Coconut Oil History & the Dayrit Family Legacy
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we spoke with Camilla Dayrit, granddaughter of the late Dr. Conrado Dayrit whose advocacy earned him the nicknames "Dr. Coconut" and "Father of Virgin Coconut Oil.” Dr. Dayrit was a cardiologist, pharmacologist, author of the book “The Truth About Coconut Oil” and president of the Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies (now the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia). His granddaughter Camilla is an artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area who is passionate about creativity as a channel for meditation and wellness.
What role has coconut oil played in your family history?
My grandfather Conrado Dayrit, who I have always known as Lolo Ading, dedicated many years to extensive research on the health benefits and anti-viral properties of virgin coconut oil. My lolo was a fierce advocate for VCO and contributed to the efforts in identifying the places where coconut oil can be used as a medicine and supplement.
My uncle Fabian Dayrit has continued to grow research in the field in the Philippines, most recently by studying the antiviral effects of VCO as a supplement in people infected with COVID-19.
How do you and your family incorporate coconut oil in your wellness practices?
Coconut oil is very much a daily supplement for my family. Before VCO was widely available in the United States, my dad would pack water bottles full of it in a suitcase when we returned home from the Philippines and stock back up when family came to visit us in California. Growing up my dad would find casual Ways to incorporate VCO into our diet such as in our morning oatmeal. We also use coconut oil for oil pulling and to soothe the skin.
A lot of my relatives also take coconut oil straight by the spoon. I remember my father recounting advice given by my Lolo on when anyone was feeling sick to just take one spoonful. If you were feeling really sick he would recommend that you take two spoonfuls! My grandfather and my uncle have done extensive research on virgin coconut oil as an antiviral based on its chemical properties, giving more data points to VCO as it’s been used as folk medicine for many years.
Are there any family recipes or memories that include coconut oil that have been passed down to you?
There are no particular family recipes that come to mind that are specific to coconut oil. Rather, my dad snuck coconut oil into almost all of his cooking while we were growing up. I remember finding coconut oil in some dishes that made more sense like in his version of ginataang (a traditional Filipino dish cooked with coconut milk), but I also remember times he insisted on using it in things like pasta. I have a funny memory of the time my dad tried to hide that he used VCO, and my mom chasing him around the kitchen holding noodles insisting that he admit it. If anything, I’ve learned that there are many creative ways that you can incorporate healthy habits by making simple substitutions in cooking.
What are some of your favorite ways to use coconut oil these days?
Due to the way my dad taught me how to use coconut oil, I try to incorporate it in easy ways throughout everyday life. I use coconut oil for sautéing and baking. Sometimes I’ll use coconut oil as a detangler for my hair or as a skin moisturizer. I love putting a spoonful of coconut oil in with my coffee in the morning to make it extra rich and frothy.
Nutiva is grateful to the Dayrit family amongst many others who have cultivated and stewarded the ecological and cultural connection to coconut as a crop, food, supplement and source of wellness. In particular we honor Dr. Conrado Dayrit and Dr. Fabian Dayrit for their leadership in bringing Virgin Coconut Oil the attention and appreciation it deserves globally. Nutiva wouldn’t be the company it is now without their contributions.