Coconuts are grown in abundance in southern Asia, Malaysia, and Polynesia. While they’re often confused for being a nut, a coconut is actually a one-seeded drupe, a fruit that consists of an outer skin and a pulpy, succulent middle layer, with a hard, woody inner shell that encloses a single seed. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as Kalpavriksha, which means the “‘tree which gives all that is necessary for living,” as nearly all parts of it can be used, the water, milk, flesh, sugar, and oil. Even the husks and leaves are used as materials in furnishings and decoration.
Creamed coconut and coconut milk are made in a surprisingly similar way to their dairy counterparts. The flesh is grated and soaked in hot water, and the coconut cream rises to the top and can be skimmed off. The liquid that remains is then squeezed through a cheesecloth to extract a white liquid that is the coconut milk. When you crack open a fresh coconut, the milky-white substance that seeps out is natural coconut water, but when it’s blended with the coconut flesh and strained, the result is a thicker coconut “milk.”
Coconuts are highly nutritious, packed with fiber and rich in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6 as well as minerals, including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose-free so it can be used as a milk substitute. It’s a good option for anyone allergic to dairy and nut- or grain-based milk, plus it’s vegan and good for plant-based eaters.
Given all of that, it’s really not surprising that coconut milk can benefit you from the inside and out!
1. Treat dry, damaged hair
Coconut milk is an excellent moisturizer. It can be used to treat dry, damaged hair as well as to soothe an itchy, irritated scalp. Simply place a can of unsweetened coconut milk into your refrigerator overnight so that it will harden. In the morning, section dry hair into 3 to 5 sections, and then apply the coconut milk section by section, all the way from the roots to the ends of your hair. Put a shower cap over your hair and then allow the mask to set for about 20 minutes. Afterward, rinse it out in the shower. This is an excellent treatment not only for restoring dry, damaged hair but for repairing split ends.
2. Prevent hair loss and encourage hair growth
Coconut milk contains all the essential nutrients required for healthy hair. It can even boost follicles and promote hair growth. For this purpose, mix about a quarter cup of coconut milk with a half cup of water. For additional benefits, add a few drops of lavender essential oil, which not only provides a pleasant aroma, but improves blood circulation, and can also prevent hair loss while promoting hair growth. Massage the mixture into your scalp, and allow it to sit for about two hours. Afterward, rinse well in the shower.
3. A hair detangler and conditioner
Coconut milk not only makes a great organic hair conditioner to help soften your hair, and even make it thicker and longer, but it acts as a natural detangler. You can simply rub some of the milk into the length of your hair while combing it out to easily comb through tangles. Another option is to use it as a leave-in conditioner. It will provide added volume without leaving your hair greasy. Add a small amount of coconut milk onto the palm of your hand, and then rub your hands together. Bend forward, so that your hair flows toward the floor, and then rub the milk onto your hair, working from roots to ends.
4. Prevent premature aging
Coconut milk can help improve the appearance and health of your skin as well. As it’s loaded with Vitamin C, it helps to maintain skin elasticity and flexibility, while being rich in copper, it also aids in preventing age spots, sagging skin, and wrinkles. Use it as an ingredient in a facial mask by combining a half cup of coconut milk with one tablespoon of raw honey and five drops of eucalyptus oil. Apply it using a clean cotton pad to your face, and any other areas of the skin where wrinkles are present. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water. It will help your skin stay hydrated and looking years younger.
5. Soothe a sunburn
If you have sun damaged or sunburned skin, simply apply a thin layer of cool coconut milk to the affected area. The oil and fats in the milk help to restore moisture, reduce redness, and ease the pain. You can use it any time of the day, but be sure to apply it just before bed, leaving it on overnight and rinsing it off in the morning.
6. Prevent acne
If you have acne prone skin, use coconut milk as a cleanser. Its antibacterial properties help to prevent breakouts, but the oil and fats in the milk don’t clog pores.
7. An overall skin moisturizer
You’ve probably heard of milk baths, well coconut milk is even more beneficial than traditional cow’s milk due to its incredibly soothing properties. Add a cup of coconut milk to your bath as the water is running – you can also add a half cup of rose water for additional benefits and a pleasant aroma. Soak in the bath for about 15 minutes to restore moisture in dry skin and come out silky smooth. You can also rub coconut milk directly on your skin to promote healthier, glowing skin and combat dryness.
8. Support heart health
Coconut milk is a great way to promote better overall health by consuming it too, including improving heart health. That’s because coconuts are one of the best sources for lauric acid, which provides antiviral and antibacterial properties as well as being a healthy fatty acid that can improve cholesterol levels. A 2013 study found that participants who consumed coconut milk porridge for five days a week over an eight-week period experienced decreased LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) levels, and increased HDL (the “good” cholesterol). They concluded that the coconut fat in coconut milk is actually beneficial to overall cholesterol levels rather than causing a detrimental effect.
Coconut milk has also been found to help lower blood pressure and free plaque buildup from blood vessels, further supporting heart health and even lowering the risk of a heart attack.
9. Weight loss
Coconut milk is great for weight loss it helps to build muscle and reduce fat. After working out, the muscles need lots of nutrients, including those that are found in coconut milk like potassium and magnesium, which help repair broken down tissue and encourage it to grow back stronger. As coconut milk is high in healthy fats, it helps make you feel more satisfied, filling you up quicker and preventing overeating and snackingthroughout the day so that you can lose weight easier too.
10. Lowering inflammation
The medium-chain fatty acids, or MCTs, in coconut milk are known to help lower inflammation. Inflammation is associated with many types of health issues, including arthritis, muscles aches and joint pains, which means adding coconut milk to your diet can help reduce both swelling and pain.