Known as the “tree of life” in the Philippines, the coconut tree boasts more uses and benefits than almost any other plant known to man. The coconut tree, one of the many “canoe plants” imported from Polynesia hundreds of years ago, grows most popularly in the tropics, India, and Brazil, but is propagated in various equatorial climates, where natives use almost every part of the tree for a plethora of purposes. If you’re wondering what to see in Hawaii, the coconut tree is it.

Here in Hawaii, you can see coconut trees all over the place—especially at fancy beaches and resorts. Oftentimes the coconut is propagated in these areas for the tropical aesthetic it helps to create. Indeed, if you’re wondering what to see in Hawaii, you should and will see quite a few coconut trees. It’s quite ironic, though, that a plant of such unsurpassable utility is now used to lend an air of luxury to corporate enterprises. From root to fruit, virtually every part of this miraculously medicinal plant boasts some sort of health benefit. Many parts of the coconut plant are also useful in construction and in craft making.

Medicinal Uses

Roots, leaves, meat, and husk—all parts of the coconut tree yield some sort of medicinal benefit.

The Roots

The root system of the coconut tree looks almost like a short mop head, and is definitely among what to see in Hawaii. Boiled roots of the coconut tree create a tonic and herbal medicine that can effectively treat heartburn and infections of the gallbladder and urinary tract.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made from the meat of the coconut and can:

  • Help regulate hormones and protect the myelin sheaths that coat our nerve cells.
  • Protect against the harmful effects of carcinogenic foods and toxins.
  • Moisturize skin and hair.
  • Be used in place of cough syrup and help to relieve symptoms of smoker’s cough.
  • Yield a delicious alcoholic beverage when combined with sugar and yeast, as is traditional in certain tropical cultures.
Coconut Water

Coconut water is the liquid inside of the fruit of the coconut tree. The taste and quantity of coconut water in a coconut varies depending upon its age and type. It is best to select a full-sized, immature coconut to obtain the healthiest and tastiest coconut water. Coconut water:

  • Is anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. It is therefore excellent in treating digestive overgrowth, strengthening immunity, and promoting general health.
  • Contains electrolytes, making it an incredibly hydrating drink. Coconut water is great for athletes or those planning to spend an active day in the sun.
  • Is useful in re-hydrating those suffering from dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Promotes kidney and bladder health, as it is both anti-microbial and a mild diuretic.
  • Balances pH levels to prevent disease and inflammation while ridding the body of harmful toxins.
  • Is great for endurance athletes, as it boasts naturally occurring electrolytes.
Coconut Sap

Coconut sap is used to make a variety of sweet or fermented products, including candy, vodka, wine, sugar, syrups, and vinegar. A seasoning made from coconut sap called coconut aminos is a delicious, sweet alternative to soy sauce that is great for marinating meat.

The Coir

The coir, or husk fibers, are used to make an anti-inflammatory tea in Brazil.

Coconut Leaves

Boiling coconut leaves creates a tea that eases tension and relaxes muscles. You can also soak in a bath of coconut leaves to achieve the same effect.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is pressed from the dried kernels of the coconut. You can purchase coconut oil in a store or try pressing it yourself; it is time consuming and difficult, but it yields a host of medicinal and cosmetic benefits. Coconut oil can:

  • Help to balance hormones, and is therefore great for individuals suffering from adrenal complications or infertility.
  • Facilitate the absorption of magnesium and calcium, thus easing stress and helping to build strong bones.
  • Moisturize and protect hair.
  • Moisturize skin, prevent wrinkles and aging, and reduce acne and age spots.
  • Help to treat burns, infections, bites, and rashes.
  • Promote regularity while also treating and preventing both candida overgrowth and parasites.
  • Regulate blood sugar levels and treat inflammatory diseases like cancer, acid reflux, digestive disorders, and chronic fatigue.
Coconut Meat

As the meat contains coconut oil, it contains many of the same medicinal and nutritional properties. It is also:

  • Dried and ground into a flour. Coconut flour has become quite popular in gluten-free and paleo baking.
  • Cooked into stews or even in the place of meat or fish.
  • Dried to create coconut shavings.
  • Eaten raw or blended in smoothies to provide a source of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Other Uses

The coconut tree’s medicinal and nutritional profile is definitely one to contend with. However, the ancients prized the coconut tree for many of its other abilities. From construction to crafts, both ancient and modern cultures make use of the coconut tree in a variety of innovative ways. Almost all parts of the coconut create excellent compost and indigenous mulch, but each individual component of the tree touts a unique set of functions as well.

Coconut Frawns:

Coconut frawns vary significantly in size, but the multiplicity of their uses render useful each and every one of them. You can use the frawns to cover beds of soil when it is sunny to prevent the loss of moisture and microbial diversity. If you’re looking for what to see in Hawaii and want to see how the coconut tree is used in a permaculture setting, check out our farm tour. You can also remove the leaves to:

  • Weave a basket or a bag for harvesting.
  • Create lamp shades, mats, wall hangings, sun shades, room dividers, and a variety of other practical household items.
  • Weave beautiful hats, bracelets, jewelry, and lei.
  • Reinforce roofing.
  • Wrap and preserve food.
  • Make a broom.
Coconut Shells:

Coconut shells boast perhaps the broadest array of uses, spanning basically necessary to purely aesthetic. You can use coconut shells to make:

  • Natural plant holders.
  • Bowls and cups. Cups made from coconut shells are particularly popular in kava bars in Hawaii.
  • Musical instruments like maracas.
  • Fuel and charcoal.
  • Scrapers, utensils, and tools.
  • Bird feeders or beds for small animals.
  • Storage for food and other items, like jewelry or desk supplies.
  • Jewelry, sculptures, art, and other crafts.
Coconut Husks

The fibers of coconut husk, or the coir, have just as many uses as other parts of the coconut tree. The coir is used to make rugs, mats, brushes, ropes, and caulking. It can also function as:

  • Compost for potting.
  • Fuel for cooking.
  • Peat moss.
  • Cleaning and scrubbing tools.
  • Mosquito repellant (when burned).
  • Skin care (when ground to use as an exfoliant).
The Trunk

The trunk of the coconut tree is incredibly sturdy. Traditionally, cultures of the tropics carved the trunks into canoes. They also used it in the construction of houses and boats, bridges, and furniture. It even yields pulp for creating paper.


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