How to Use Coconut Oil for Pain Relief

Can you use coconut oil for pain relief?

I’m not aware of published studies, but in addition to anecdotal experience, its proven benefits do apply to pain relief. One long-term solution to pain is to incorporate “good” fat into your body.

Coconut oil is a vegan superfood and healthy fat used to improve a variety of health conditions, including fatigue and arthritis. It’s easy to cook with or use raw.



Safe and widely consumed

In Asia and Polynesia, coconut oil is a widely consumed staple food.

The FDA has designated it to be Generally Recognizable As Safe (GRAS).

It’s a healthy fat that treats malnutrition

Coconut oil contains about 64% medium-chain fatty acids. These are found chiefly in mother’s milk, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil. (They are not found in corn oil, soybean oil, olive oil, canola oil, fish oil, or any of the other common oils.)

It’s significant that this unique fat is found in mother’s milk: it has unique nutritional characteristics.

Malnutrition is treated in hospitals with a fraction of coconut oil, MCT oil (“Medium Chain Triglyceride” oil). Because these medium-chain fatty acids are absorbed rather than digested, you have healthy fat that benefits people whose guts aren’t working: malnourished patients,  infants, people who cannot digest fat. Fat malabsorption is also treated in hospitals with MCT oil.

Coconut oil for pain

Fat is absolutely essential to life and to staying pain free. (See more on the fish oil page.)

While fish oil contains the healthy omega-3 fats, coconut oil contains the healthy medium-chain fatty acids.

When pain is caused or made worse by a lack of healthy fat, coconut oil will help. It can resolve many of the nutritional conditions that cause pain.



Nutrition and Energy


Absorption of nutrients

Coconut oil improves the absorption of minerals and other nutrients. Coconut expert Bruce Fife writes, “It enhances the absorption of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, some of the B vitamins, the fat soluble vitamins (e.g. A, D, E, K and beta carotene), and some amino acids (i.e., protein).”

Research with animals showed that coconut oil improved nutrient absorption, even eliminating symptoms of vitamin B deficiency and of rickets.

When lack of one of these vitamins or minerals is making pain worse, coconut oil will help.

Energy production

Low energy, and the body’s lack of energy to repair itself, almost certainly can cause chronic pain.

The unique medium chain fatty acids are used directly by the body for energy. Thus coconut oil can improve the energy levels of those who have difficulty with cellular energy production.

Coconut oil is broken down in the stomach into fatty acids. The medium chain fatty acids go to the liver through the portal vein. The liver uses them to make energy for itself and to produce “ketone bodies” to circulate to the rest of the body.

Ketone bodies supply fuel to the cells to make energy; unlike glucose, they don’t require insulin or special enzymes to enter the cells.

Energy metabolism in the brain

In neurological illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis, it has been shown that areas of the brain are energy deficient. Metabolic defects prevent glucose from entering the neurons, and certain parts of the brain become starved for fuel.

Ketone bodies, however, made by the liver from coconut oil, bypass the metabolic defects of the neurons and deliver fuel to energy-starved parts of the brain. MCT oil derived from coconut oil, or coconut oil itself, is being studied as a treatment for these diseases.

Dr. Mary Newport, MD, researched MCT oil and coconut oil on behalf of her husband’s dementia; her research appears on her website Her article What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and No One Knew? (PDF) simply and directly describes her discoveries and her husband’s improvement using coconut oil.

Metabolic rate

Thyroid malfunction and slow metabolism may contribute to pain.​

Studies show that coconut oil speeds up metabolism, especially in overweight people. It can help in weight loss, correcting the slower metabolism and inability to lose weight often caused by yo-yo dieting.

However, it also helps with weight gain for underweight people by enhancing nutrition and correcting slow metabolism caused by undernourishment.

Coconut oil may help improve thyroid function, as demonstrated by higher body temperature, increased metabolism, and weight loss. According to Mary Enig and Sally Fallon in Eat Fat Lose Fat, coconut oil also normalizes an overactive thyroid.





