India has embraced the coconut as nature’s gift to that country. Their claim that the coconut originated there, is substantiated by fossils dating back over 15 million years, but after all is said and done, it seems the verdict is still out on its genesis. There is no question however, on the versatility of the coconut and the fact that India has moved in leaps and bounds in the use of product and byproducts and is predominant in their use of the coconut in rituals as well. It is symbolic of blessings, fertility and purity in India but so too in other societies around the world where it has great cultural and religious significance. The coconut tree has long ago established itself in other countries where it thrives in tropical climate but on the face of it, India seems to be the forerunners for its myriad of uses. Here are some of the ways in which the coconut is used, though all are not attributed to India:
Coconut Shell Powder
Neera or palm nectar
Coconut Palm Jaggery (unrefined, non-distilled sugar)
Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut oil used as cuticle moisturizer
Coconut oil used as Deodorant
Face Scrub (mixed with baking soda)
Gin (from the sap)
Toothpaste (coconut oil added to baking soda to make a paste)
Add to coffee (to increase metabolism)
The coconut, its water, milk, and byproducts, are also revered across the Caribbean and used in similar ways throughout, undoubtedly coming from a shared culture or by virtue of close proximity. It is among Jamaica’s main economic crops and is used in far too many of our delectable dishes to create a complete or comprehensive list here.
Suffice it to say that home-made coconut oil was introduced to many babies in Jamaica as a remedy for the common cold and may still be used for this purpose. It is made from scratch through boiling the milk until it becomes oil, after which garlic is added, or more aptly put; “burnt” in the oil and given a half or one teaspoon daily for such ailments. This is a tradition that was passed down over many years. Here is a concise list of foods in which the shredded, grated, tiny cubes or coconut milk is used across the Caribbean:
Rice and peas
Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup
Though its wide variety of uses and health benefits seem endless and coconut oil and its derivative are pretty safe, I would not rule out extremely rare occasions where there might be adverse reaction. It is always best to check with one’s health care provider where its use may be questioned especially for ingestion in its organic state. Here is a list of some claims to the health benefits of coconut water:
Used for oral rehydration
Is known to help with rashes caused by small pox, chicken pox, measles and mosquito bites
May help with urinary infections
Excellent tonic for geriatrics
Can be used to aid malnourishment
Good source of electrolytes
Slows down aging
May help to prevent the formation of stones in the urinary tract
Help to fight germs and bacteria in the mouth
Teeth Whitening and Oil Pulling
While we are not in any way discouraging the use of products consumers love, it is a fact that the consumption of beverages such as coffee, tea and cola products darkens or stains teeth over time, and where “selfies” have become the order of the day, people are becoming ultra-conscious of their smile. With professional and over the counter teeth whitening products being somewhat pricey, one may think of using 1 part coconut oil to 1 part baking soda, mix to make a paste and use as toothpaste. Some people have gone as far as buying over the counter retainers, sprinkling a bit of the oil in and sleeping with it on.
Oil pulling or oil swishing is an Indian folk practice that has been used for over 3,000 years. It is believed that oil pulling helps ward off gingivitis, plaque and eliminates bad breath instantaneously. Oil swishing is done by using pure, organic coconut oil, as you would mouth wash. One tablespoon is all that is necessary and there is no need to gargle. Swish the oil around to cover the teeth and try pulling the oil through the teeth if possible. Hold the oil in the mouth for a maximum of 20 minutes, and then spit it out.
A vast amount of information can be gleaned on the web but listed below are a couple sites from which some of the information was obtained for this article.