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Coconut oil has been used in India for generations because of its health benefits. Doctor Priyanka Sampat, an Ayurveda expert at Birla Ayurveda, and Indrayani Pawar, the team leader dietician at the Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, list some of the benefits.

Serving as an essential ingredient for many herbal medicines, coconut oil is used internally and externally.

* Natural moisturiser: Coconut oil is used to treat dead skin, while also enhancing the complexion. It has no side effects, and can treat an array of skin problems such as psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and burns. Coconut oil also helps to remove stretch marks and prevent cellulite. Apply a few drops of coconut oil to your lips regularly to prevent chapped lips.

* Hair care: Coconut oil is extremely beneficial for hair growth and helps to add shine. A five-minute scalp massage with coconut oil not only increases the circulation, but also helps in the replenishment of lost nutrients. It also helps to prevent dandruff.

* Oral health: Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic ritual, where you swish oil around in your mouth for about 20 minutes and then spit it out. Removing oral bacteria helps in the prevention of various diseases in and around the gums. Rinse your mouth with coconut oil thrice a week for healthier gums.

* Joint pain: In Ayurveda, coconut oil is used to ease the pain in arthritis. It improves the ability to absorb calcium and magnesium in the bones.

* Weight loss: The oil extracted from fresh coconut meat contains more medium chain fatty acids than other coconut oils. These are not stored in adipose tissue, unlike long chain fatty acids.

* Ideal for cooking: Among the dietary oils, coconut oil is least vulnerable to oxidation, which makes it the safest for cooking. With a melting point of 25ºC, it is a white solid fat below this temperature and is clear liquid oil above this temperature.

So, the next time you go oil shopping, you know which oil to choose. 

IANS