Bordering the Republic of Benin and tucked away from the hustle and bustle of mainstream Lagos is the place of my birth, the innermost part of Badagry. My earliest memory of this coastal town is of the coconut trees that dot its landscape and the sandy shores that greet everyone – visitors and residents alike.
In Badagry, it is an unwritten taboo to be unable to remove the husk of a coconut and break it neatly with a cutlass, ensuring the water does not spill. I, however, didn’t really think there was anything special about the tree. As children, the story was rife that drinking coconut water would make one dull while another of its byproducts, the oil, was seen as unhealthy for consumption. In fact, people who applied coconut oil on their bodies were considered ‘local’ or folks who couldn’t afford proper body cream.
Years on and armed with a degree in Food Science and Technology, I have come to realise that all the stories were nothing but myths. Instead, a coconut tree is the tree of life. Not the one Eve ate from that landed us all in trouble. This ‘tree of life’ has no useless part. Awesome, right?
So, here are some of the therapeutic uses of coconut’s byproducts:
Gotten from mature coconut kernel, through either heat or cold extraction, coconut oil has so many benefits:
It is great for cooking
Rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which is simply good cholesterol, its high smoke point makes it perfect for frying and can also be put to other uses like baking, stir-frying, making popcorn, among others. It is untrue that it is bad for the heart and there have been numerous studies to prove this.
Its healing effect
If you’re a mum dealing with nappy rash on your baby’s skin, applying coconut oil will heal the rash and restore the skin around the affected area. Need I add that it is good for moisturising the skin? Apply to damp skin to lock in moisture and get the glow you need. However, do not use it during the day if you spend a lot of time in the sun as it will make your skin darker.
As massage oil
To make homemade massage oil, mix coconut oil with few drops of your favourite essential oil and you’re good to go.
Have you ever run out of makeup wipes at home? Frustrating, right? Coconut oil is perfect for removing even the driest matte lipstick and waterproof mascara.
This is the water found inside the coconut meat and it has the following benefits:
A worthy replacement for lost electrolyte
Coconut water is rich in potassium and sodium among other nutrients. During medical emergencies, it can come handy for intravenous purposes. It can also be used to ease severe diarrhea.
Rich in antioxidants
It contains antioxidants that can protect your cells from the damages free radicals can cause.
A refreshing drink – an alternative to soda
Coconut water has a tropical taste, slightly sweet and nutty, and is low in calories (for the fitfam people). It is best consumed fresh as it is sterile in that state.
The antioxidants and electrolytes in coconut water help in reducing the effects of a hangover and restores one to normalcy.
Derived by blending mature coconut with water and then filtering, coconut milk has the following benefits:
Promotes hair growth
Coconut milk contains all the essential nutrients required for healthy hair, boosting your hair follicles, and promoting hair growth. Apply coconut milk on your hair and massage for 3 to 5 minutes. Shampoo as usual.
You can use coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner. This will condition and promote a longer and thicker hair (with extra shine).
Alternative to milk from animals
Coconut milk is lactose-free and so can be used as a milk substitute by those who are lactose intolerant. It is also a great base for smoothies.
Coconut milk can be used as a dairy alternative in baking and is an integral part of preparing coconut rice.
One of the best and most natural ways to exfoliate the skin is using coconut milk. To achieve this, make a paste of oat and coconut milk and apply on the face one to two times a week.
Note: Coconut milk goes bad quickly and should be used the same day it is made, if there is no means of preservation. It should be used within a few days, if refrigerated, to prevent it from going rancid. Canned coconut milk should be checked for dents or swelling before purchase.
This is one coconut product a lot of people are unfamiliar with. However, you can make it at home, all you need is dried coconut flakes and a food processor. Blend until it is smooth and enjoy your creamy coconut butter spread. With coconut butter, you get to enjoy a world of benefits:
It boosts your immunity
Coconut butter contains lauric acid which has been reported to be one of the best choices for boosting immunity.
Coffee creamer substitute
If you’re a coffee-lover, add one tablespoon of coconut butter to your coffee to add flavor and make it creamier.
Use as a spread
Coconut butter can be used as a spread on all kinds of baked food like bread, crackers, and muffins.
Drizzle on pancake and waffles
Add a dollop of coconut butter for extra crunch and richness.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, over 2000 years ago said: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food”. As COVID-19 has made a lot of people return to minimally processed foods for immunity boost, among other benefits, coconut should not be overlooked as its byproducts provide numerous health and beauty benefits. So if you’re yet to incorporate coconut into your diet, you should because it is great for your health and wellbeing.