Apply Topically to the skin to get VCO benefits thru skin absorption

Can rubbing Virgin Coconut Oil to your skin boost your immune system?

By R. Pacheco Jr MSc Apl Phys

     R. Zipagan RCh

June 24, 2020

Disclaimer: Contents of this article has not been evaluated nor approved by the Food and Drug Authority and is not meant to diagnose, treat nor cure illnesses or diseases but is for information purposes only. Please consult a qualified physician for an expert medical opinion.

Key Ideas and Takeaways

  • VCO applied to the skin delivers also VCO's metabolites monolaurin and lauric acid to the body.
  • No need to worry about LBM as side effect  of oil ingestion.
  • Can be applied topically thru Self-massage daily on soft lymph areas.
  • Can be used across different age groups. 
  • The skin’s biome and lymphatic system aid in the release of active fatty acid derivatives of VCO into systemic circulation.
  • Greater bioavailability for systemic circulation of anti-microbial medium chain fatty acids C12 (Lauric),C10 (Capric),C8 (Caprylic) in its active form.
  • Greater bioavailability for systemic circulation of VCOs fat-soluble antioxidants.
  • Virgin Coconut Oil is an all natural traditional food consumed and used for the skin by coconut-producing populations.


Many of us have may have read by now that VCO or Virgin Coconut Oil is undergoing Philippine government-sponsored clinical trials as therapy for Covid-19 patients. The subjects are administered the VCO by oral intake taking a few tablespoons, 2- 3 times a day. The expected benefit is the boosting of the immune system to reduce the viral load of the coronavirus particles of the infected subjects.

The proposed hypothesis is that monolaurin is released when coconut oil is ingested, and the monolaurin – working like soap – weakens the fat coated membrane of the enveloped coronavirus thus making the RNA particle prone for attack by the body’s immune cells.

This antiviral effect of coconut oil on enveloped viruses was first proven in 1998 in the DOH-supervised trials 9 on the deadly HIV virus.

Is there another way or complementary way of using VCO without oral ingestion?

Most POSSIBLY YES, by rubbing on your chest, around your neck and throat area, on your armpits, and even on your groin, to target entry by absorption into the skin lymphatic system.

Virgin Coconut Oil is very well known traditionally as an excellent massage and carrier oil. Hilot and Massage therapists prefer virgin coconut oil because it absorbs well into the skin.

Certain locations of the skin are softer than the others or more specifically the stratum corneum10 (outer layer)- the strongest barrier- is thinner compared to other areas.

Medically, delivering drugs thru the skin is called transdermal drug delivery1. Drugs administered through skin patches include scopolamine (for motion sickness), nicotine (for quitting smoking), estrogen (for menopause and to prevent osteoporosis after menopause), nitroglycerin (for angina), and lidocaine to relieve the pain of shingles (herpes zoster)1.


Here’s the Science

Coconut Oil can be absorbed through the skin and there are absorbent areas where the oil can be absorbed and the fatty acids detected in the blood serum.

Simple experiment to demonstrate virgin coconut oil’s absorption in soft skin areas

  1. Get ½ to 1 tablespoon of VCO
  2. Gently massage on neck, chest, and armpits.*
  3. Feel your skin after at least 60 mins, it will start to feel less and less oily. 
  4. Since oil does not evaporate at room temperature, the oil is therefore considered as fully absorbed into the skin3.
  5. Best time to apply is at night time or before going to bed. Avoid being active to prevent sweating or perspiring.

    *This is a recommendation. The user may choose where to apply the VCO.
    Important Note: In case skin shows irritation during VCO application, DO NOT apply VCO to skin and consult with doctor.

How it works

Pathway through the Skin

Coconut oil’s fatty acid molecules are small enough to diffuse into the skin. This is called transcutaneous absorption2. There are soft skin locations where lymphatic system are prominently located.

The skin’s biome10 contains lipases and skin bacteria. They are useful to hydrolyze the medium chain fatty acids C12, C10, C8, thereby can release monolaurin, monocaprin, and monocaprylic.


Targeting over the skin lymphatic system

Targeting the lymph nodes will play a crucial role in the transport of the medium chain fatty acids and its release into its active and potent form. (Armpits, Groin, Chest, and Neck areas are where lymphatic system is prominently located4.)

