The online health and wellness community is ripe with stories of people claiming that coconut oil has cured their chronic sinusitis. Everyone seems to have a real-life account of how oil pulling with coconut oil miraculously cleared up their persistent sinus congestion. With little scientific backing available, can these accounts be true? Is there any evidence, besides the countless anecdotal stories, which can help support these claims? Before digging into the relevant scientific study, first let’s review some of the basics about both the illness and the cure.
Coconut oil is the edible fatty oil extracted from the meat of the coconut. While it has a lengthy history of use from tropical cultures around the world, it has very recently experienced a spike in popularity among people outside the traditional wellness community. This is because coconut oil is one of the healthiest types of cooking oils available, safe for use internally and externally. It has a seemingly endless supply of applications including baking and cooking, as a skin care product, and as a natural remedy for many mild to moderate health issues.
While consuming any kind of fat in large quantities is still unwise, coconut oil is one of the healthiest to consume in appropriate portions. There are a few reasons why coconut oil is suddenly favored over many other cooking oils. First, it contains mostly medium-chain-fatty-acids (MCFAs), which are much easier for your body to metabolize in lieu of converting them straight into stored fats. Plus, under this MCFA classification, it is also considered a lauric acid (a medium-chain triglyceride). According to the research, lauric acids boost energy and help with weight loss. When coconut oil is absorbed by the body it turns into lauric acid, as well as something called monolaurin. These substances lead to its antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. In a (coconut) shell, coconut oil is considered one of the most beneficial natural plant based fats.
While normally experienced as short term congestion, sinusitis can for some people develop into a long term serious congestive issue. Evidence suggests that the serious cases are triggered by a fungal infection which first takes root within the nasal cavity. While most people will develop sinusitis at least once during their lifetime, only some will have a serious reaction to the fungus. Whether it’s a chronic case, or something milder, sinusitis is characterized by an inflammation and swelling of the nasal cavity. This leads to a difficulty in breathing through the nose, pain throughout the sinuses, and headaches in some cases. Traditional methods of treatment typically include decongestant medications, and if the case is severe, a run of antibiotics.
Coconut oil as a Natural Sinusitis Treatment
Because coconut oil has been found to be an effective treatment for specific kinds of fungal infections, specifically when it comes to candida strains, it is thought that this antifungal property carries over into the world of fungus-triggered-sinusitis. Many studies find that a proliferation of candida could be the underlying cause that leads to sinus congestion. In a study of 210 participants suffering from chronic, long term, sinusitis, researchers discovered that 96% of nasal swabs tested positive for candida.
The research also seems to demonstrate that most people who have constant, painful nasal congestion are actually not suffering from a cold or flu, but instead an over-proliferation of fungus. If treated with antibiotics, this could potentially just lead to further health issues down the road, especially if the fungal infection was a candida strain. Just like antibiotics can trigger yeast infections, the theory goes that antibiotics could simply encourage further sinus congestion by boosting the candida population. In 2004, researchers determined that anti-fungal gel placed inside the nose of congested and inflamed patients reduced 70% of inflammation. This leads one to believe that other antifungals, like coconut oil, may have similar benefit.
Despite the lack of direct study on the effectiveness of coconut oil for nasal congestion, the anecdotal evidence and the basic underlying research into both the illness and the remedy seem to suggest it may actually work. But again, there haven’t been any well-developed studies done on coconut oil for treatment of chronic sinusitis. This obviously represents a large hole in the literature just waiting to be filled.
If you have suffered from or are currently suffering from a bad bout of sinusitis, adding a bit of coconut oil love into your life can only serve to benefit. Coconut products are safe for use for almost everyone, and unlike many natural remedies are also safe to use both topically and internally. One suggestion to try (after consultation with a medical professional), is to increase your daily coconut oil consumption. Try buttering your toast, adding some to your morning coffee as a non-dairy creamer, or using it to grill veggies. Also, it could be beneficial for more direct applications too. Simply warm a very small amount up in your hands, and use your finger to gently massage it into the inside of your nose. No need to go very deep into the nasal cavity as the oil will naturally absorb, but the results should speak for themselves.