Can applying coconut oil in the nose prevent COVID-19? Fact Check 

Among the plethora of home remedies available online to prevent COVID, the latest remedy states that applying coconut oil in the nose four times a day can prevent COVID-19. Most home remedies do not have concrete scientific proof to back their claims and this is no exception. The claim has been shared multiple times on social media. Digiteye India also received the claim as a WhatsApp forward for fact-checking.

The claim lays down three modes of action which explains the antimicrobial efficacy of coconut. The method claims that it can prevent COVID.

Fact Check: 

The message has been copied from two research review papers that just propose the benefits of coconut oil and its effects on immunity. The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines, in their research discussions, wrote about ‘The Potential of Coconut Oil and its Derivatives as Effective and Safe Antiviral Agents Against the Novel Coronavirus’. In their January 2020 discussion, they noted how “coconut oil and its derivatives have been shown to be safe and effective antiviral compounds in both humans and animals”.

The discussion argued on the benefits of coconut oil and explained the antiviral activity of lauric acid and monolaurin. Lauric acid is used for treating viral infections including influenza (the flu); swine flu; avian flu; the common cold; fever blisters, cold sores, and genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV); genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV); and HIV/AIDS. While monolaurin is known to inactivate lipid-coated viruses by binding to the lipid-protein envelope of the virus, thereby preventing it from attaching and entering host cells, making infection and replication impossible. Throughout the discussion, they have mentioned how this method is not tested yet. The benefits are only theoretical. In the end, they suggest medical trials establish the claim.

Similarly, the Journal of the Association of Physicians in India wrote a similar discussion paper dated May 2020. The paper titled ‘Coconut Oil and Immunity: What do we really know about it so far?’ talks about the medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides found primarily in coconut oil which act as a natural antibiotic and also help modulate immunity. The review paper borrows from theory and talks about research done with coconut oil in antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral settings. These do not include the novel coronavirus. The review paper states that “more studies are needed to establish various pieces to the puzzle”.

It has been known from previous research studies that coconut oil contains compounds with antimicrobial properties and claims have been made that it cures Dengue fever. We have debunked this notion in our fact check here. It has zinc as well which is being given to Covid patients to boost immunity. But no study has proved beyond doubt that it helps in fighting Covid infection.

Claim: 

Coconut oil can prevent COVID-19.

Rating: 

The claim has been derived from review papers that draw from theoretical benefits. These papers do not have clinical trials to back their claims. Our rating ???- Misinterpretation.

[This article was first published on May 9, 2021 and updated on June 6, 2021]

About Snigdha Nalini

Snigdha Nalini is an intern with Digiteye India and a student of journalism at the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC), Pune. She can be reached at admin@digiteye.in.

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