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Pacific Island Doctor Advocates Coconut Oil for Management of Chicken Pox, Shingles, and Cold Sores.

Pacific Island doctor advocates coconut oil for management of chicken pox, shingles, and cold sores.

Dr Malama Laura Tafuna’i*


This article was written by Dr. Malama Laura Tafuna’I during 2011, where she shared her perspective when she was practicing as junior doctor in Samoa and New Zealand.  

She mentioned that throughout her training as a medical student, she was taught the harmful nature of coconut oil, its cholesterol raising effects and subsequent cardiovascular risk. When she started learning more about the potential benefits of coconut and coconut oil, she came to know the true nature of this miracle nut, not only in the Pacific but in other similar temperate climates.

From the ages, the Pacific communities have survived because of the wonders of this miracle tree. Not just from the nut but the whole tree, as it has provided the populations with a sustainable resource for food, shelter, and utensils. So, she was determined when she became medical practitioner to help the people of Pacific to motivate to take more coconut-based food in their daily diet.

It was a challenge for her because within the medical community as there was no “evidence-based” medical studies to support its use. However, there were many nutritional and biochemical studies which support it as a food source with many benefits. In her words “I have also been fortunate to witness its use in traditional practice within our own community, which has helped sway me to use it in my own practice. Our Pacific communities have survived on its use as a primary food source for hundreds of years.”  

Before the introduction of processed foods and more sedentary lifestyles, the people of pacific did not suffer significantly from the illnesses the medical fraternity says coconuts cause.  Since the shift away from the traditional foods and way of living, the prevalence of NCDs (non-communicable diseases) has increased considerably. Coconut is full of lauric acid, with its antiviral, antibacterial, anticaries, antiplaque and antiprotozoal functions and that the only other place this is found naturally that is human breast milk. Around 3% of lauric acid is found in mother’s milk, which can be boosted to 21% in places where mothers eat coconuts. So, she recommended to advocate the importance of breast feeding and breast milk, then there is possibility of it being good to human beings.

Dr. Tafuna’i added that in her practice, she used coconut oil for the management of chicken pox, shingles, and cold sores (she found outbreaks do not last as long and lesions not as severe). She encouraged the drinking of its juice as a valuable source of fluid hydration and to promote the growth of “good bacteria” in the gut.

She encouraged it use in massage as she has read and experienced the potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects for the relief of muscle aches and muscle tension. For eczema and similar skin conditions, she encouraged clients to bathe with coconut oil to help moisturize the skin. 

Due to the presence of medium chain fatty acids, she used to discuss coconut oil’s benefits and encouraged patients to consume coconut oil who wanted to lose weight and even patients with some gastric illnesses can try coconut oil.

During her practice with coconut oil she  have monitored cholesterol levels in some of her patients who have opted to trial and have not recorded any increase in patients’ cholesterol levels, although she did have one patient experience a slight increase in his HDL level (viz. good form of cholesterol).

She concluded that in the age of practicing evidence-based medicine, still more trials are needed to prove its medicinal use. However, it is interesting to read that despite many studies emerging throughout the world on coconuts - in the fields of nutrition, pharmacology, biochemistry, and naturopath medicine – that western clinical medicine appears a little less receptive.

Dr. Tafuna’i is continuing with her practice and doing more studies on the medicinal use of Coconut oil.  But she is confident enough after reading  enough literature, experiencing its use with traditional healers and armed with the knowledge of her ancestors’ use of coconuts with minimal risks, she will continue to use it for the benefit of her family and her patients.


*Dr Malama Tafuna’i ; Pacific Research Fellow; Centre For Pacific Health, Va’a O Tautai; Division Of Health Sciences; University Of Otago, New Zealand.


ICC acknowledge HON. LOPAO NATANIELU MUA, Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries, Govt of Samoa & ICC Chairman and Dr. Tafuna’i for sharing this article to reproduce in ICC Website.

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