“Coconut trees have long since given us life—medically and economically.”
This September, we have been recording more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases per week, which translates to almost half a million newly infected individuals in just a month. With this, the government again implemented stricter quarantine measures in COVID-19 hotspots which have been eventually downgraded as the month ends. So far, the government’s COVID-19 response revolves around administration of vaccines, use of personal protective equipment, treatment of antiviral medicines such as tocilizumab and remdesivir, and observance of minimum public health protocols.
We all know by now that COVID-19 treatments are costly. Antiviral medicines are priced in thousands of pesos, while hospital expenses cost more. Amidst these, I would like to put under the spotlight one of our own, the coconut.
In a study conducted by DOST-FNRI in COVID-19 facilities in Laguna last year, it was found that daily intake of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as mixed in meals helped in speeding up recovery of individuals who were considered suspect and probable COVID-19 cases. The team of FNRI Director Agdeppa and Dr. Fabian Dayrit found that there was a faster reduction of signs and symptoms among patients served with meals containing VCO. Last year, Dr. Dayrit also headed a study which found that patients with low viral load who took VCO exhibited a decrease in COVID-19 count. Another clinical trial is currently being conducted by DOST-PCHRD, with UP-PGH as venue, in order to study the safety and efficacy of VCO as adjunct therapy to COVID-19 hospitalized patients.
The use of virgin coconut oil as a health supplement is not new. VCO is scientifically found to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have been conducted in the past regarding the use of virgin coconut oil as supplements for minor illnesses. It was also found that virgin coconut oil has potential against viral infections. Moreover, VCO has reportedly been generally considered safe by the US FDA.
With this, I urge the government to focus on the potential of VCO and officially consider it as adjunct therapy for COVID-19. The studies are available. While vaccines are known to reduce or prevent symptoms of COVID-19 infection, VCO can significantly help individuals with COVID-19 to recover swiftly. In a way, this will also help cut back treatment costs especially among the hospitalized.
I, therefore, strongly urge the Department of Health to recognize these studies and incorporate VCO in meals of COVID-19 patients. I also call on the DOST to finance and initiate more studies on the potential of VCO in order to fully establish the extent of its benefits against COVID-19.
Sri Lanka has reportedly expressed its intent to conduct its own study on the use of VCO as treatment for COVID-19. We should be proud that we have found a potential treatment for COVID-19 in our very own backyard. Coconut trees have long since given us life—medically and economically. In turn, I urge the government to support the coconut industry, especially in coconut-producing provinces such as Quezon. As it continues to give life, let us bring to life its industry.