Coconut has long been the giving tree of ancient Polynesia, but it also thrived around the globe between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, prevalent in early Indonesia, Malaysia and India as well. Today in the West we know it as a superfood. But in the old days the coconut provided strong fibers, cups, bowls, utensils, musical instruments, hula implements, tools, weapons and material for housing. It was also prized for its healing qualities and for the way it sustained our bodies inside and out.
Coconut meat comes in its own storage container, and delivers 7.2 grams of fiber in just one cup of freshly grated meat. Milk made from the meat is similar to mother’s milk in PH and is also high in laurie acid. Coconut water, found in the green coconut, is similar in PH to your own body composition, comes out of the shell sterile and is full of digestible minerals. It’s also alkalizing and contains electrolytes. You can purchase it packaged, and it’s used as a sports drink. It can even be injected as fluids and glucose into the body during medical emergencies.
Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil may be even more amazing. Almost 50 percent laurie acid, this oil can be anointed to hair and skin with potent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It also moisturizes the body. The oil and milk is made up of short and medium chain fatty acids, and the body absorbs it easily, meaning it’s not stored like animal fats made of long chain tryglicerides.
At the Choice Health Bar in Lahaina, owners Kathryn Dahm and Emily Kunz say they crack open tons of fresh coconut everyday to harvest the fresh coconut water and meat their customers love in their foods. They also have coconut kefir, and use coconut milk in smoothies. You can find fresh coconuts at the Swap Meet on Saturdays and sometimes independent vendors on the beach offer them as a healthy treat.
But one of the most astonishing coconut properties is its ability to flush toxins from the body. A new treatment at Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea features the healing and detoxifying nature of coconut in a two and half hour treatment called the Royal Niu (coconut in Hawaiian) that falls under the coconut bliss category.
First, dry brushing the skin with a coconut husk and a coconut scrub will stimulate lymphatic drainage. At first it felt kind of scratchy, but the rhythmic motion of the flicking fiber quickly became relaxing. Exfoliation sheds dead skin cells and promotes cell and collagen renewal, increases blood flow to the skin and lessens the appearance of cellulite. After the scrub you are wrapped in a coconut butter body cocoon while your scalp and feet are massaged.
Once your lymphatic drainage gets stimulated, the detox is on. I immediately felt thirsty and was glad for a short break, and then it was time to soak in coconut milk. The bath is full of iron, calcium, phosphorous and amino acids – and is served with a tasty snack of coconut candy and coconut water. The skin absorbs these glorious minerals and smells incredible.
After a 25-minute soak and snack, it’s time for more coconut therapy. Smooth coconut shells and husks will be the implements of massage with pure locally sourced coconut oil on the skin. These tools create a stimulating massage that relaxes the body and muscle tissue.
I was concerned the round tools would be too soft and would not go deep enough, but the firm shells proved me wrong. The massage and pressure made my muscles feel supple and my skin was soft and smooth. Coconut oil can reverse signs of aging, relieve inflammation and heal sun-damaged skin. I had to drink tons of water for the rest of the day to keep up with the detox, but felt incredible. You can really feel the toxins flushing, but it’s not overwhelming.
“Grand Wailea is actually built on the land of an ancient village named Niukauila,” Stephanie Handley, assistant spa director at Spa Grande, told me. “Which roughly translates to ‘important ceremonies consecrating the altar of the coconut.’ We wanted to pay tribute to the history of the area and probably the most useful tree in the world. Strong, resilient and flexible, the coconut tree can provide our most basic need for life, including water.
The spa actually features eight different treatments that include and incorporate coconut from the manicure and pedicure to the couples treatments and cocoons. The benefits of consuming coconut and the lessons from ancient times are testament to the modern applications of coconut, a nut we have yet to fully crack.
The best part is that they grow right here on Maui.
Photos by Sean M. Hower