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What are some uses for coconuts?

  • Published
  • By Joyce Martratt
  • 36th Wing
The people of Guam laud the benefits of the "Tree of Life," better known as the Coconut Tree. 

Throughout history, Chamorros used the wooden trunks for construction of homes; the palm leaves, midrib and coir husk for thatched roofs, baskets, hats, placemats, bedding and unique decorations and artwork; the meat and juice for food, desserts and milk for recipes; the heart of palm in salads; the sap for a sweet drink call tuba or tuba aguayente (Guam's moonshine) or fermented into vinegar. Most importantly, the white meat is the source for pure virgin coconut oil. 

Studies have found that coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Coconut oil is great for cooking and sciencetists discovered a wide range of medicinal benefits. 

The key is in the fat molecule -- all fats and oils are composed fatty acids. Fatty acids have two classifications (1) saturation: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; (2) molecular size or length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid -- short-chain fatty acids (SCFA); medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA); and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). 

Coconut oil is composed predominately of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA).
According to my research, the size of fatty acid is important because our bodies use each fatty acid differently depending on its size. The physiological effects of MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from those of LCFA more commonly found in our foods. 

The size of the fatty acid is also important because our bodies respond to and use each fatty acid differently. 

Therefore, the physiological effects of MCFA in coconut oil are distinctly different from those of LCFA more commonly found in other foods. 

Many folks on the island believe in the health benefits of coconut oil. They use the oil on the scalp and skin for healthy looking hair and complexions. Applied topically, it helps form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward off infection; reduces symptoms associated with psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis; supports the natural chemical balance of the skin, softening the skin; and helps relieve dryness and flaking, supports tissue healing and repair; supports and aids immune system function; and has many more uses. 

Last Saturday, I interviewed Ms. Rosa "Chai" Rodriguez of Malojloj, whom I have greatest respect. When I had an allergic reactions after being under the sun too long, she gave me a herbal remedy to use for my allergies. It worked. 

So when I needed information about local uses for coconuts, I went to see her. As Chai was explaining her four-step method to produce one quart of pure virgin coconut oil -- a method passed down through generations of Chamorros -- I thought of how hard the process is. 

According to custom, each step takes three weeks, because the collection of the coconuts must occur during high tide. Chamorro lore says the coconuts will produce more oil during high tide. 

She emphasized the importance of each step. 

Gather 10 mature, sprouting coconuts during high tide. Grate the meat. Using a large pot, place the grated coconut meat into it and add two gallons of water. Squeeze the meat as it soaks to extract the oil. As the oil rises to the top, extract it into another pot. Boil the extracted oil for 3.5 hours. Again, extract the oil from the top and store it in a container. Wait until the next high tide and repeat the process with 10 new coconuts. Add the new product to the previous one. Repeat the process a third time again adding the product to the first two. After the third product is added to the first two, boil the contents for another 2.5 hours. Once finished, cool the oil and store it in a glass container to retain its properties. The end result is pure virgin coconut oil.

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