woman dripping eye with eyes drops

by Brian Shilhavy
Health Impact News Editor

A study out of Malaysia shows that virgin coconut oil may function better than commercial “artificial tears” products in rewetting dry eyes. The title of the study is A Pilot Study: The Efficacy of Virgin Coconut Oil as Ocular Rewetting Agent on Rabbit Eyes and was published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, February, 2015.

Some excerpts from the study:

Dry eye is multifactorial disease of the tears and ocular surface that results in symptoms of discomfort, visual disturbance, and tear film instability with potential damage to the ocular surface. It is accompanied by an increased osmolality of the tear film and inflammation of the ocular surface.

Tear volume is essential for many functions in maintaining the overall ocular health hence giving clarity vision. Dryness of the eye will have a major impact on the ocular health and visual clarity especially in contact lens wearers.

Among all the therapeutic options for dry eye disease, artificial tears are still the mainstay in the initial management of a dry eye patient. Due to the complex nature of the tear film, it is difficult to design an artificial tear solution that is identical to human tears. However, many artificial tear brands have been tried to improve their quality by altering the composition, viscosity, and/or osmolarity of the solution. Though many of these rewetting drops are available over the counter, many were known to cause only temporary relief from signs and symptoms or may not even be an effective  treatment and some of these rewetting agents have not been tested for its efficacy scientifically.

A study in the literature showed the liposomal spray which was applied to the closed eye had increased the thickness of the lipid layer and improved tear film stability significantly. This brought an idea of usage of oil able to act as supplement for the tear film.

Virgin coconut oil (VCO) is obtained from the fresh, mature kernel of the coconut. VCO is emerging functional food oils due to its ability to possess several biological activities such as antiviral and antimicrobial. Current findings revealed that virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been used extensively as supplement in many medical treatments. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, and soothing. In addition, virgin coconut oil is also composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats.

A new horizon in discovery of the benefits of VCO has been emphasized in most systemic diseases either in curing or in treating at the same time. But none has been explored on its effects on ocular health. The possibility of using VCO as one of the remedies for dry eyes should be looked into for its efficacy and effects on short and long term basis.

In this study, three rewetting agents will be used: virgin coconut oil (VCO) which is oil-based tears, Tears Naturale II which is readily available commercially which contains HMC (hydroxymethylcelluose), and saline for control. The general aim of this pilot study is to evaluate the efficacy and safety of VCO as ocular rewetting agent on rabbit eyes.


In comparison with Tears Naturale II and saline, VCO which acts as a rewetting agent did not cause any significant difference in NIBUT, corneal staining pattern, anterior segment, Schirmer Test and pH in 30 min, 60 min, and 2 weeks after instillation. VCO is not merely a composition of fatty acids but it also acts as a protective layer over the tear film layers from evaporation. VCO with its anti-inflammatory properties might be useful for those with dry eyes problem. However, further investigation should be done to determine its efficacy for dry eyes therapy. In conclusion, it has been shown that VCO did not cause harmful effects when used on rabbits’ eyes. This finding suggests that VCO are safe to be used on human’s eyes. Thus, future research on human needs to be conducted to study the efficacy of VCO as rewetting agent on dry eye patient. The beneficial effect of VCO is most likely attributed to its anti-inflammatory properties, which is similar to those of natural tears.

Read the full study free online here.

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A Pilot Study: The Efficacy of Virgin Coconut Oil as Ocular Rewetting Agent on Rabbit Eyes – Haliza Abdul Mutalib,  Sharanjeet Kaur, Ahmad Rohi Ghazali, Ng Chinn Hooi, and Nor Hasanah Safie – Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Published online 2015 Feb 23.

About the author: Unlike many people who write about coconut oil by simply reading about it, Brian Shilhavy actually lived in a coconut producing area of the Philippines for several years with his family, observing firsthand the differences between the diet and health of the younger generation and those of his wife’s parents’ generation still consuming a traditional diet. This led to years of studying Philippine nutrition and dietary patterns first hand while living in a rural farming community in the Philippines. Brian is the author of the best-selling book: Virgin Coconut Oil: How it has changed people’s lives and how it can change yours!

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