Do you remember the fast-talking peddlers often depicted in old Western movies, who entertained their audience while selling bottles of miracle medicine that was supposed to cure everything from lice and snake bites to lumbago and lameness? Most of those "medicines" were simply ineffective and harmless; many of them, however, were potentially dangerous and contained herbal concoctions mixed with generous amounts of strong liquor or opiates which often caused customers to become addicted.
That’s what came to mind when I read the Huffington Post article Coconut Oil Is Over, RIP Coconut Oil (link below). In her rather angry article (which is something that tends to raise a red flag for me), Dr. Laura Thomas says that the coconut oil hype is an example of “marketing getting one over on science.” She mentions the tall claims that coconut oil helps you lose weight, reduces cholesterol, prevents dementia and boosts the immune system, to name a few. She then proceeds to quote the British Nutrition Foundation and their findings concerning the claim that coconut oil promotes weight loss. After reviewing available studies, the BNF reports that “there’s insufficient, good quality evidence at present to conclude that the consumption of coconut oil leads to a reduction in adiposity (fat).” According to Dr. Thomas, the studies used to substantiate such claims were flawed and are examples of “bad science” being used to push tons of coconut oil on unsuspecting consumers. She also mentions on her article that there are no studies showing any “immune-boosting” or “brain-Boosting” effects of coconut oil. And she ends by telling you to keep coconut oil “the f*ck out of your smoothies.”
On the other hand, the article Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil (medically reviewed by Kris Gunnars, BSc), seems to disagree. Among other things, the author points out that “coconut oil contains fatty acids with powerful medicinal properties”; “populations that eat a lot of coconut oils are healthy” (going off on a tangent, I remembered watching a Jackie Chan movie where he saves a guy from dying in a desert by using coconut water in a make-shift I.V.!); “coconut oil can help you burn more fat”; “coconut oil can kill harmful microorganisms”; “coconut oil can reduce your hunger, helping you eat less”; “the fatty acids in coconut oil are turned into ketones, which can reduce seizures”; “coconut oil can improve cholesterol levels”; “coconut oil can protect hair against damage, moisturize skin and function as sunscreen”; “the fatty acids in coconut oil can boost brain function in Alzheimer’s patients”; and last but not least, “coconut oil can help you lose fat, especially the harmful abdominal fat.” Gunnars ends the article by affirming: “I personally cook almost everything I eat in coconut oil and my health has never been better.”
There are countless such articles online, authored by information providers who have supposedly checked the facts; all heralding the health benefits of coconut oil. Many of them mention the great benefits of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s patients, for instance. One example is the article Alzheimer’s Treatment: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines. (please see link below), which lists a lot of research and testimonies, and claims that “the testimonies of success in using coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s have been nothing less than remarkable, especially considering the widespread failure of the drug companies to find drugs that can effectively deal with this disease.” The thing is, this information comes from coconutoil.com, a website that seems to have been created with the purpose of promoting coconut oil. And you might be familiar with Dr. Mary T. Newport, who decided to give her husband coconut oil to treat Alzheimer’s, supposedly with amazing results (please see the link to a short video below; the full-length video is available on youtube.com). But the website cited on the video is coconutketones.com, which might also be another coconut oil promoting site.
In addition to the marketing aspect of the available information, Dr. Thomas affirms that “a lot of the available studies “are observational, meaning we’re just looking to see what happens - you can’t prove cause and effect from this type of study.”
If Dr. Thomas is the one who’s right, maybe my husband and I should also be angry, as we bought into the coconut oil rave and personally use coconut oil in generous quantities for cooking* (as a medium/low smoke point oil, so we don’t use it for frying or other high heat cooking methods; please see oils smoke point chart on the article below). Except that neither my husband nor I seem to be suffering the potential harmful effects of cooking with coconut oil. And we absolutely love it. I also use coconut oil once a week as a deeply moisturizing skin mask as per my esthetician’s suggestion, due to the fact that I have very sensitive skin and usually have trouble with commercial face creams. It works very well for me (BTW, if you’d like to try it, but are not sure if it will feel or smell too overwhelming, you can try applying a thing layer of coconut oil and then your regular moisturizer on top).
