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Coconut or Naarikela (Cocos nucifera, Linn.)

Dr. K.H.Krishnamurthy

There is a story in the Puraanas that explains why this plant received its Sanskrit name, naarikela (naariyal in Hindi).

The tree was the creation of the sage Vishvaamitra, as he ventured to bring forth a counter-creation to prove himself superior. After the tree had developed, the mighty sage produced a human child from its fruit. Lord Brahma (the creator), worried at this unseemly use of spiritual powers, came down in person with Lord Siva (the destroyer) and Vishnu (the upholder), to dissuade him. Lord Vishnu argued,

“O Visvamitra, if your intention of creating a human child from the fruit of your tree succeeds, it will cause havoc in the whole world and a terrible imbalance.There will ensue a supremacy of beast-like men, bent on sucking human blood, and there will be no room for the religious. With the intention of doing good, you will actually cause great mischief. ” The sage agreed. Pleased, Lord Vishnu said: “We shall pay due regard to the tree you have produced. As you planned to create a nara (the human being), we therefore bestow it with the name naarikela. Its fruit will be acknowledged throughout the world. A person who eats it daily will become a great genius like you. He will be spirited and wise. The fruit will be filled with sweet water which will quench the thirsty and cure many ailments.”

This legend emphasises the uncanny resemblance between the coconut and the face of man and the highly useful nature of the fruit as a rich, nourishing food and an invaluable medicine.

The plant is also called a ‘Kalpa Vriksha’, a wish-fulfilling tree as there is literally no part of it that does not find some useful application in food, industrial products, medicine, roofing, etc. The whole economy of many islands and states depends on this tree. There is no religious or auspicious function in India where the fruit and its leaves do not find pride of place. An exchange of coconut fruits is compulsory in most ceremonies. Figures made from coconut, the puurna phala’(i.e., the complete fruit), are quite commonly seen in important and sacred places. Worshipping at temples, or welcoming distinguished people as honoured guests, invariably requires a coconut fruit. In Tamilnadu, it is advised that the owner of a house should never plant a coconut sapling himself; it should be planted by someone else. The first fruit of the tree is greeted with a ceremony of worshipping the tree and distributing curds and rice. In the south, all paandaals (places of gathering), are decorated with a liberal use of its huge leaves. Even the flowers and fruit form inviting doorways. Its tender leaves are woven into fascinating patterns and hung as decorative garlands or toranas. Beautiful patterns are etched on the dried copras and set as inviting articles in a marriage ceremony.

Cocos nucifera


To greet the newly-married couple in Maharashatra and north Karnataka there is a festival called Naariyal Poornima, the Moonlight Function of the Coconut, where the coconut tree has the principal focus.


The name coconut and Cocos nucifera (nut bearing) are taken from the Filipinos who call it coco.

In Sanskrit it is called daakIiKaatrya (from southern parts); drohaniira, dridhaphala (fruits firmly attached and yielding water), Karakambha, kaushikaphala (the fruit of Kaushika, a name of Vishvaamitra), Vishvaamitrapriiya, naarikelam, naarikari, kuurchashekhara, kuurchashiraska (with a brush-like tuft of leaves at the head); mahaa phala (great fruit); mrduphala (sweet fruit); maangalya (auspicious); payo-dhara (bearing milk); phalamunda, shiraphala (fruits borne in a clump at the crest); rasaphala (full of juice), sadapuIpa (always flowering); toyagarbha (with water in its womb), shubhaanga (sacred all over); trinaraaja (king amongst plants), trayakshaphala, trayambakaphala (bearing fruits with three eyes, like Lord Shiva), uccataru (lofty tree), varaphala (sacred fruits), rasayaanataru (a tree yielding elixir).

The plant is called narakel, narikel, nariyal in Bengali; naliyer, naryal in Gujarati; nariyal in Hindi; naral in Marathi; narla madde in Konkani; tenginakayi in Kannada; tenkayi chettu in Telugu; tengai in Tamil; ten in Malayalam. ‘Ten’ means ‘coming from the south’.

