As trials for coronavirus vaccines are still underway, we are left with no choice but to simply wait and do the necessary safety precautions—wear a mask and a face shield, wash our hands thoroughly, and observe physical distancing.
But what if we add another to-do?
According to Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit, president of the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines, we’ve got something locally available that can help prevent, manage, and treat novel coronavirus patients—virgin coconut oil (VCO). The doctor has been doing his studies on coconut oil for over 15 years.
“There are two general strategies against viral diseases. First, to develop drugs which are directly antiviral, and second, to use the body’s own immune system to defend [itself] against the virus,” noted a research by Dr. Dayrit and Dr. Mary T. Newport, a neonatologist, international speaker, and an advocate for using coconut oil.
According to Dr. Dayrit, there are enough studies to prove that VCO has antiviral and immunomodulatory properties.
Upon ingestion, coconut oil produces lauric acid and monolaurin, two compounds which have been known for many years to have significant antiviral activity.
“My hypothesis for mechanism is that: One, is it’s directly antiviral, meaning it’s possible that it can directly kill or destroy the virus. Second is, it can enhance the immune system—there is enough evidence in the literature that it is immunomodulatory,” he said in our interview.
Proving these postulates were recent incidents in Cebu City, where VCO was used to manage COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Jose Mondejar, medical director Equilibrium Integrative Health Clinic, who had reached out to Dr. Dayrit regarding his VCO studies, gave the oil to 69 residents of Sitio Luz, Barangay Zapatera. They were among the first COVID-19 patients of Cebu City in April.
They initially took 1 tablespoon of VCO twice a day, which later increased to thrice a day, he said in an interview with DZMM. Within 2 weeks, 45 of the 69 patients tested negative, while 24 did not develop worse symptoms.
Similarly, VCO is also credited for keeping the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) COVID-free.
After taking VCO starting May 15, 7 jail workers with COVID-19 tested negative for the pathogen within a week. Three other workers tested negative within 8 days, he said. The jail has not tallied any new case of COVID-19 since.
Dr. Dayrit, who’s also a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Science and Engineering's chemistry department, clarifies that these are not clinical studies. “They were invited to treat people, not to do a study. What we did was to gather data so that it can be explained more rationally. In 30 days, [the confirmed COVID positive patients] were all eventually negative,” said Dr. Dayrit.
He recommends VCO to anyone who want to boost their immune system. “Just take one tablespoon 3 times a day after meals,” he said.
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Dr. Dayrit noted that there were no reported adverse effects or contraindications, other than mild diarrhea, “but if you lower the dose and then continue, it eventually clears within a few days.”
The wellness advocate also recommends coconut oil for cooking, because it’s a more stable oil. “Cooking with coconut oil is better than cooking with palm oil and soybean oil, kasi mga polyunsaturated ang oils na yun e. They are more unstable, they oxidize in the air so they produce free radicals. In theory, coconut oil is much safer to use for frying than palm oil or soybean oil or canola,” he said.
Take note that VCO is different from the refined coconut oil. VCO is extracted from fresh coconut meat, while refined coconut oil typically uses copra.
Another reason to keep a VCO in your medicine or kitchen cabinet is its other health benefits. It can reduce inflammation, when used either topically and internally. “Like if you have a burn, lagyan mo ng VCO and the inflammation will subside faster. Many dermatologists use it for skin ailments like psoriasis and bacterial infections. Some people take it to reduce weight; it’s been effective for some people in reducing stomach fat. There are other claims of VCO being anti-cancer,” he noted.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is currently doing trials to see how effective VCO is in combatting the COVID-19 virus, but have noted promising results.