reap all of the benefits, make sure to source an organic variety.
Day 1: Swap cooking grease for coconut oil
Beauty stems from within, which is why we’re starting in the kitchen. First task: ditch your vegetable oils, like canola. They are extracted from GMO plant seeds using harsh chemicals and processing — not exactly something you want in your body. They also contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, which disrupts the delicate balance between omega-3s and omega-6s in your body. Without the right ratio, your immune system takes a dive and inflammation increases to damaging levels, causing disease.
To kick off this challenge, toss your vegetable oils and buy a jar of organic coconut oil instead. In addition to the health benefits, the saturated fat in coconut oil stays stable even at high temperatures, keeping away carcinogenic fumes (also called the smoke point). Plus, cooking or baking with coconut oil adds a hint of sweetness to any dish.
Day 2: Put a spoonful in your coffee
Coconut oil is great for food, but it’s delicious when used in beverages, too. Before you tuck into your morning cup of Joe with chemical-filled creamers and refined sugars that damage your health, try something a little different. Today, keep it simple. Grab a tablespoon of coconut oil, swirl it in and let it melt. You’ll love the flavor and texture it adds to your coffee. Plus, coffee with a form of saturated fat (also called “Bulletproof Coffee”) is said to slow the caffeine hit for a more stable release of energy.
Day 3: Swish oil to remove plaque-forming bacteria
Think oil pulling is just a trend? This Ayurvedic practice has been used for centuries the world over. Plus, one study showed that oil pulling with coconut oil significantly reduced the amount of Streptoccous mutans in saliva, a bacteria that forms plaque on teeth. In another study, 60 teenagers were advised to oil pull with coconut oil for 30 days. By day seven, researchers noted a significant decrease in markers for plaque and gingivitis. Nice!
Oil pulling (also called “oil swishing therapy”) is a natural way to cleanse your mouth, whiten your teeth and improve the overall health of your gums. Swish one tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes, as if it was mouthwash. Make sure not to swallow while you swish, since it’s full of bacteria. When you’re finished, spit the coconut oil into the trashcan, otherwise, it can clog the sink once solid.
It’s a great idea to incorporate coconut oil into your normal oral hygiene routine. Good oral health is an indicator of your overall health, including how well your heart is doing. Bonus points if you can keep up this task every day of the coconut oil challenge!
Day 4: Slather it under your armpits
In case you haven’t heard, store-bought deodorants are downright scary. They contain aluminum and other harmful chemicals, which have been linked to all sorts of health issues like breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and kidney problems. No, thank you! For today’s challenge, whip up some homemade deo-for-the-BO instead. Check out the toxin-free homemade deodorant recipe here. In addition to coconut oil, it contains essential oils so you’ll smell delicious.
Day 5: Deep condition your hair
If your hair needs a pick-me-up, there’s coconut oil to the rescue! Rich in vitamins and nutrients, coconut oil smoothes your split ends for some seriously lustrous locks. It also moisturizes your scalp, tames frizz, helps remove dandruff, detangles knots and protects against the elements. Plus, when combined with essential oils like rosemary and sandalwood, coconut oil may promote hair growth.
There are many conditioning recipes available online, but here is the simplest. Warm two tablespoons of coconut oil in your hands, then work through your hair. Leave it on for an hour and cover your head with a shower cap. When your time is up, shampoo and condition like you normally do. Use this treatment once a week for best results.
Day 6: Soothe achy muscles
Coconut oil is so popular in homemade beauty and medicine recipes for a good reason. It makes an excellent carrier oil, meaning that it helps your body to absorb the healing properties of plant-based oils. Give this coconut oil muscle balm recipe a shot if you pushed it a little too hard at the gym or you’re feeling sore. It contains essential oils that will help reduce inflammation, calm your body and cool down the pain. With this recipe, you’ll have more than enough to keep extra in the fridge for later use.
Day 7: Keep insects at bay
There’s nothing worse than a swarm of mosquitoes coming to bug you during a camping trip or outdoor meal. But commercial bug sprays contain toxic chemicals that can be damaging to your health. Not to mention they smell awful.
Fortunately, coconut oil can be mixed with essential oils to keep insects away naturally. Mix 20 percent coconut oil to 80 percent clove oil to keep mosquitos off your skin. You can also try a few drops of peppermint, tea tree or rosemary. Once diluted, test the mix on a small area of your skin to make sure there’s no irritation.
Day 8: Nourish your skin
Have you ever tried to read the label on your soaps and lotions? Chances are, you won’t recognize many of the ingredients. If you’ve been experiencing dry and flaky skin this winter, coconut oil could be just the thing you need. This vanilla and coffee bean soap recipe smells amazing. Plus, the coffee grounds act as an exfoliating agent on your skin. We recommend using our own organic, shade-grown “Lucy’s Bru” for both drinking and beauty purposes.
After your shower, you can moisturize your heels and soles using this whipped foot lotion recipe with coconut oil. Your feet will thank you!
Day 9: Whiten your teeth
Now that we’re oil pulling every day, your teeth and gum line might look good enough to impress your dentist. Let’s take it up a notch! Combine coconut oil and baking soda for an all-natural whitening toothpaste. The coconut oil will help to remove plaque while the baking soda scrubs off some of those pesky stains. The peppermint essential oil will freshen your breath, similar to traditional toothpaste.
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 tbsp baking soda
10 drops peppermint essential oil
Mix the ingredients until they form a paste-like consistency. Then, simply brush your teeth as you normally would. Instead of baking soda, you can also substitute a tablespoon of turmeric, another awesome teeth-whitener with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. With this natural recipe, you won’t experience any of the painful side effects of store-bought teeth whiteners, like tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. You’re welcome!
Day 10: Put coconut oil ‘down there’
Coconut oil is a great all-around ingredient for your beauty routine. And now that we’ve covered teeth, hair and skin, perhaps all that’s left is your reproductive health. Thankfully, coconut oil is great for that too. If you need to get rid of yeast infection pain, there’s a coconut oil remedy for that. You can find the recipe here.
You can also use coconut oil as a personal lubricant for getting busy in the bedroom with your partner — or by yourself. You’ll have peace of mind knowing there’s no phenoxyethanol, petroleum, parabens, glycerin, chemicals or preservatives near your lady bits. Enough said.
More things to do with coconut oil
By day 10 of the coconut oil challenge, you should be feeling a bit more rejuvenated in the health and beauty department. If you’re feeling inspired to use up the rest of your jar, here are a few more things to do with coconut oil:
Soothe a sunburn
Use it as a lip balm
Use it as massage oil
Treat your nail cuticles
Use it as shaving cream
Remove your eye makeup
Rub it on your chaffed nipples
Mix it with sugar for an exfoliating foot scrub
Brush it into your dog’s coat for healthy shine
Top it on popcorn, instead of processed fake butter
Mix coconut oil with lavender essential oil to improve sleep
Extend the shelf life of your eggs by dipping them in liquid coconut oil
Consider us obsessed. We think a jar of coconut oil should be in every room of the house — the kitchen, bathroom… and maybe even the bedroom. What’s your favorite way to use it? Let us know how the coconut oil challenge worked for you!
— Hilary Lebow