The Arabs call it sharjatuna narajila, while Persian refers to it as drhakat narejile. In Urdu, it is nariyel. The dried inner portion of the fruit is called copra in English after its name in Kannada, namely khobbari. Kannada has one more name for this, i.e. gitaku.

Botanical aspects

It grows best near the seashore. It is one of the most beautiful, graceful and picturesque of plants, giving a characteristic and striking tenor to the whole landscape, especially where it grows gregariously. This is particularly seen in the tropical islands and Kerala in India.

It has a tall unbranched slender stem, marked by annular or ring-like scars (from the fallen leaf bases) with a clump or tuft of huge leaves at the head. The base of the slender stem is often swollen and the whole tree usually leans to one side. The leaves are huge, their lamina or leaf blades fold like a fan when tender, but split into long, linear, feather-like or pinnate leathery leaves as they unfold. The leaves are 6 to 10 feet long and 18 inches wide, borne in a cluster at the top of the stem. The flowers are unisexual, stalkless and sprout from a fleshy branched panicle or spadix in the axle of a huge, woody, fibrous bract (spathe). The male flowers are small and unsymmetrical. The female flowers are large and borne at the base. The fruit is a three-sided drupe. Its wall, or pericarp, consists of three distinct layers: a smooth thin rind or exocarp, which is green to begin with, but changes to brown or reddish-brown on maturity; a large brown fibrous middle region (or the mesocarp) forming the husk; and, a hard stony endocarp which forms the coconut shell, enclosing the seed inside. The seed is single and mostly consists of a huge endosperm, food for the future plant or embryo. The endosperm is massive and divided into two portions. The outer fleshy region, the kernel, (the coconut meat) and the inner water. The embryo gradually develops, feeding off the luxurious endosperm provided by the fruit. The fruits are plucked fully grown when meant for consumption of the kernel. If coconut water is needed, they are plucked at a tender but well formed stage, when water is in abundance, but not the kernel which is still thin and slimy. The fruit is adapted for distribution over the salt waters of the sea coasts. Its fibrous husk makes the fruit light, so that it can float on water for long distances. The fruit will take root when it reaches a favourable spot.

Coconut is basically a tropical plant and thrives best in tropical areas. It can grow in any kind of soil, but prefers sandy areas. Mature nuts are planted in nurseries first and only slightly covered. They germinate within a few months, and the seedlings are transported when about a year old. Coconut growth is improved by proper spacing, clean cultivation and good irrigation, as well as periodic manuring with salt. The plant yields flowers and fruits continuously, and ripe fruits can be obtained almost every month. They are usually plucked every two months.

The dried flesh or copra, the chief commercial product, is prepared in many ways. The nuts are broken in two and dried in the sun or left on racks over fires fuelled by coconut shells. A few days later, the kernel shrinks from its shell and can then be easily removed. The copra prepared in this way is dark-coloured; its oil content is about 50 per cent. Plantation copra is dried over 24 hours in sunlight. This copra is white and its oil content is 60 to 65 percent. Desiccated coconut, used by confectioners and candy makers, is prepared from the best graded nuts. These are cured for several weeks, carefully cracked and the meat removed while still fresh. It is then washed and cut into threads and dried in vacuum for an hour at 160oF. Sri Lanka produces most of the world’s desiccated coconut.


Chemical analysis reveals that in every 100 grams of the kernel there are 4.5 grams of protein, 41.6 grams of fat, and 13 grams of glucose, besides several kinds of minerals like calcium, phosphorus and so on.

Following is an evaluation of coconut milk compared to other milk. The figures refer to the percentage of contents in the milk in question.

Coconut contains enzymes, such as invertase, hat invert cane sugar, oxidase and catalase that reduce hydrogen peroxide. Fresh kernel contains nitrogenous substances, fat, lignin, ash, palm sugar (glucose and cane sugar) and inorganic substances. The coconut milk contains sugar (mannitol), gum, albumen, tartaric acid and mineral water. The ashes from the leaves contain a high proportion of potash. Coconut oil comprises free caprylic acid, and also such glycerides like luric, myristic, palmitic and stearic acids.

