Anti-inflammatory effects of coconut oil: Potential to treat nipple soreness


eMediNexus    02 July 2018

The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is a member of family Arecaceae (palm family).1 Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has several potential therapeutic benefits. VCO has anticancer, antimicrobial, analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory properties.2 It is known to relieve the symptoms of skin disorders by moisturizing and soothing the skin.2 VCO has been shown to inhibit TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-5 in THP-1 cells. Available evidence points towards the anti-inflammatory activity of VCO on account of suppression of inflammatory markers and protecting the skin by enhancing skin barrier function.2

Coconut oil has traditionally been used to moisturize and treat skin infections. It has an emollient effect that helps in the treatment of atopic dermatitis patients. Coconut oil is a potent natural emollient that can be used in the treatment of xerosis.2

In acute inflammatory experimental models, VCO has shown moderate anti-inflammatory effects on edema. VCO inhibited chronic inflammation by reducing the transudative weight, granuloma formation, and serum alkaline phosphatase activity. VCO also exhibited a moderate analgesic effect. VCO thus exerts anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic effects.3 Coconut oil is also known to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses and inhibits parasitic growth.1

When used as a topical preparation, coconut oil forms a chemical barrier on the skin and protects it and heals infections. It moisturizes and softens dry skin and has the potential to repair cracked, sore, dry nipples from breastfeeding.1

Its skin barrier repair, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects make coconut oil a potential topical agent for conditions with dry, cracked skin. VCO promotes wound healing through faster epithelization.4 There have been reports that wounds treated with VCO heal much faster than untreated wounds. This could be attributed to the wide range of biologically active ingredients found in coconut oil.5

There are anecdotal reports from lactation consultants, of positive outcomes on sore nipples, from the use of VCO.5

Considering its barrier repair effect, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and moisturizing and emollient effects, VCO seems to be a potential agent for topical use in dry, sore, cracked nipples during breastfeeding.


  1. Raj JA, Magesh L. Medicinal Use of Coconut. IJSR 2017;6(6):1898-1900.
  2. Varma SR, Sivaprakasam TO, Arumugam I, et al. In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine 2018 January 17.
  3. Intahphuak S, Khonsung P, Panthong A. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharm Biol. 2010 Feb;48(2):151-7.
  4. Lin T-K, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan; 19(1): 70.
  5. Walker M. Are There Any Cures for Sore Nipples? Clinical Lactation 2013;4(3):106-15.

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