Oleum Cocos.—Cocoanut Oil.
The fixed oil obtained from Cocos nucifera, Linné.
SYNONYMS: Oleum cocois, Cocoanut butter.
Botanical Source and History.—The cocoanut tree (Cocoanut palm) yields the cocoanut (properly coconut), much used in this country for culinary purposes, and in the confectioner's art. The tree is met with in most tropical climes, growing from 50 to 100 feet high. The narrow, long, rigid leaflets compose the leaves, which are of great length (12 feet or more), and borne in a cluster at the apex of the tall trees. The flowers are yellowish-white and the fruits, borne in clusters of from 10 to 20, are the well-known cocoanuts. When unripe they are filled with a sweetish liquid. As many as 120 of these large nuts are sometimes to be found on the tree. The uses of the cocoanut palm, and its products, are probably more extensive than those of any other plant. (For an account of its varied uses, see Practical Flora, by O. R. Willis; Useful Native Plants of Australia, by Maiden; Treasury of Botany; and Materia Medica of Western India, by Dymock.) The oil is obtained by boiling in water, or preferably by hot expression.
Description.—Cocoanut oil must not be confused with palm oil, or with cacao butter. It is white, butyraceous, of a mild, bland taste, and a peculiar odor. It is capable of forming a hard, white soap, which is not precipitated by salt, and therefore may be used with sea-water. On exposure to the atmosphere, it becomes rancid. Its melting point ranges from 20° to 28° C. (68° to 82.4° F.), the cold expressed oil having the lowest melting point. When fused it is thin, yellowish, and transparent, congealing again between 14° and 23° C. (57.2° and 73.4° F.). It may retain its fluidity for many days after having been subjected to a heat of 240° C. (469° F.). The soap combines with much water when mixed with it near the congealing point.
Chemical Composition.—This oil contains a small amount of oleic acid, as glyceride (olein). The bulk of the oil consists of a glyceride sometimes called coconin (cocinate of glycerin), which is a mixture of several glycerides (Oudemans), chiefly laurin, the glycerin ester of lauric acid. Myristin, palmitin, and stearin are likewise present, as well as the glycerides of caproic, caprinic, and caprylic acids. The oil is separable by hydraulic pressure into a solid portion utilized in candle-making, and an oily portion used for salad dressings, illuminating purposes, the manufacture of soaps, etc.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Besides the commercial uses above referred to, cocoanut oil has been employed, but without success, as a substitute for cod-liver oil. The dose is about ½ ounce.