Coconut is Summertime's Medicine
Updated: Jul 9, 2022
I’m absolutely crazy about coconut - in all its forms. As a deeply nutritive food full of fiber, essential minerals, and nourishing fats, all forms of coconut whether it be meat, oil, water, milk, or cream are predominant in the sweet taste and have cooling properties that help chill out the body and mind. This makes coconut the perfect food medicine for Summertime.
In Ayurveda, Coconut is a highly regarded food as it is an amazing source of prana (life force), it replenishes ojas (your vital essence & immunity reserves), and is considered a very pure sattvic food, which means it helps increase our subtle body energy and cultivates feelings of serenity, harmony, and mental clarity. Coconut is pacifying for vata and pitta dosha, but in excess, it can aggravate kapha dosha.
Let’s take a closer look at coconut water and coconut oil - two things that I use daily in the Summer to help manage both pitta and vata dosha and to help maintain seasonal balance.
Coconut water is the clear fluid that is inside young coconuts. In Hawaii, they call it “the dew from the heavens”. It is made up of 94% water and includes glucose, fructose, amino acids, and electrolytes like potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. The amount of these substances changes based on the age of the coconut. Younger coconuts have more sugar, and more mature coconuts have more protein and a higher pH level.
Given its content, coconut water is a nutritive brain tonic and a natural electrolyte replacer that replenishes minerals, salt, and fluid and calms anxious, irritated thoughts that can easily flare up during Summer.
Coconut water is a coolant making it a refreshing anti-inflammatory for your skin, eyes, and gut. Drinking it provides immediate relief to these organs and more. It can act as a natural antacid to relieve heartburn and its cooling and diuretic properties make it a healing drink for any inflammation of the bladder including urinary tract infections and interstitial cystitis. It also cools the blood, which in turn nourishes an exhausted, overheated liver.
The sweet taste and cooling properties of coconut water make this a popular Summer elixir and aphrodisiac that helps cool the body, soften irritation and calm the nerves offering a sense of ease and openness.
Energetically, coconut water moves energy downward so it further helps to pacify vata and pitta fortifying the root and sacral chakras allowing one to more easily ground, feel joy, and find their center.
You can have too much of a good thing. Coconut water has some natural sugars and a mild laxative quality to it, so overconsumption can lead to diarrhea for some. I find adding coconut water to plain water or other fluids is a great way to consume a healthy amount.
Here is a natural electrolyte drink recipe using Coconut water that I consume regularly during the Summer.
Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the kernel of matured coconuts.
Coconut oil moisturizes and cools the skin externally and internally. Come Summertime, this is my oil of choice for abhyanga (daily self-massage).
Externally, coconut oil replenishes and cools by removing excess heat in the skin, and helps alleviate discomfort caused by eczema, plaque psoriasis (dry), sunburn, and general dryness. It is a very effective balm for dry, stressed-out nerves as the oil coats, cools, and protects the nerve endings and the myelin sheath (the fatty layer that surrounds the nerves) which in turn buffers the nervous system and subsequently calms the mind.
Regarding whether it is healthy or not to consume coconut oil internally, there are different schools of thought and some studies looking at this, but ultimately, it really depends on the individual, their unique constitution, digestive health, and their diet practices.
Fat is essential to life. Fat builds the cell and stores and supplies energy for all cellular activity. It also provides lubrication, nourishment, and groundedness. From an Ayurvedic elemental perspective, fat is composed of mostly Earth and Water which brings bulk and strength to the body.
This is fat in the correct proportions for the body, not in excess. If a person consumes too much food, whether it be fat, carbs, or proteins, and the digestive fire is not strong enough to digest it, any food can become fat.
Who is it healthy for?
Coconut oil is composed mainly of saturated fats (82% of total). Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature, don’t spoil quickly, and have high melting points. Saturated fats are found in animal products and tropical oils. Whether these fats increase heart disease risk has long been a controversial topic, with more recent study results showing that ultra-processed, carb-rich, and sugary foods may pose more risks.
For those that consume processed foods and the typical (SAD) Standard American Diet, saturated fats are easy to overconsume. The SAD diet consists of excess sugar, refined carbs, and saturated fats and is low in fiber. In addition, this diet typically results in diminished digestive strength due to overconsumption of unhealthy and difficult-to-digest foods. For these individuals, adding in more saturated fat would be contraindicated.
Many of the health concerns with the highly saturated coconut oil have been correlated with a lack of bile production or congestion in the bile ducts or gallbladder. Gallbladder congestion and poor bile flow are also linked to reduced digestive strength and difficulty processing dietary fats like coconut oil.
Looking at it through an Ayurvedic lens, anyone with excess or aggravated kapha dosha or diminished digestive strength should minimize intake of oils in general as oil further promotes kapha dosha, and ultimately with poor digestion, it will produce ama (toxins).
With that said, for healthy individuals, a certain amount of coconut oil can absolutely be beneficial.
Coconut oil protects the sensitive mucosal lining of your small and large intestine and is anti-inflammatory. It has antiviral properties as it contains high levels of a fatty acid called lauric acid, an antiviral substance. In addition, coconut oil has been shown in research studies to have antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities, which have an adverse effect on fungus, bacteria, and yeast.
Coconut oil's antimicrobial properties make it ideal for oil pulling and maintaining healthy flora in the mouth. Known traditionally as Gandusha in Ayurveda, oil pulling is an oral detoxification procedure that entails swishing a tablespoon of pure coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes, then discarding the oil.
Coconut oil is also healing for the liver as it protects it from the damage done by alcohol. Alcohol, along with other toxins we take in, creates an agitated liver which leads to agitated emotions, and coconut oil can cool and ease the tension accompanying liver overactivity. In addition, supporting the liver also supports the eyes as they are both pitta (hot) dominant organs.
Luckily, coconut oil can be a part of a healthy diet for some individuals allowing one to reap all these wonderful benefits. Remember though, deciding to add coconut oil to your regimen should be based on your constitution, your diet practices, and your current state of health, including digestive strength.
The quirky coconut definitely has more to offer in all its forms. It really is a medicinal gem for hot weather and anywhere it’s Summer time. Utilizing this distinctive fruit in a way that honors your unique constitution and set of circumstances can be one way to help beat the heat, cool your body, calm your mind and stay balanced during the Summer.