Since inflammation is painful, and toxins often cause inflammation and pain, coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory and anti-toxin functions directly fight pain.​

Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory. It is thought to curb inflammation in part by improving cellular function. The cells become more efficient in removing toxins.

It improves the function of the kidneys in their role of removing toxins.

Medium chain fatty acids prevent liver disease in animal studies.

Coconut oil is anti-carcinogenic in animal studies.

Bruce Fife, in Coconut Cures, lists fifteen toxins neutralized in part or whole by coconut oil. These include aflatoxin, E. coli endotoxin, and MSG.



Digestion and Gut


Coconut oil is usually easily digestible. It can be the best healthy fat for people who have digestive problems from many different causes.

Unlike other fats, the medium chain fatty acids of coconut oil don’t need bile or enzymes for digestion. They are absorbed directly through the gut and moved through the portal vein to the liver for conversion into energy.

So, even if you have trouble digesting other fats, you may be able to digest coconut oil. A lack of digestive enzymes, lack of bile, or lack of a gallbladder will not impede absorption of coconut oil.

This may help you consumer and absorb enough healthy fat to improve pain.​

Gut infections

Coconut oil kills bad gut bacteria, such as H. pylori, the cause of stomach ulcers. It kills some viruses, such as measles, which has been implicated in Crohn’s disease and autistic gut disease.

It leaves untouched the “good” gut bacteria that help us digest food and that generate nutrients for our bodies.

In fact, coconut oil kills many kinds of bacteria, viruses, retroviruses, fungi, protozoa, and parasites!

Gut infections often cause gut pain. In addition,​ could bad microbes in the gut affect its nervous system–the “enteric nervous system” or the “second brain” in  the gut–enough to cause pain elsewhere in the body?​



Coconut Oil Action Steps

Buying coconut oil

Coconut oil is a spreadable semi-solid that comes in a jar. (I prefer glass rather plastic, so that it’s impossible for the oil to react with the jar.)

You can find coconut oil at natural food stores, large groceries, and online.

Solid or liquid?

It has a spreadable, buttery texture at room temperatures below 76 degrees F.

When the temperature is above 76 degrees, it’s a liquid.​

Refined or unrefined?

Coconut oil is an unusually stable fat. It is not destroyed by refining. For most health purposes, the refined oil should be as good as unrefined!

Unrefined: Tastes and smells like coconut; may retain more antioxidants

Refined: Odorless​ and tasteless; may help if you do not like the taste of coconut

Here’s an in-depth article by expert Brian Shilhavy about choosing a coconut oil, with a detailed description of the differences between refined and unrefined coconut oils:

What Type of Coconut Oil is Best? How to Choose a Coconut Oil​


Different brands will have different tastes. These are just a few of the brands available in stores and online.

The best coconut oil is the one that tastes best to you!

Basic Brands

  • ​Spectrum
  • Nutiva

Premium Brands

  • Artisana​
  • Jungle Products
  • Tropical Traditions

How much to take?

Expert Bruce Fife recommends 2 to 4 tablespoons per day, and more if you are ill. He emphasizes that you cannot overdose on it. He writes that he personally has taken as much as 14 tablespoons per day.

He recommends a trial of at least six months.

When beginning to take coconut oil, I recommend starting with a small amount, such as whatever amount appeals to you, or some small amount on a spoon.

In hospital feeding with MCT oil (a fraction of coconut oil), authorities recommend to begin with small amounts and increase gradually.

Two tablespoons is quite a lot if you aren’t used to it, so I would definitely not start with that amount. (I didn’t.) I do recommend working up to the largest amount that you can enjoy, to eat it every day, and do the trial for six months.

How to take it

It is perfectly ok to eat it by the spoonful. (I do.) However, most people don’t want to, or can’t stomach at all, taking spoonfuls of oils.

