Article / November 19, 2020

Virgin Coconut Oil: A Secret Weapon Against COVID?

As one of the world’s most popular superfoods, coconuts are as healthy as they are versatile. Used in everything from processed foods to cosmetics, there seem to be no limits to what coconuts can do. Still, you can imagine our surprise when we came across this little tidbit on virgin coconut oil out of the Philippines:

“Virgin coconut oil helps destroy the COVID-19 virus so it can be used as an antiviral against the disease, according to the preliminary experiments of a research in the Philippines.”

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) said it studied the effects of coconut oil against COVID-19 for months in the experimental phase and has already begun clinical trials with 56 patients.”

Needless to say, this warrants a closer look!

Virgin Coconut Oil as an Antiviral Treatment for COVID-19

In the Philippines, the PCHRD is part of the nation’s Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Funding from DOST-PCHRD was used at Ateneo De Manila University to study the potential use of coconut derivatives as another weapon in the arsenal against the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. Initial results of the study were promising. Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has previously been shown to effectively kill other viruses, so it was natural to see if it might work against the virus behind the current  global pandemic.

For mild cases, VCO reduced the “viral load” in COVID-19 patients by 60-90%. This could be a vital way to slow the replication of the virus in the early stages of infection. And there were also signs that VCO “has a key mechanism in up-regulating the immune response against COVID-19.”

Based on those initial positive findings, DOST-PCHRD is funding additional studies of VCO to determine if it can be used as an adjunct therapy in treating COVID-19 patients.

Another clinical trial is currently underway at the Teaching Hospital of Universitas Gadjah Mada in Indonesia. COVID-19 patients will be receiving 15 mL of VCO twice a day for 14 days to see what effects it has on the progression of the disease. The study is set to conclude at the end of the year.

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A recent article in India’s Journal of the Association of Physicians of India (JAPI) reviewed the properties of coconut oil in fighting pathogens and boosting immunity. Although not specifically aimed at COVID-19, it pointed out how traditional Ayurvedic medicine recognized the medicinal properties of coconut oil nearly 4,000 years ago. Use of coconut oil releases Lauric Acid and Monolaurin, both of which are known anti-microbial agents.

Just Another Reason to Love Coconut

These findings about using coconut oil for enhancing the immune system in general (and more specifically for fighting the novel coronavirus) are just one more reason among many to admire the humble coconut, which continues to reveal itself as a true powerhouse. In fact, the coconut palm tree is often called the “tree of life” because every part of it is so useful!

The inner flesh or “meat” is edible and the the “coconut water” inside is an increasingly popular beverage among health-conscious consumers. From there coconut derivatives get used in all kinds of cosmetics. The hard shell of the seeds can be made into charcoal. The wood of the tree trunk can be used as a building material. The fibrous material of the outer husk, called coir, is used to make doormats, brushes, and even mattresses. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more useful plant than the coconut tree.

Coconut’s Agricultural Opportunities

What’s interesting about coconut is that the vast majority of its cultivation as a crop is done by smallholders on marginal land. Organizing and scaling coconut as an agricultural product for use around the world is an idea just waiting for investment, and Farmfolio is leading the way in recognizing the coconut sector’s world of opportunity.

Especially exciting is the long-awaited development of the coconut sector in Colombia as it seeks membership in the International Coconut Community (ICC) to further boost its credibility as an up-and-coming player. Scaling up coconut production in Colombia now is ideal because demand is rising in lucrative markets such as the United States and Europe.

A key element in developing the coconut sector in emerging markets is making sure producers understand how to benefit from using all parts of the plant. In many cases, the outer husks around the hard seed are treated as waste. But those husks can be used in the same way people use peat. When chopped up into chips, it’s a very effective form of mulch for landscaping and gardening applications.

Not to mention the many uses of the fibrous coir mentioned earlier. Those fibers can often be used in place of or in conjunction with synthetic fibers, which in turn reduces the use of oil to make those synthetic fibers. And everyone knows reducing our dependence on oil is a top priority in the twenty-first century to fight global warming and climate change.

 

Virgin coconut oil’s potential as a treatment for the novel coronavirus highlights the versatility and sheer usefulness of coconut. As the world begins to recognize the true potential of the so-called Tree of Life, expect consumption (and production) to rise.

The time is ripe for coconut, and Colombia is in the perfect position to leverage current market conditions and scale up production to enter high-value markets.

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