Coconut oil is a popular ingredient used in several types of aromatherapy products. However, there are different types of coconut oil which you can use – and you may want to understand the difference between a good quality coconut oil, and one of lesser quality. The difference will affect the therapeutic properties of your product – and the final outcome.
The Source of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is extracted from the fruit of the palm tree. The large drupe, or fruit, has a hard endocarp. The endocarp and the seed are the two parts of the coconut which are of interest commercially. The seed contains the copra and the solid coconut oil; it is this oil which is used in the commercial product of coconut oil. How the coconut oil is extracted, is what differentiates virgin coconut oil from natural coconut oil, and the various processes it endures after extraction is what separate it from fractionated coconut oil.
Virgin coconut oil is considered to be superior to both natural and fractionated coconut oil for several reasons: It has a longer shelf life, has a more distinctive aroma than other types of coconut oil – and it has the most natural therapeutic properties, without the addition of chemicals or a change in its properties, due to the extraction method used, and chemical processes applied.
The Extraction of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil, at its source, is a highly saturated, white, solid fat. This fat has a melting point of 25 degrees centigrade. The fleshy part of the coconut is extracted either by cold pressing it, or through solvent extraction. Virgin coconut oil is extracted without the use of heat: The heat changes the chemical composition, and the therapeutic properties, of the resulting oil. Coconut oil that has been extracted with the use of heat is not virgin coconut oil, although it is still essentially sold as “natural” coconut oil. Coconut oil which is extracted through solvent extraction involves the use of chemicals and, again, is not virgin coconut oil but can be described as “natural.”
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Fractionated coconut oil is a fraction of the whole oil: Certain components of the oil are separated or removed from the oil for a particular use. Different uses of fractionated coconut oil include industrial, medical applications and beauty products. However, it is not the complete, virgin coconut oil.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil retains the plant’s original chemical composition – and consequently the plant’s therapeutic benefits. Coconut oil contains for the most part saturated fatty acids, with a small percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also contains glycerides. Natural coconut oil contains short and medium-chain length triglycerides whereas fractionated coconut oil may have certain medium-chain fatty acids removed or separated.
Uses of Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil contains vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals which are beneficial to skin care and beauty products, aromatherapy blends, massage oils, soaps and hair care products. Fractionated coconut oil may not contain all of the same vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals, in the same way that natural coconut oil (which has been solvent extracted or extracted with the use of heat) may not.
Virgin coconut oil is usually more expensive than other types of coconut oil – but it contains the true therapeutic properties of the plant which have not been tampered with.