We’re all aware that, over the years, many foods have been “villainized” in comparison to their competition, to only end up by being proven as the better (or less harmful) option, after all. For instance: a few decades ago, studies came out showing that butter was full of saturated fat and very, very bad for you; margarine and other butter substitutes were supposed to be much healthier. A few years later, margarine and other butter substitutes were proven to be much worse than butter due to the harmful effects of unnatural trans fat such as hydrogenated oils, in addition to the dozens of chemicals they use (including yellow die to make it look like butter). Butter had a come back as a better option, especially if organic and consumed in moderation. A similar trend happened with sugar and artificial sweeteners, among other foods and products.
The problem is: With the mass media world constantly feeding us (often incorrect) information, how can we tell what is what? In our household, here’s what we do:
1) We try to do some research ourselves and get as much information as we can from reputable professional sources on both sides of the issue. If at all possible, when we read about a “scientific study,” we try to find out who funded it (a very hard thing to do, since the moneys behind it might reveal the vested interests, if any, on the results of the study).
2) Even if the research checks out, we take it all in with a grain of salt… And we make sure to check with our doctor or other healthcare professionals for reasons why a specific substance might be beneficial or harmful to us.
3) If we decide to try it out, we pay attention to how we are personally affected by it, so that we can decide if it works for us. For example, I know for a fact that I do noticeably well on real butter (in moderation), but do very badly on margarine (digestive issues, weight gain, low energy level, etc).
4) We also make sure to have a wellness exam with a complete blood panel and other tests at least once a year (or more, if any issue comes up). That’s how we’ve been able to ascertain that our use of coconut oil hasn’t increased our cholesterol levels or caused other health issues.
Final Thought: So maybe coconut oil can’t indeed cure everything and should be used with discretion in the kitchen, especially by people who need to watch their intake of saturated fats (of the “good” and “bad” kind). But let’s not get carried away and go for the tar and feathers just yet. Maybe coconut oil does have some positive effects which haven’t been properly researched yet. Plus, in addition to its uniquely delicious flavor which makes it a favorite for cooking, this is an amazingly versatile oil that has countless uses, including beauty/hair and around the home. So, as with most things in life, enjoy… with moderation.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/16/2016
Photo from Pixabay.com
* Two of our favorite ways to use coconut oil for cooking are:
1) Thai Baked Salmon: spread some coconut oil on a baking dish; place salmon fillets; season both sides to taste with curry, turmeric, coconut sugar, light soy sauce and anise or fennel seeds; top with a touch of cayenne pepper and a dab of coconut oil per fillet; bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
2) Sweet Potatoes With Coconut Oil: dice and steam sweet potatoes or yams; toss lightly with coconut oil.
Coconut Oil Is Over, RIP Coconut Oil, by Laura Thomas, PhD
Alzheimer’s Treatment: New Alzheimer’s Drugs Continue to Fail Where Coconut Oil Shines
The Science Behind Coconut Oil As An Alzheimer's Treatment - Dr. Mary Newport
Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
The Top More Than 10 Evidence-Based Benefits Of Coconut Oil
101 Best Coconut Oil Uses And Benefits
Cooking Fats 101: What’s A Smoke Point And Why Does It Matter?
Reiki (“Rei”: universal; “Ki”: life energy or light) is a technique used for stress reduction and relaxation that can also help promote healing. There are many forms and founders of Reiki. One of the main originators is Dr. Mikao Usui, who developed the practice in the beginning of the 20th century in Japan. Reiki is usually administered by the laying of hands on or above the chakras (energy centers) of the body. The practitioner then increases and directs the energy flow through the body. Blockages found in the meridian points and channels are often released by Reiki treatments. This technique also helps balance the body’s chakras. Think of it as an energy “tune-up.”
Is There Any Scientific Proof That Reiki Works?
Up until recently, scientific proof of the effectiveness of Reiki or Reiki-based healing was hard to come by. Part of the reason is that it's practically impossible to accurately measure the effectiveness of energy healing by using most the of scientific methods currently in use, as the great majority of them don't even acknowledge the existence of subtle energy bodies, and don't measure the effect of energy healing on meridians, chakras, etc. Not to mention the issues regarding the infinite number of variables present in energy healing studies, as well as the way some of these studies are set up. For these reasons, most of the research available can hardly be taken as real proof of the true effectiveness of Reiki (or lack thereof, as many attempted to disprove it).