Relation between the lymphatic and blood-capillary network of the skin

     Figure 1 Lymphatic vessels (white); arterial (red) and venous (blue) parts of the blood-capillary network.


     Amanda W. Lund, Terry R. Medler, Sancy A. Leachman and Lisa M. Coussens, Lymphatic vessels,inflammation,immunity in skin cancer, Cancer Discovery, Jan. 2016

    The lymphatic system aids in fat digestion, plays a major role in the immune system5, and drains out excess interstitial fluids.

    The lymph is chylomicron-rich where the latter's role is to transport lipids and contains lipases which hydrolyzes the fats into free fatty acids.

    Release of antimicrobial free fatty acids through the lymphatic system

      In the lymphatic system, the medium chain fatty acids are transported by chylomicrons and hydrolyzed by its lipoprotein lipases to release more free fatty acids: monolaurin, monocaprin, and monocaprylic6.

      From skin Lymphatic system to the bloodstream: Works like soap!

        The free fatty acids, transported by chylomicrons, circulate in the bloodstream encountering infected cells, weakens the fat coated membrane of the enveloped coronavirus thus making the RNA particle inside it prone for attack by the body’s immune cells6.

        C12, C10, C8 in its monoglyceride form are known antimicrobial agents against enveloped microbes or lipid (fat) coated microbes (virus, bacteria, fungi). The coronaviruses, influenza, SARS, HIV, Herpes viruses are considered enveloped virus among others5.


        Topical Application: Avoiding “First Pass Metabolism”

        First Pass Metabolism12 or first pass effect is when some drugs or vitamins taken orally are extensively metabolized or broken down by the liver and only a part or portion of the drug is released into systemic circulation.

        Topical or Transdermal delivery of the VCO can avoid this which improves the availability of the VCOs active compounds for systemic circulation.

        When to apply VCO dermally

          1. When the patient has intolerable side effects diarrhea, nausea and who is unable to take oral medication and is requesting an alternative method of nutritional delivery.

          2. For patients who are taking maintenance drugs and are hesitant to ingest additional supplements or substances.

          3. It can be administered in combination with oral ingestion to give more potency to the therapy.

          Topics for further and Immediate Research

          1. To Validate the therapeutic benefits thru human trials
          2. To determine synergistic effect with oral ingestion
          3. To measure indicators of coconut oil intake and application such as ketones, free fatty acids in blood serum among others
          4. To measure bioavailability
          5. To determine dosage
          6. To determine side effects


          1. Dipen Patel, Sunita A. Chaudhary1, Bhavesh Parmar1, Nikunj Bhura1, Transdermal Drug Delivery System: A System Review, Pharm Innovation, 2012 www.
          2. Solanki, K., Matnani M. et. Al, Transcutaneous Absorption of Topically Massage Oils, Indian Pediatrics, 2005
          3. Hodgson, E. Textbook of Modern Toxicology, 2004, 3rd 2004
          4. Skobe M., Detmar, Structure, Function, Molecular Control of Skin Lymphatic System, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Symposium proceedings, Dec 2000
          5. Amanda W.LundTerry R. MedlerSancy A. Leachman and Lisa M. Coussens, Lymphatic vessels,inflammation,immunity in skin cancer, Cancer Discovery, Jan. 2016
          6. Randolph G., Miller N., Lymphatic Transport of HDL and Chlylomicrons, J. of Clinical Investigation, 2014
          7. The Potential of Coconut Oil and its Derivatives as Effective and Safe Antiviral Agents Against the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV-2019), 2020 January 31, F. Dayrit, Ph.D., M. Newport MD
          8. Pacheco, R,, Zipagan R. Can coconut oil work like soap?,
          9. Pacheco, R. “Did you know that Filipino Scientists proved that Coconut Oil can work against the Deadly HIV virus?”
          10. Grice, Elizabeth, Segre, Julia, The skin microbiome, NCBI, 2013
          11. Boma, L , Brugger S, Yosh B, Davies, S , Lemon N, Corynebacterium Accolens Releases Antipneumococcal Free Fatty Acids From Human Nostril and Skin Surface Triacylglycerols
          12. Pond SM, Tozer TN, First Pass Elimination: Basic Concepts& Clinical Significance, Clin Pharmacokint, Jan-Feb 1984
          13. Review: Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity, McCarthy M, Dinicolantonio J., Open Heart, BMJ, 2016 July


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