Coconut oil is secured from the copra by

  Proteins Fats Glucose Mineral Salts
Coconut milk 0.90 7.10 1.80 0.55
Mother’s milk 1.00 3.90 7.00 0.10
Cow’s milk 3.30 3.60 4.80 0.70
Powdered milk 38.00 3.60 51.00 6.80

pressure. The oil is pale yellow or colourless and becomes solid below 74oF.

General Actions

Coconut milk is refrigerant (i.e. cooling and refreshing), appetising, oily, nutrient, aperient (mildly laxative), diuretic (promoting ample urination) and anthelmintic (counteracting worms). It is useful for biliousness, bronchitis, tumours and aggravations of vaata and kapha.

Coconut water is cooling, refrigerant, demulcent (it soothes and eases irritation) and in large doses is aperient.

The fresh kernel or tender pulp is soft, nourishing, cooling and diuretic. The ripe fruit is sweet, hard, fattening, nourishing, laxative and not easily digested. It is an aphrodisiac, cardiotonic and useful for thirst, biliousness, diseases of the blood, burning sensations, leprosy and also tuberculosis. But it causes kapha and pitta.

It also relieves rakta pitta. According to Yunani physicians, the fruit is sweet, aphrodisiac, diuretic and helpful for fever, paralysis, liver complaints and piles. It enriches the blood and increases the weight of the body. But it causes kidney pains and lumbago in those with a cold constitution.

The terminal buds of the plant are nourishing and digestive. Their fresh juice is sweet, viscous, refrigerant, diuretic, refreshing, laxative and approdisiac. The fermented juice makes toddy. It causes biliousness, augments kapha and pitta. It is digestive, germicidal and relieves vomiting.

The oil is heavy for digestion. It is a rubifacient and antiseptic. It is used externally. It can be beneficially employed in cases of cough, breathing difficulties, obstructed urination, leucorrhoea or prameha, itches and eczema. It is highly nourishing in cases of emaciation, healing and sealing lesions and injuries. It removes vaata aggravations.

The root of the coconut is diuretic.

The flower is cooling and useful for cases of diabetes, dysentery, constipation, urinary disorders and leprosy. The freshly extracted juice is heavy on digestion, causes kapha and pitta and promotes virility. It is intoxicating and anthelmintic.

The dried fruit or copra improves the taste, but it is fattening and constipative and also an aphrodisiac.

The bark is good for teeth and also for scabies.

Uses in traditional medicine

The juice extracted from the flowering panicle can be made into palm wine, toddy or arrack. A vinegar and coarse sugar, somewhat different from cane sugar, can also be made. When fermented and distilled, a clean spirit results, used for pharmaceutical purposes. The unfermented juice or neera, taken early in the morning, two or three times a week by pregnant women, has been seen to have a marked effect on lightening the complexion of the new-born baby.

Tender coconut water assuages thirst and is useful against fever and urinary disorders. It is particularly helpful in easing vomiting from bilious or pitta fever. Coconut milk has a medicinal use too. It can be applied with kalajeera, or black cumin, for freckles on the skin. The milk is useful against debility or general weakness. It combats incipient pthisis, i.e. initial stages of tuberculosis, and also cachexia. For this, it is given in doses of 4 to 8 ounces, three times daily. If the dosage is large, it acts as a laxative.

This milk, if given before a surgical operation, is presumed to decrease bleeding. The milk is useful in combating gonorrhoea as well as cholera. Coconut milk, along with tender coconut water, is particularly beneficial for aged people. Coconut water is employed for washing smallpox scars; it removes the burning sensations as well as the dots. Sniffing it is presumed to cure migraine headaches. It is very much used in Bengal for stomach upsets, though there is also the belief that it can lead to hydrocele (water collection in the scrotum), if drunk in excess. The water of a tender coconut is different from that of the ripe coconut. The first is laxative, cooling, warding off vomiting and bilious fever. The latter is constipative, heavy on digestion and cooling.

