The more I read, the more I plan, the more I prepare, I find myself thinking, "Boy, I do not want to be caught without my coconut oil." While many who know me might get a good chuckle from this thought, they wouldn't be surprised either. In fact, one of my friends jokingly refers to me as the "Coconut Oil Lady". Not a month goes by without her talking to me about some problem or ailment to which I'll respond, "Well, you could put some coconut oil on that,", or, "If you just used some coconut oil..."
Dr. Bruce Fife wrote a great book called The Coconut Oil Miracle. He does a great job of talking about how it works as well as listing all sorts of situations in which one might use coconut oil. While I recommend reading this book, I also thought it prudent to share some real-world experience with those who might consider adding the "miracle" to their preparedness cache.
Coconut oil is the ultimate multitasker. How many items in your preparedness stash can be used for food, medicine, hygiene, and preventative treatment?
Unlike olive oil, there isn't "extra virgin" coconut oil. There is, however, "virgin" coconut oil, and this is the kind of coconut oil you want to buy. While refined coconut oil tastes less "coconutty" and it's still calorically-dense, the refining process causes it to loose many of it's health-protecting and medicinal benefits. If you open your coconut oil and it doesn't smell like coconut, you've purchased the wrong stuff. I opt for organic, virgin coconut oil from Mountain Rose Herbs (http://www.mountainroseherbs.com) because their product is excellent and their prices are the best I've found. (I am in no way affiliated with this company, by the way. I'm just a very satisfied customer.)
As far as food goes, coconut oil is an excellent choice for baking. As a saturated fat, it works like shortening in baked goods, but because of it's unique structure, it actually protects the heart from heart disease (as opposed to shortening which often contains trans-fat.) It's stable at room temperature for years, and it's solid at room temperature (although its melting point is low -- 76 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Coconut oil is an easy addition to most any food to increase that food's caloric density. It's one of the few fats that doesn't require bile to digest it, so it's often used in infant formula (not only as an easily-digested fat but also as a supplement because it contains essential compounds that are found in human breast milk.)
Coconut oil can help regulate blood sugar too, so if it's used in unrefined, high-fiber items (like some amazing coconut cookies found in Dr. Fife's book), diabetics will have a much easier time dealing with the effects of a high-carbohydrate diet often eaten when living on stored foods.
In my home, we use coconut oil every day as a treatment and a preventative measure. Coconut oil is an amazing moisturizer. I've found nothing else that helps heal my cracked and bloody winter skin faster, and even better for me, I don't break out into hives when I use it. (When I have problems with my skin in the winter, most commercial treatments will cause hives for me.)
Virgin coconut oil has amazing antifungal properties, so I've used it on yeasty diaper rashes with my children as well as thrush and yeast overgrowth on the skin. For those who have a systemic yeast overgrowth (sometimes called "candida" or "candidiasis"), the consumption of too much coconut oil in food can cause "die-off" and some intestinal upset. For this reason, I usually recommend that people not start out eating lots of coconut oil every day until you know how it'll affect you.
My favorite use for coconut oil is as a sunscreen. I have very fair skin, and I burn quite easily. With commercially-available sunscreens (which are a lot more expensive, I might add), I burn much quicker and much more severely than I do with coconut oil. During my last trip to Florida, I was able to use coconut oil as a sunscreen during the worst parts of the day (for sun exposure), and I ended up with a very mild sunburn. Previously, I'd used a commercial sunscreen for the same amount of time during the same time of day, and I was burned much more severely.
Coconut oil can also be used as a carrier oil for other essential oils. Essential oils like clove, tea tree, and oregano can be extremely irritating to the skin on their own. My mixing them with coconut oil though, you get a much bigger bang for your buck.
We also make bath soap using coconut oil. The recipe calls for coconut, olive, and palm oils, and it's not at all drying on my sensitive skin. The soap also works as an excellent stain pre-treater, and when the soap is ground for homemade laundry detergent, I've really gotten superior cleaning results (for a lot less money than standard detergents, I might add.)
Coconut oil also has antimicrobial properties, so whenever someone in my home is injured, we use it as one might use an antibiotic ointment. The good thing about it is a little goes a long way, so the 16-ounce container that we keep in the bathroom for topical use lasts a very long time.
I strongly encourage everyone to have this essential supply on hand. Grab some from the pharmacy section of your local grocer (since the stuff that you find in the cooking section is almost always refined) and give it a try. Once you discover the myriad of uses for this amazing food, you'll never want to be without it either!