Coconut

Three things are sure to result from a trip to the Hawaiian islands: A strong urge to never leave, a fierce tan, and an obsession with all things coconut. This quintessentially tropical fruit fits well in Hawaii, not just because of the matching climate, but because it parallels the islands’ penchant for natural cures and cares. And with coconut being so multifaceted, its oil’s legacy is no mystery.

The good news: No need to pack your bags to take advantage of coconut, referred to by some as the “wonder fruit.” Coconut oil, extracted from the meat of the fruit, can be found in nearly all reaches of the U.S., distributed in markets by such companies as Spectrum (which produces an organic variety) and others. Its uses are many: For years, coconut oil has been put to work in cooking, skin care, hair care and recreational activities; that is, massage oil and the like.

Cooking

Anyone who’s had the privilege of sampling food made with coconut ingredients knows that its taste is not easily rivaled. Coconut oil carries that same delectable effect, whether used for sautéing, baking or coating. For vegans, it’s the answer to many wishes and dreams; since it’s purely plant-derived, coconut oil is often used in place of butter or — ick — lard. Some like to use it unconventionally. For example, try replacing the truffle oil in this recipe for Autumn Spiced Popcorn with coconut oil, instead. The best part? Coconut oil is one of those treasured “good fats,” known to raise HDL, or good cholesterol.

Hair Care

We’ve all done it. How many times have we each visited a store, browsed the shampoo section, and smelled twelve different coconut-scented shampoos before shelling out $25 for one bottle? “Guilty!” cries the peanut gallery. Guess what? Typically running at less than $10 for a 14-ounce jar, organic coconut oil adds a natural, tropical scent to hair, without any additional chemicals that are sometimes found in store bought hair products. Coconut oil is often used as a pre-washing conditioner. Apply it to hair for 3-5 minutes, then rinse before shampooing. This conditioning treatment will help prevent the loss of proteins and moisture that often results after washing hair.

Skin Care 

Like its sisters within the far-reaching oil family, coconut oil is one of the most valued forms of natural skin care. Similar to its hair care treatment, many apply coconut oil to the skin prior to bathing or showering to prevent the loss of moisture. However, it’s also commonly used in place of body lotion after bathing, often lasting longer than most store bought moisturizers and also providing an extra boost of antioxidants that, according to some studies, have been linked to preventing signs of aging skin. In moderation, coconut oil is a valuable supplement to facial moisturizers; adding just a drop to a daily dose of facial lotion can help create a better makeup base and more substantial moisture retention, particularly in dry, cold climates.

Massage Oil

No two ways about it. Massage is a sensual experience. Granted, our muscles are the primary beneficiaries, but receiving a massage sparks all of our five senses, including the olfactory. Hence, certain scented oils are so frequently used in spa services. Coconut oil, though not typically requested within the walls of Aveda, can create a relaxing ambience and massage experience through its light, natural scent, habitually associated with such images as beaches and other tranquil, outdoor landscapes. And, while pleasing the sense of smell, massaging with coconut oil provides the aforementioned skin care benefits, as well.

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Image: brianteutsch