For young children, giving a drink of coconut water with a well mashed ripened banana is very nutritious.

From the kernel, three types of oil are prepared. These are called cobrel, avel, and muthel.

(i) A tarry and rather irritating oil produced from the shell is used for a more specific medicine against ringworm. This is how it is prepared: a clean shell or its portions are burnt in a fire, and while still red hot, covered over by a stone cup. Oil gets deposited onto the inner lining of the cup. This is a good substitute for acetic acid and creosote.

(ii) Fresh oil prepared from coconut milk is a very useful application in cases of baldness, as it promotes the growth of hair. It is also useful for burns.

(iii)Coconut oil prepared from the fresh kernel can be used as a substitute for cod liver oil in wasting, debilitating and pulmonary diseases like consumption, in children. The advised dosage is 20 to 30 minims, gradually increased to a drachm, three times daily. This increases memory power, and also heals injuries. However consuming it for a long period leads to dysentery.

It is to be noted here that if oil is prepared by boiling coconut milk, it will not lead to either dysentery or indigestion.

The root of the coconut is diuretic and is used in urinary disorders. It is also anthelmintic. It forms an astringent gargle for sore throats. The root is said to strengthen the gums and often forms an ingredient for a country tooth powder.

Even the ashes from the leaves find a use in medicine. In South Africa, they are a popular remedy for tape-worm infection.

The ‘almond’ (developing embryo) of the coconut is scraped and administered, followed three hours later by a dose of castor oil. The worm gets expelled within two hours. The tender leaf can be used like a cabbage. When boiled, it makes a delicate vegetable and is even eaten raw in salads, pickled or made into conserves with sugar.

The dried kernel or copra is used for making butter, margarine and extensively for oil extractions.

In Jamaica, the oil is given for epistaxis. It is given whilst fasting, warmed and with a little sugar. This procedure is also adopted for mucous discharges. An emulsion from the oil of the kernel is prescribed for coughs and pulmonary disorders. For this purpose, the kernel is pounded with water, kept undisturbed for some time to let the oily layer settle before the cream is skimmed off. This is preferable to standard coconut oil. In Sri Lanka, the oil is applied over the head as a cooling agent and the pulp of the tender fruit is given in cases of sunstroke. The usual drawback in using coconut, especially the kernel, is that it is too heavy for digestion. But this can be overcome if coconut is eaten with sugar or better still, sugar candy or jaggery.

The thin flesh of tender coconut, when well mashed with a ripe banana and taken with milk, is easily digested and is a nourishing food particularly for children and patients with chronic digestive problems. Another delicious dish, equally medicative, is prepared as follows: grind gratings of coconut flesh into a smooth paste, using a cupful of coconut water. Add powdered sugar candy and cardamom. Taking this once a day is very beneficial for cases of chest pain, bronchitis, hiccups, sleeplessness and gastric ulcers.

Specific cures

Urinary disorders

(i) Difficult urination and bleeding of the nose

Mix powder from the nirmali fruit (Strychnos, nux vomica or cleaning nut), country sugar (khand) and cardamom in some coconut water and then drink. This will prove beneficial for rakta pitta. Adding jaggery and powdered coriander mitigates burning sensations during difficult urination.

(ii) Obstructed urination

A thick application of a paste from the roots is prepared by grinding them in water. If externally applied over the bladder region, it will result in a free flow of urine. Simultaneously, a decoction from the roots is also given.

(iii) Raktaprameha (urinary disorders with blood discharge)

Take a tender coconut filled with water, make an opening, letting only 20 tolaas of water remain inside, insert 3-4 maashaas of fitkarii (alum), close the opening, and keep it outside at night in the open air. Shake this well next morning and administer.

