The Coconut Blood Transfusion Myth

Monday Apr 6 | BY |
| Comments (14)


The coconut tree is the tree of life!

It has more uses than almost any other plant on the planet. Many islands in the South Pacific would be uninhabited if it were not for the coconut.

On remote islands, very little vegetation grows because of the coral soil and also because of the abundance of seawater.

But coconuts will grow and provide the inhabitants of these islands with food, water, fire and more.

Coconut flesh can be eaten in various stages. Young coconuts have a jellylike flesh that can be easily eaten and digested.

As the coconut ripens there is less water inside of the coconut and the flesh becomes harder and oilier. This flesh is mainly used to make coconut oil, which can be used in all kinds of things, both commercial and culinary. Coconut milk is also made from ripe coconuts.

A recently sprouted coconut can be open. Its inside reveals a delicacy that can be eaten cooked or raw. It has a spongy like texture but is very delicious.

Sprouted Coconut Meat

Sprouted coconut – a delicacy


Various parts of the coconut tree are also used to make:

Traditional Tahitian Roof Thatching from Coconut Leaves

Traditional Tahitian Roof Thatching from Coconut Leaves

– Traditional roof thatching
– Brooms
– Fuel
– Insect repellant
– Ropes
– Coconut flowers are used medicinally or for honey production
– And more!

One use of the coconut that has circulated in health publications is this idea that in some countries coconut water has been used for blood transfusions. I don’t really know where this idea came from but I think it was probably due to the confusion to the actually medical use of coconut water.

Coconut water has not been used for a blood transfusions, but can be used to replace electrolytes. So those electrolytes are not a blood transfusion but they have been used as an intravenous hydration fluid.

Because coconut water has an ideal composition ratio of sugar, sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes it is the perfect replenishing drink and in extreme situations could be substituted for intravenous hydration fluid.

So there you go…. Coconut water is not going to replace a blood transfusion but it can prevent dehydration and be used medically, if nothing else is available.

There are also a few myths about the coconut. One is that coconut water is a laxative. I’ve heard inhabitants of the South Pacific also avoid coconut water for this reason, even Tom Hanks, the character in the movie Castaway, mentions this but I believe this would only be the case if you had a very constipating diet then coconut water may act as a natural laxative.

If you keep yourself naturally hydrated and eat a lot of water rich foods coconut water will not have that affect on you. Certainly I know plenty of raw foodists who eat and drink a lot of coconuts and have not experienced any problems in that area.

Share your coconut stories below!

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.


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  1. Sandra says:

    Living in the South Pacific I have heard stories of coconut water being used as life giving transfusions during World War 2. Might be good idea to locate some of the nursing or medical teams of that time to conclude if and how they used it. It is a good time to do so with the 100 year remembrance for the ANZAC’s at Gallipoli as at 25th April 2015. Many people from countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, America and the Pacific Islands also fought in Pacific area.

  2. The coconut is the lifeblood of the poorer nations. In the Philippines many rural and coastal houses are made from bamboo and thatched/woven coconut leaf roofs. Brooms are also made from the hard fiber in the palm leaves. The ends of the flowering coconut can be cut off and a collection bottle tied under the drip. This will naturally ferment and makes what the locals call “tuba”. Not unpleasant when served cold and is an acquired taste! Young coconuts are used for juice and the flesh is used in a salad. The milk from the older nuts can be used with the grated flesh (squeezed out) to make a fantastic “bear sign” donut treat. The outer husk and shell is dried and used as a firewood to cook rice and other foods. Sometimes the older palms are sacrificed for sawn timber, but is also a favourite of termites! The dried flesh of the older nuts is harvested 3-4 times a year and sold to copra buyers. It is processed and made into cooking oil and the pressed out flesh is sold into countries such as Australia and elsewhere for livestock supplementary feed. When planted along a beachfront with good ground water and minimal protection the palms will grow rapidly and set flower within about for years. I have tried a few times to grow palms inland, but so far have had no success. Perhaps lack of water and drought are the problem, lack of suitable sandy soil probably does not help either. I am of the opinion that the coconut may need some salt for its lifecycle as well.

