A coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), which can grow to a height of 20 – 30m. On coconut plantations, chemical substances such pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers are rarely used. The oil from the nuts (or more accurately fruit) has numerous applications.
“Virgin coconut oil”
Some coconut oil is labelled “Virgin oil”. This term usually refers to oil extracted only by mechanical processing. Virgin oil is obtained by mechanically pressing coconut flesh and then centrifuging the extract, which results in a clear oil with a natural coconut aroma and flavour. As opposed to olive oil, there are no international industry-wide standards that officially define “Virgin coconut oil”. In most cases, it refers to an oil that is not blanched, deodorised or refined. An “organic” label does not guarantee that the oil is purely natural and unrefined.
After harvesting the coconuts the hard shell is removed and the white flesh is broken, dried and subsequently pressed. This leads to two products, dried coconut and raw oil (pure coconut oil).
Pressing can be done in two ways, by either adding heat or not. Cold pressed means that no heat is added to extract the oil so smell and taste remain intact.
Heat pressed will allow for more oil to be extracted.
Refined coconut oil
Refined coconut oil can be produced using a “dry” or “wet” process.
In the dry process, coconut flesh is dried (to produce Copra) and then pressed or treated with chemicals to extract the oil. “Crude” coconut oil in this form is not suitable for human consumption because it contains a wide range of impurities. The oil is consequently subjected to additional heating and filtration, which results in a decolourised, deodorised and blanched edible oil.
In the wet process, fresh coconuts are refined to obtain an emulsion of oil and water, which can subsequently be treated with, for example, acids, salts, heat or enzymes. After this, the components can be separated by electrolysis or centrifugation. This refining method also produces a decolourised, deodorised and blanched oil.
The dry refining process is more commonly used.
The country of origin can vary per batch; palm trees are abundant in most tropical countries.
Coconut oil is liquid at room temperature; coconut oil is liquid in the warm countries of origin. In our climate coconut oil is solid and becomes soft to liquid above 18 – 25°C.
Coconut oil is very suitable for frying or deep frying. It can also be used for massages or added to a hot bath.
Additional general information about coconut oil:
Medicinal background information:
An explanation of coconut oil types and classifications (commercial organisation):
An explanation of the production of oil (Philippines government):