(iv) Urinary stones

Take the dried coconut flowers which fall down by themselves. Prepare a chutney from them with 3 maashaas of water. Add 1 maashaa of javaakhaar or burnt banana (i.e. banana alkali). Put this in 20 tolaas of cold water and drink. This very quickly removes stones from the bladder and kidney. Acute pain and distress common with this affliction is also relieved.

Tridosha relief

Make an opening in a tender coconut, fill the water inside with as much saindhav salt as possible, close the opening with mud, one inch thick, and cook the whole coconut over a charcoal fire. When the mud becomes red, remove, cool and take out the water from inside. Add 1 or 2 maashaas of pippali powder. This drink will cure complaints due to vitiations in pitta, kapha and vaata.


Take about 10 sers of coconut milk, cook over a fire until it thickens like a confection. Add equal quantities of nutmeg, pepper, ginger and piippal mul. Store in a bottle. Administer 1 to 2 tolaas every day, morning and evening, for 14 days.


In 4 sers of coconut water, add 5 tolaas of daaruhaldi (Berberis asiatica), 15 tolaas of triphalaa and 5 tolaas of mocharas (the exudation of the root of the red silk cotton tree). Cook in a solid tin vessel until its quantity is reduced to a half. Remove from fire, cool, strain and cook again until it thickens to an extent. Cool, strain again and heat once more until it thickens still further. Add one tolaa each of saindhav salt, bhnmsenn kapur, ½ ser of good honey and store. Apply this as a collyrium, morning and evening. If the cataract is in its early stages, this medicine works like magic. But in older cataracts, its influence is felt only after some delay.

As an alternative, just add in place of mocharas, 10 tolaasof red punarnavaa root (Boerhaavia diffusa) and 5 tolaas of Strychnos or nutmeg powder.

Loss of consciousness and mental confusion

Add sattu (a meal of parched rice) and an equal quantity of country sugar to coconut water. Drinking it will ward off these two afflictions, as well as easing thirst, biliousness and kapha.

Gastrointestinal diseases

(i) If vomiting from cholera does not stop with medicine, giving some tender coconut kernel will help.

For Hiccups

(ii) The fibres at the tuft of the coconut are put in a chilam and smoked, like tobacco from a hooka to relieve hiccups.

(iii) Alternatively, the fibres are burnt, the ashes mixed with honey and licked up like an electuary.

(iv) Or the ash is mixed with water and drunk. (v) Or, mix 3 maashaas of ash in milk prepared with dashamuul and administer.


(vi) If there is much vomiting, burn fibres and secure the white ash. In the same way, burn betel nuts into charcoal. Mix together in equal quantities. Take 4-6 rattiis of the mixture, 3-4 times within 2 to 3 hours along with honey. All types of vomiting will then stop.

(vii) Set fire to pieces of coconut shell so that they are converted to ash. Take a teaspoonful of it with buttermilk. This helps in case of dysentery, diarrhoea and flatulence.


(viii) Add a teaspoonful of honey to a cupful of the decoction of the coir. It is a sure remedy against infection from round and flat worms.


(i) In case of dry cough, the kernel is steamed, ground and the juice extract given in a dosage of one and half tolaas, three times a day.

(ii) Grind poppy seeds (khas khas) well after soaking them sufficiently in water. Mix it with an equal quantity of coconut milk. Take daily at night with honey. It will ward off persistent coughing from excessive smoking of cigarettes, chest pains, sleeplessness, dysentery and diarrhoea.


(i) For migraines, camphor is added to coconut milk and applied over the forehead.

(ii) A few drops of coconut water put in the nostrils also relieves migraine.

(iii) Fill the hollow of a coconut kernel with ghee and place in the khichadii (gruel) to be cooked. When ready, remove the kernel, add 5 tolaas of country sugar pounded with 6 maashaas of black pepper. 2 tolaas of this khichadii, morning and evening, with milk taken for a few days will quieten headaches of various types.

(iv) Or, take 20 tolaas of cooked coconut kernel, mix well with mashed pumpkin (kadduu), and prepare sweetballs (modak) in a syrup with 10 tolaas of jaggery. Taking one modak in the morning along with goat’s milk will remove headaches and vaata aggravations of the headache, like pain in the eyes.