For instance, one particular study had three different target groups; the first group was treated with Reiki by trained practitioners; the second with "placebo Reiki," (a person who was not a trained Reiki healer and was just going through the motions), and the third group received no intervention. Both the first and second groups reported feeling better, while the third group reported no change. But the conclusion of the study was that "real" Reiki was no better than "placebo" Reiki, as both groups had similar results. So, even in the way these "scientific studies" are set up, it's obvious that there's great lack of understanding about energy healing. The fact that the "placebo Reiki" group got good results could be explained by the placebo effect. But isn’t the placebo effect the very proof of the power of the mind to energetically effect change on the body by mere suggestion, which makes it part of the effectiveness of energy healing?
There’s also the fact that, if a subject is open and receptive to energy healing, it’s more likely to work (placebo or not); but how can you measure the level of receptiveness of each subject in a study? In addition, it could also be that the person who performed the "placebo Reiki" actually managed to move energy and cause an effect, even without having been properly trained in how to do it. Of course, most trained practitioners should be able to achieve better results more consistently. However, everyone has access to the same energy fields and would be capable of achieving different degrees of result when doing bodywork, training or no training (although some results might be more positive than others, depending on the person's energy). Some people are natural born energy healers without even knowing it. I know a nurse who said that her elderly patients claim to feel better and have less pain as a direct result of how she kindly touches and handles them. Of course, part of the reason may simply be the fact that these patients are being treated with kindness. This nurse has never been trained in hands-on healing and isn’t even sure if she believes it works. However, her many patients frequently mention her “great energy,” “uplifting smile” and “healing power.”
Encouraging News: Science Is Catching Up
Nowadays there is better scientific research available, as modern science is beginning to catch up on such subjects. More adequately designed scientific studies, which assume the presence of biofields or energy fields around the physical body, as well as the possibility that these energy fields can overlap and interconnect from one person to another, have showed very positive results in many areas, including pain relief. On a side note, biofields are now known to exist due to newer technology such as Kirlian photography, aura imaging and gas discharge visualization.
According to Cyndi Dale, author of The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energy Anatomy, “one particular study measured the effect of healing touch on the properties of pH, oxidation-reduction balance, and electric resistance in body fluids. These factors were linked to biological age. Before a treatment, the mathematically determined age of the touch-treated group was 62; after treatment it was 49.” Dale also mentions a paper written by the respected medical doctor and author of bioenergy Daniel J. Benor. Upon reviewing sixty one studies, Dr. Benor concludes that “distance, even thousands of miles, does not appear to limit the effects of healing.” Current Quantum physics theories attempt to explain these phenomena; however, this leads to very complex discussions that go beyond the scope of this article.
Partly due to such studies, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch and other similar energy therapies are becoming more widely accepted due to their encouraging results, and more and more energy therapists and nurses in hospitals and clinics are being trained in these modalities. Some hospitals and clinics have also created volunteer services. For instance, at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, MN, practitioners of Reiki or healing touch provide services as volunteers to patients at both the hospital campuses and some outpatient areas. The healing enhancements are provided in conjunction with Mayo Clinic's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.
Along the same line, the article Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study (Savvy Examiner; link below) mentions The Touchstone Process formulated by William Lee Rand. According to this source, Rand developed a web site about Reiki in hospitals, which is "considered to be the most comprehensive compilation of hospitals offering Reiki treatments throughout the world." Rand developed The Touchstone Process after creating his web site. Quoting the article, this process "is a peer review method for analyzing the current state of scientific studies done on Reiki programs in hospital, clinics and hospice facilities throughout the United States. The process of critique is rigorous, impartial, and consistent and incorporates the best practices for scientific reviews." This is an unprecedented approach which has actually been able to show indisputably successful results with the use of Reiki therapy.
Please see below additional articles with information on many current scientific studies, some of which mention the measurable effects that occur during a Reiki treatment. One of them specifically mentions the significant difference on certain test meridian points (spleen, adrenal glands and the cervical and thoracic regions of the spine) before and after a Reiki session.
Final Thought: Hands-on healing modalities have been around for many centuries, having been successfully practiced in many cultures. The bottom line is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating… So give it a try!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 08/03/2016
Photo by Jürgen Rübig from Pixabay
The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy, by Cyndi Dale
Essential Reiki - A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Guide, by Diane Stein
The system of meridians
Reiki - Science-Based Medicine
Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study
Reiki studies and articles - Mayo Clinic