Monolaurin – From Coconut To Wonder Drug

By now, anyone who has seen me or read my columns knows that I'm in favor of healthy fats playing a big role in our diets. But I have a special place in my heart for certain fats (and I hope they are in your hearts also, more on that later!) The fat that I want to talk about today comes from a natural wonder, the exotic and nutritious coconut. The fatty, oily white part of the coconut is approximately 50% made up of a single fat called lauric acid. And this remarkable fatty acid just might save your life one day.

In addition to coconut oil, lauric acid is present in human fat tissue, breast milk (in fact, lauric acid is the main antiviral and antibacterial substance in human breast milk), amniotic fluid, cows and goats milk, butter and palm kernel oil. Many properties make lauric acid unique. It is considered a medium chain fatty acid, and contributes less to fat accumulation than any of the other saturated fatty acids. In fact, some weight-loss regimens incorporate coconut oil into their programs. Lauric acid is easily absorbed and transported, to deliver directly, where it is converted to energy and to other metabolites rather than being stored as fat. Ketone bodies, which are produced by metabolism of lauric acid, are little energy batteries that can be used by the brain and the heart for immediate energy. There are even some reports demonstrating a lipid-lowering effect of lauric acid, and evidence that a diet containing lauric acid (as coconut oil) may be cardioprotective.

The cosmetic industry has long depended on lauric acid as a major ingredient. It has unique moisturizing properties. In one randomized double-blind controlled trial, extra virgin coconut oil was as effective and safe as mineral oil in moisturizing the condition known as xerosis, or dry rough scaly and itchy skin. In another study, adding coconut oil to existing lotion improved the moisture and elasticity of the skin. Monolaurin (made from lauric acid) is an important component of Epi-Shield, a natural skin cream that moisturizes, cleanses and conditions the skin. We have successfully utilized Epi-Shield (we use the brand name Lauri-Shield) in our practice for years.

Lauric acid can also be chemically converted in laboratories and factories to something called sodium laurel sulfate, or SLS. This substance is commonly used in many detergents, as it is able to scrub fats and oils effectively. The difficulty, is that it is also used in soaps and in dental toothpaste, and is implicated in damage to gums, canker sores, and even some cancers. So the form of lauric acid is very important in determining whether it’s a boon to our health, or a danger to be avoided.

Once fats are digested in the body, they become fatty acids, glycerols, and glycerides. Combining lauric acid with glycerol forms a substance called an ester. In this case the ester is known as glycerol mono laurate, better known as monolaurin. And it's the antimicrobial properties of monolaurin that make it one of nature's wonders. It turns out that monolaurin (and lauric acid, to a lesser extent) actually penetrates the lipid coating, or envelope, of viruses, and basically dissolves them, either preventing them from attaching to host cells, or directly promoting viral cell death. In one study performed by the CDC, monolaurin was over 99% effective in killing 14 viruses that were studied. In every case, electron microscopy showed severely damaged viral cells.

Some of the viruses that monolaurin has deactivated in the laboratory include RNA viruses such as coronavirus, pneumovirus and influenzavirus, as well as DNA viruses such as Herpes Simplex virus 1 and 2, and cytomegalovirus.

Because of its lipid penetrating properties, monolaurin is also lethal to many bacteria, especially Gram positive ones including Staph aureus (both sensitive and resistant strains), Streptococcus Groups A, B, F and G, and Listeria, as well as Gram negative Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori) and Hemophilus influenza. When a chelating agent (like EDTA) is added to assist in the breakdown of the bacterial lipid membrane, Gram negative bacteria are also susceptible to monolaurin’s pathogen-damaging effects.


Another important use for monolaurin is its antifungal effects. In one study, published in the Journal of Food Safety, monolaurin (in its original form called Lauricidin) was tested against 16 fungi of different groups and having different cell wall compositions. It was found to be effective in inhibiting the growth of all fungi tested. It also has bactericidal activity against Gardnerella, a common infection causing bacterial vaginosis. Therefore, we use Monolaurin as a part of our treatment protocol for vaginitis of all sorts. In many parts of the world, Lauric acid and monolaurin are seen as possibly slowing down the transmission of HIV, because these vaginal infections are associated with a higher rate of transmission of the virus. Just as exciting is some recent research suggesting that, not only does monolaurin kill fungus, but it significantly down regulates IL-1 alpha and IL-1 beta, two inflammatory cytokines, as well as disrupting the biofilm formation of that yeast, a biofilm which prevents access using standard antifungal drugs. One could say that monolaurin is the Swiss Army knife of antimicrobial treatments!

One of the most widespread modern uses of monolaurin is in the preservation of food. Particularly in the Third World, contamination of food products is a widespread and lethal problem. Infection such as Listeria monocytogenes, which threatens animal products, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli which are worldwide foodborne pathogens, can have a significant effect on the national economy and health of some countries. Monolaurin is one of the most commonly studied substances being found to have activity against these organisms. One study in the past year published in the Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants, monolaurin was compared to several other oils and the article stated "it has been found out that monolaurin has the strongest antimicrobial activity among fatty acid derivatives.” Several studies support the use of monolaurin in the treatment of bovine mastitis, a bacterial disease which can affect the milk supply. Still others have studied the positive effects of monolaurin on preserving cheese, sausages and even caviar.

Monolaurin does not have negative effects in the body; it is safe for our cells. In fact, since 1964 it’s been on the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list put out by the US Government. In addition, it has been found to have no ill effects on the normal bacteria that line the intestines. But, it has lethal effects on pathogenic bacteria and yeast (including Candida Albicans) in the digestive tract, as well as bacterial overgrowth of the small intestinal lining (the condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO). This is why monolaurin is so valuable in promoting a healthy gut. Getting rid of so-called opportunistic organisms that take advantage of an unhealthy digestive tract while promoting the growth of healthy intestinal flora is all one can hope for in a digestive medication, and monolaurin fits that explanation to a tee.

In my office, we mostly use monolaurin as the pure, original pellet form, Lauricidin, in a wide variety of applications. The pure pellet form is not available over the counter, and is dispensed through offices like ours. (visit for more information). For ease of use, we sometimes use Monolaurin capsules as well. We sometimes use it as a daily preventive, especially when travelling or in those with compromised immune systems (including Lyme Disease). We also use it as a treatment for those patients having viral, fungal or even bacterial illnesses, even when they’re also receiving conventional therapies. We find that a loading dose and then divided daily doses works best.