Eating coconut kernel regularly with sugar candy helps pregnant women in easy delivery and the newborn is well nourished and fair.

After delivery

After delivery and to ease pains in the uterus, the kernel or its preparations are eaten, or a decoction is made out of 5 tolaas of kernel and 1/2 - 2 tolaas of sesame.

(ii) Take an unopened flowerbud, remove its outer hard coat, pound the inner part well in a wooden mortar. Add 1 tolaa each of nutmeg, nutmace, clove, black pepper and dry ginger, with one and a half toaas of kesar (saffron) — all powdered well and strained in the same mortar, adding a little coconut milk. Prepare 14 pellets. One pellet is to be taken in the morning and another in the evening with cow’s milk. The recommended diet is cow’s milk only. If not possible, good quality rice and a little wet ginger for taste can be taken. No water should be given at all. In case of thirst, only cow’s milk should be given. This is to be continued for 7, 14 or 21 days depending on the condition of the patient. During the course, no water should be given, not even for bathing. After this, both the quantity of milk and rice can be gradually increased. The giving of water can also be commenced in a very gradual manner.

By this procedure, hunger increases, milk is digested well, blood formation and circulation are improved. The face will show signs of grace, health and lustre. The effect is observed in the first week. If hunger starts and the patient can digest 4-5 sers of milk a day and the signs of the disease are lessening, presume that the treatment has worked well. If started in the very initial stages, the results are very good. The treatment is good for cases of sangrahanii (malabsorption), consumption and feeble digestion too.

To prevent abortion

Take fresh coconut flowers, fruit of gular (Ficus glomerata) and nagar motha (Cyperus rotundus) all in equal parts. Prepare a decoction which is drunk to reduce the chances of abortion.

Pain in the chest

Take a tender pulp, enclose it in a piece of cloth and squeeze out the milk. Take 5 tolaas, mix it a paste with it prepared by rubbing roasted turmeric horn and 2 tolaas of ghee. Drinking this relieves chest pain.

Vaata aggravation

In 7 tolaas of coconut milk add 3 maashaas of triphalaa powder and 2 maashaas of black pepper powder and drink twice a day. Adding only black pepper will also serve the same purpose.

Skin problems

(i) Itching, eczema and ringworm: take the kernel juice, add a little of amalasaar gandhak (i.e. a sulphur) and cook. When an oily residue remains, remove from the fire. Half the solid is eaten and the other half is rubbed onto the part concerned. At night, apply the oil and gently rub it in.

(ii) For cases of eruptions, itching, eczema, boils and other skin afflictions, camphor can be mixed with this oil and applied.

(iii) Ringworm: Burn the shell, add equal quantities of fried borax (suhag), camphor and sulphur. Treat this mixture in lemon water and then prepare a dry powder. Add neem leaf, take some ghee and mix. Apply this on the ringworm spots. A cure is sure.

(iv) Washing one’s face with tender coconut water daily will remove pimples and blackheads from the face leaving a soft and lustrous skin.

(v) Applying coconut milk with glycerine on the body makes the skin soft and smooth.

(vi) Coconut oil can cure the painful and distressing affliction of whitlow. For this, take a piece of clean cloth and soak in lime water. Warm a little quantity of coconut oil and dip the lemon cloth in it. A cracking sound will be heard. Remove the cloth and tie it as a bandage over the affected part while it is still hot. This will reduce distress and cure the complaint.

(vii) Mix this oil with an equal quantity of lemon water. Applying the mixture all over the body will make the skin smooth, soft and lustrous. Wrinkles will not appear and a shine will persist. The skin will gain in health too. The preparation is also a good hair tonic. It will stop premature hair loss, increase the health of the hair making it long, dense, glossy and lustrous.

(viii) Burns and baldness: mix half the quantity of linseed oil in coconut milk and cook until all the water evaporates and only the oil remains. Applying this oil over burns and scalded regions is particularly beneficial. The same oil can be applied for bald patches to promote hair growth.

