• Far From the Coconut

    By Barbara Bird
    Originally written April 2010 for her GroomWise.com Blog, and now archived here in Resources. Barbara's web site is www.bbird.biz. Please visit her site today.
    Copyright 2011 Barbara Bird All rights reserved

    In the effort to join the Green Revolution, we often see ingredients described on labels as being “from coconut”. It may look like this: Cleansing Surfactants (from Coconut). There is a name for this kind of marketing tactic of making chemical ingredients appear natural. It’s called “Green Washing.” Let’s look at how a surfactant is made and the journey from the coconut. We will use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a detergent surfactant often found in pet shampoos.



    STEP ONE: EXTRACTION OF COCONUT OIL

    First we have to extract the coconut oil from the coconut. The meat of the coconut is removed and dried in kilns to produce a product called “copra”. The copra is then placed in a hydraulic press and the oil is expelled. This produces virgin coconut oil which is further refined by additional heating and filtering to provide RBD oil (refined, bleached and deodorized. So far, we are still natural.

    STEP TWO; EXTRACTION OF LAURIC ACID FROM COCONUT OIL

    The coconut oil is then heated in water in the presence of sodium hydroxide. This converts the coconut oil into fatty acids, lauric acid and glycerin. This is a chemical process, and it’s only step two. Lauric Acid is also obtained from Palm Kernel Oil.

    STEP THREE: HYDROGENATION

    The lauric acid is then converted into fatty alcohol through a process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation involves adding hydrogen atoms to the acid molecule. According to Wikipedia “Hydrogenation has three components, the unsaturated substrate, the hydrogen (or hydrogen source), and, invariably, a catalyst. The reaction is carried out at different temperatures and pressures depending upon the substrate and the activity of the catalyst.”

    This is chemistry! The Lauryl Alcohol at this point bears little resemblance to the original coconut and shares few if any properties of the coconut oil.

    STEP FOUR: SULFONATION

    The lauryl alcohol is then converted into lauryl sulfate through a process called sulfonation. There are plants that carry out this process. The Chemithon technology was developed by research and development in Seattle. Here is a diagram of the sulfonation process by Chemithon



    1 Process Air and Sulfur Supply System
    2 Feedstock
    3 SO3 Gas Generator System
    4 Sulfonator System
    5 SO3 Absorber System
    6 Neutralizer System
    7 Exhaust Gas Clean-up System
    8 Final Product

    5. STEP FIVE: REACTION WITH SODIUM HYDROXIDE

    In the final step (whew!), the lauryl sulfate is reacted with sodium hydroxide to form sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). When the lauryl sulfate is reacted with ammonia instead of sodium hydroxide, you have ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS). When triethanol amine (TEA) is used, you have TEA lauryl sulfate. Both ALS and TEA lauryl sulfate are used as alternatives to SLS.



    Voila! Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. So now you know. You know that there is a significant chemical journey from the coconut to the shampoo bottle. You know that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is hardly a natural substance, although it is derived from a natural substance. Green washing is the psychological ploy of associating something natural with something synthetic to make the chemical appear more natural. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (from coconut) is the same detergent surfactant that has been around for decades, with a green shirt on.

    Comments 13 Comments
    1. windywaycavaliers's Avatar
      windywaycavaliers -
      Perfect!
    1. absolutebichon's Avatar
      absolutebichon -
      Love coconut oil in every way. We cook a lot with it, so healthy in many ways.
    1. Brit's Avatar
      Brit -
      2 tablespoons a day and watch in 1 to 2 months if you store body fat especially around mid area, you will probably find it melting away. It really works.
    1. funkypuppy's Avatar
      funkypuppy -
      2 TABLESPOONS? Do you mean replace your daily oil/butter intake with up to 2T, or just add 2T to your usual diet? I rarely cook with butter and i've replaced lots of oils with coconut when i bake but on a daily basis i really dont indulge in oily type products. If i add 2 T a day wont that just be additional fat i dont need?

      Just curious. I use it for cooking and have another jar i mix with my body lotion for after the shower. Switched over from vaseline after reading here about how bad petroleum is for people.

      Can the topical coconut contribute to my daily 2T?

      Sent from my SGH-T989 using Tapatalk
    1. Brit's Avatar
      Brit -
      Here is one link there are tons out there. http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-...conut-oil.html

      It is ironic though it is saturated it is not the harmful one. Breaks many rules. Excellent for cooking like my eggs in the skillet, and excellent in salad dressing. 2 tablespoons a day. By the way you can get a BIG jar of it organic cheap at www.vitacost.com under their label. Great buy.


      Quote Originally Posted by funkypuppy View Post
      2 TABLESPOONS? Do you mean replace your daily oil/butter intake with up to 2T, or just add 2T to your usual diet? I rarely cook with butter and i've replaced lots of oils with coconut when i bake but on a daily basis i really dont indulge in oily type products. If i add 2 T a day wont that just be additional fat i dont need?

      Just curious. I use it for cooking and have another jar i mix with my body lotion for after the shower. Switched over from vaseline after reading here about how bad petroleum is for people.

      Can the topical coconut contribute to my daily 2T?

      Sent from my SGH-T989 using Tapatalk
    1. 4them's Avatar
      4them -
      Thanks for info. They also have big jar of organic extra virgin at Costco great price. I love cooking with it.
    1. 123Linda's Avatar
      123Linda -
      I use coconut oil now for anything in the skillet instead of most oils. Works great everyone says the light flavor is nice.
    1. Emma123's Avatar
      Emma123 -
      Coconut oil is a saturated fat and it isn't cheap. Curious about why you choose it instead of unsaturated-fat oils like soybean, canola, etc.?


      Quote Originally Posted by 123Linda View Post
      I use coconut oil now for anything in the skillet instead of most oils. Works great everyone says the light flavor is nice.
    1. Hucksmom's Avatar
      Hucksmom -
      Quote Originally Posted by 4them View Post
      Thanks for info. They also have big jar of organic extra virgin at Costco great price. I love cooking with it.
      That's where I got mine from too. It is wonderful to cook with.


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    1. absolutebichon's Avatar
      absolutebichon -
      Started cooking with coconut oil and people say things taste so good. Has just a bit of coconut flavor but lighter than many other oils. Thanks to this thread!!!!
    1. 123Linda's Avatar
      123Linda -
      We give our dogs coconut oil, has some antiviral assistance too.
    1. absolutebichon's Avatar
      absolutebichon -
      Today I had a dog come back after recommending 4 weeks of coconut oil added to their food daily and their skin had improved greatly. Amazing.
    1. SodiumPentathol's Avatar
      SodiumPentathol -
      How much should be added for the pooched? I have a 70lb Greyhound and I tried him on it awhile ago but it upset his tummy. Wondering if I added too much

      Sent from my LG-P500h using Tapatalk 2