Ways to eat:

  • In place of the other fats and oils that you use (such as butter, margarine, peanut butter, or corn oil​
  • Cook or fry with it
  • Spread onto bread
  • Spread over vegetables
  • Mix into hot cereal
  • Mix into soups and stews
  • Stir into coffee, tea, or hot chocolate
  • Take by the spoonful

Other coconut products

Coconut butter is a puree made from coconut meat; comes in jars
Note: absolutely delicious, like the most incredible candy

Coconut milk is the thick liquid extracted from coconut meat. It’s available in cans in the grocery.
10 oz coconut milk = 3 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

Diluted coconut milk is sold in cartons in grocery dairy sections.

Dried coconut meat is the flesh from inside the coconut, dried.
2 1/2 cups coconut meat = 3 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

Coconut flour is a flour made from coconut meat

A macaroon is a grain-free cookie made from coconut, eggs, and sugar.

Coconut water is the liquid from inside young, green coconuts. It is not an oil and contains no fatty acids, but it is refreshing and contains electrolytes.​



Coconut Resources

Coconut Research Center 
Published by Bruce Fife, N.D.

What Type of Coconut Oil is Best? How to Choose a Coconut Oil
Brian Shilhavy
Dr. Mary Newport, M.D.

Coconut recipes

These books have an abundance of coconut recipes:

The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife contains 25 pages of coconut recipes. There are simple recipes and moderately complex recipes.

Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon contains 40 pages of coconut recipes. Most are of moderate difficulty or gourmet difficulty.​

Sources for Coconut Oil and Coconut Products


Jungle Products



Tropical Traditions



Coconut References


Coconut Cures
Bruce Fife, N.D.
Piccadilly Books, 2005

The Coconut Oil Miracle, 5th ed.
Bruce Fife, N.D.
Penguin, 2013

Eat Fat, Lose Fat
Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon
Plume, 2005


What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease and No One Knew? (PDF)
A Case Study by Dr. Mary Newport, July 22, 2008

Coconut: In Support of Good Health in the 21st Century (PDF)
Mary Enig, Ph.D.

Health Oils from the Tree of Life (Nutritional and Health Aspects of Coconut Oil) (PDF)
John J. Kabara, Ph.D.

Coconut Oil
Ray Peat, Ph.D.

Medical Journal Articles

Every link leads to free full text, except as noted. In some cases, to get to the full text, you’ll need to find and click an additional PDF or full text link .

PMID is the ID number in the free PubMed medical literature index. PMCID is the ID number in the free PubMed Central full-text archive.

Cholesterol, Coconuts, and Diet on Polynesian Atolls: A Natural Experiment: The Pukapuka and Tokelau Island Studies
Ian A. Prior, Flora Davidson, Clare E. Salmond, and Z. Czochanska
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 34; Aug. 1981, pp. 1552-1561
PMID: 7270479
(Abstract only is free.)

Medium-Chain Triglycerides: An Update
Andre C. Bach and Vigen K. Babayan
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 36; Nov. 1982, pp. 950-962
PMID: 6814231
(Abstract only is free.)

Can Adults Adequately Convert Alpha-Linolenic Acid (18:3n-3) to Eicosapentaenoic Acid (20:5n-3) and Docosahexaenoi Acid (22:6n-3)?
H. Gerster
International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research 1998;68(3):159-73
PMID: 9637947
(Abstract only is free.)

Research on the Nutritional Characteristics of Medium-Chain Fatty Acids
Tosiaki Aoyama, Naohisa Nosaka, and Michio Kasai
The Journal of Medical Investigation 2007 Aug;54(3-4):385-8
PMID: 17878693

In Vivo Antinociceptive and Anti-inflammatory Activities of Dried and Fermented Processed Virgin Coconut Oil
Z. A. Zakaria, M.N. Somchit, A.M. Mat Jais, L.K. Teh, M.Z. Salleh, K. Long
Medical Principles and Practice 2011;20;231-236
PMID: 21454992

Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, and Antipyretic Activities of Virgin Coconut Oil
S. Intahphuak, P. Khonsung, A. Panthong
Pharmaceutical Biology 2015 Feb; 48(2):151-7
PMID: 20645831
(Abstract only is free.)