Affliction of luu or hot wind

Mix grounded black cumin seeds in coconut milk to make a paste and apply all over the body. The patient will soon quieten down soon.


Take 5 tolaas each of coconut kernel, kernel of bael fruit and dry ginger. Finely powder them and mix with 15 tolaas of jaggery and prepare sweetballs or ladduus of 1 tolaa each. Take one ladduu with buttermilk, morning and evening, for a month.


Take the kernel of an old coconut and pound well. Mix turmeric powder in it in one fourth of its quantity. Warm packs of this when applied over the injured regions give quick relief.

Inflammation due to marking nut or rat poison

Burn the coconut kernel, grind it and apply on the inflamed area. Eat it simultaneously. For rat poison, old copra is ground with radish juice and applied.

Wounds, Burns

(i) Cook about 5 sers of coconut juice and add 4 rattiis of salt, 2 maashaas of turmeric powder while it cooks. Continue stirring well. A solid residue remains at the bottom and an excellent fragrant oil floats on the top. This can be stored safely in a bottle. After a few days, this oil may become slightly acidic, but it will never suffer in quality. This can be applied on syphilitic sores by means of a cotton swab. This heals wounds of all types very well. It forms an effective application for burns and scalds too.

(ii)The oil secured from dry copra by pounding is cooling. This cools the head when applied and massaged into the scalp. It heals wounds when applied on any injured areas of the body.

(iii) If burning sensations on the soles of the feet or palms of the hand are felt, apply a mixture of coconut and lime water in equal proportions, adding a pinch of turmeric powder.


(i) In injury where bleeding occurs, applying the ash of coconut fibres will stop the flow of blood.

(ii)Burn coconut coir to ash. Take a teaspoonful of this, mix well in tender coconut water, add a small quantity of sugar candy and give twice daily to young girls suffering from excessive bleeding during menstruation.

The same measure has also proved an excellent remedy for gastric ulcers and bleeding piles.


Fry the fibres in a pan (tavaa), powder, apply to the chest in a dosage of 4 rattiis along with honey. This gives quick relief against breathing difficulties.


Burn the shell along with the fibres, powder fine and give in a dosage of 1 tolaa followed by a glass of cow’s milk. Continue to do so for a few days and during this medication, oil, sour substances, jaggery and red chillies should be avoided.

This will be useful against both bleeding and dry piles.

Throat inflammations

Gargling with a decoction from the roots proves very helpful.

Oral diseases.

(i) Take the gratings from a well matured coconut. Grind fine with a little quantity of water. Squeeze the coconut milk directly into a stainless steel vessel, strain well and boil the milk over a low fire for some time. The watery portion will soon get separated from the milk and pure coconut oil will remain in the vessel. Store this oil safely in a bottle with a tight lid. Applying the oil frequently is an efficient remedy against persistent and recurrent sores on the mouth, the apthae.
(ii) Chewing dried copra along with sugar candy is another simple cure for these sores on the mucous membranes of the mouth.
(iii) Giving raw coconut flesh and a little jaggery to children is also a good practice. This will ensure hard and durable gums and will also prevent dental problems.
(iv) Tooth powder: Char some pieces of the shell and powder well. Add powdered salt and turmeric in requisite proportions. You will then have made an excellent tooth powder.

Ear Problems

Take a clove of garlic and fry it in coconut oil. A few drops of this oil are dropped into the aching ear. This relieves discharging pus, pain and cures the infection.


The coconut oil is ideal for massage. In the seventh month of pregnancy, back pain is quite common. Massaging the back with coconut oil or castor oil, then taking a hot bath, will lesson the pain considerably and give a welcome relief. For infants, massaging with coconut oil and cow’s butter and then letting them play in gentle sunlight, before bathing them is very helpful for their overall health and development.