  3. I eat all types of coconuts every day here in Costa Rica, and I wish to clarify some things. In the 18 years of being in the raw food movement, I always heard that coconut water was used in WW2 as a substitute for blood PLASMA in an emergency. I never heard anyone claim it was a “blood substitute”. The official medical consensus is that coconut water is not identical to blood plasma either, but is harmless enough to be used in emergency as a blood plasma substitute, such as occurred in wartime situation in the Pacific.

    According to Dr. Karl at:

    Even children in Cuba were given IV’s of coconut water with no adverse effects, and small percentage of the population get minor problems from its injection, but coconut water is, and was, used in emergencies for blood plasma.

  4. Lori says:

    There are many articles on the web that indicates that coconut water was used for blood transfusions.

    “that coconut water is a universal donor and is identical to human blood plasma. This natural isotonic beverage has the same level of electrolytic balance that we have in our blood. During the Pacific War of 1941-45, coconut water was used to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Coconut water was used as an IV drip in WWII. Coconut water has been used as an emergency short-term intravenous hydration fluid. The high level of sugar and other salts make it possible to be used in the bloodstream. This is why coconut water is now referred to as the “fluid of life.”

  5. Tara Sahara says:

    The main causes of constipation are not enough water and
    /or not enough fibre intake. So whilst technically not being a “laxative” it would help promote lack of constipation through it’s hydrating property…

  6. Judith says:

    I was interested in your comments re:coconut water instead of a blood transfusion.
    My naturopath told me that the greatest problem with blood loss is the pressure in the body, blood fluids etc drops and may cause vital organ function to be compromised with possible fatal outcomes. He also mentioned the use of IV coconut water in these circumstances.
    The human body has an amazing ability to rebuild the vital blood factors very quickly even after quite large blood loss, as long as there is not any disease state of the blood system.
    I have a friend who experienced a large blood loss just after a PV delivery.
    She refused a blood transfusion[not religious reasons] so received normal saline/electrolyte IV and had Blood profile tests to gauge her condition then later to check her progress. The results confirmed to her that she was correct in the knowledge she had, to refuse the blood transfusion and the trust that her body was capable of rebuilding her blood status to normal in a short time.
    So the story of blood transfusion replacement with coconut water may well have arisen from the lack of blood available to prevent organ damage and coconut water was used to maintain the overall functional pressure in the body to prevent a possible fatal outcome.

  7. Sheli says:

    Many years ago, my parents moved to a remote area near the coast in Mexico. They lived in stick-walled cabins using mud for mortar for the walls and coconut palm leaves for a thatched roof. Also, people made–and still make–candy from the coconut flesh.
    Three years ago, my husband and I bought some coconut juice on a hot day in Cancun. To our surprise, the vendor was hacking each coconut open with a machete and pouring its fresh juice into a cup for each person, but they were discarding the rest, the whole coconut! I asked if I could have the coconut and spooned out the flesh and ate this delicacy. Others waiting in line for the drink started to ask for, and ate, the coconut flesh. Yummm!
    Lastly, a few days ago in California, my mom and I bought a 16 oz container of “fresh” coconut juice. She drank half and I drank the other half. She got diarrhea but I did not. So, maybe for 50% of people, coconut juice can cause diarrhea. ??
    I’m happy I was in the second 50% with no diarrhea!

  8. wise says:

    I concur with this article as I come from the Pacific and we drink coconuts to rehydrate, but not for blood transfusion.

  9. Marcy Alves says:

    Thanks for the good info on coconuts. I’ve known that this “fruit” has health benefits, but was not aware of why. I just know I love the coconut taste and have begun to cook with the oil. I’ve also used it on my skin for a few years now. Haven’t done a lot with coconut water – except to drink some of the new coconut waters drinks.

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