Non-medicinal uses of coconut

(i) Coir

The fibres of the husk form the basis for coir mats and ropes, both of great commercial value. The term coir is applied to the short, coarse and rough fibres of the outer bulk of the coconut fruit. For this purpose, unripe coconuts, or the husk removed during the peeling of the nut, are soaked in salt water for several months to loosen the fibres. They are then beaten to separate them, washed and dried. Coconut fibres are very light, elastic and extremely resistant to water. Coir is also used in making bristles for brushes, doormats, floor coverings, sacks, coarse textiles, upholstery, stuffings for bearings or railroad cars. Coir, as mat material and general interior decoration, has become fashionable in recent years. Coir is also used as a raw material for paper making.

(ii) Shell

The hard shell or endocarp is an excellent fuel as it contains a high oil content. It can also be used as a vessel or container, a ladle or a source of a fine grade charcoal. Since it provides an excellent finish as well as good polish, there is a flourishing industry in decorative pieces and attractive household articles using the discarded shells of coconuts.

(iii) Leaves

The coconut’s huge leaves, commonly woven together when young and dried, form a favourite material for thatchings, hut construction and many temporary structures like partition walls, screens etc. They are interwoven into bewitchingly attractive decorative garlands for houses and platforms for the gods in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The leaves are also used in making baskets, hats, mats, curtains and screens. The petiole or leaf stalks and the central midribs are used for fence posts, canes, brooms, needles and pins.

(iv) Trunk

The trunk constitutes a wood, best suited for houses and bridge making. Some of the commercial porcupine wood much used in cabinet work is obtained from the coconut.

(v) Oil

Refined coconut oil is edible and is extensively used for preparing food products, like margarine or imitation butters. It is especially suited for this purpose, as it solidifies at ordinary temperature and is almost indispensable for making candy bars and many other confections.

Coconut oil has many industrial uses as well. It has long been used in the preparation of the best soaps, cosmetics, salves, shaving creams, shampoos, hair oils and a variety of other cosmetic and toiletry products. It is the only oil that can be used in marine soaps. It is also a good illuminant for lamps.

The oil cake makes an excellent cattle feed.


Coconut has many many uses in all aspects of life. Naarikela has become a servitor of Nara.

The modern equivalents of the measures used in this text are:
  • 1 rattiis = 1 gunja (seed of Abrus precatorius)
  • 8 rattiis = 1 maashaa
  • 10 maashaas = 1 tolaa
  • 1 tolaa = 10gms

  • 1 ser = approx. 1 litre
  • 1 paav = 250ml


1. A.V.S.S. Samba Murthy and N.S. Subrahmanyam. A Text Book of Economic Botany. New Delhi: Wiley Eastern Limited, 1989. Pages 482-483, 698,700.

2. K.M. Matthew. An Excursion Flora of Central Tamil Nadu. New Delhi, India; Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 1991, p. 189.

3. K.M. Nadkarni. Indian Materia Medica Vol. I. Mumbai Popular Prakashan Private Ltd., 1982.

4. K.R. Kirtikar and B.D. Basu. Indian Medicinal Plants, Vol II. Dehradun; International Book Distribution, 1988.

5. Naveen Patnaik. The Garden of Life. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.

6. N.K. Shanmugam. Mooligai Kalai Kalangium. Chennai; Kalaiselvi Publications, 1997.

7. P.K. Warrier, V.P. Nambiar, C. Ramankutty. Indian Medicinal Plants. Chennai; Orient Longman Limited, 1996.

8. S. Kannusamy Pillai. Siddha Vaidya Pathartha Guna Vilakkam (Moola Vargam). Chennai; B. Rathina Naikar & Sons, 1990.

9. The Wealth of India. New Delhi; Publications and Information Directorate, CSIR, 1976, [Vol.X]: 171-77.

10. The Useful Plants of India. New Delhi; Publications & Informations Directorate, CSIR, 1986.


This information is meant to create an interest in our traditional plants. It should not be used indiscriminately but under expert guidance.

Dr. K.H. Krishnamurthy has written about medicinal plants as used in the Indian context with deep interest. He is a botanist by profession and poet by sentiment.

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