We are all concerned about the rise in antibiotic resistance. Could monolaurin become a useful treatment option? Read on to discover other benefits and a few surprising drawbacks.
What Is Monolaurin?
Monolaurin, also known as glyceryl monolaurate, glyceryl laurate, or 1-Lauroyl-glycerol, is a monoglyceride (a single molecule of glycerol attached to a fatty acid) .
Monolaurin is a promising antimicrobial due to its antibacterial and antiviral effects, safety and lack of toxicity .
- Food production: It is used as a food additive, emulsifier, and as a preservative. It is used in the production of ice cream, margarine, and spaghetti [7, 8, 9, 10].
- Manufacturing: It is commonly used in deodorants, cosmetics, detergents, and insecticides and as equipment sanitizers in manufacturing [7, 8, 9, 10].
- Dietary supplement: Monolaurin is also taken as a dietary supplement for its potential health benefits .
- Health: Monolaurin is used in treating bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. It can also treat skin conditions, strengthen the immune system, and balance bacteria in the gut [12, 13, 11, 14].
Mechanisms of Action
Monolaurin Antiviral Activity
Since monolaurin is the same size as the fat molecule of the virus, it absorbs into the cell’s fat layer. Since it does not have good binding power, the skin envelope breaks apart. This prevents the virus from attaching and entering host cells, stopping infection and replication [15, 16].
When monolaurin binds to the viral envelope, it makes the virus more susceptible to the immune system .
Monolaurin Antibacterial Activity
Monolaurin incorporates itself into the cell membrane of gram-positive bacteria and destroys them by breaking down the cell membrane. This stops bacteria from replicating and spreading, making it easier for the immune system to destroy .
Monolaurin also stops the production of most Staphylococcal toxins and other proteins at the bacterial DNA level. It also blocks the production of beta-lactamases, which are responsible for resistance to penicillins, extended-spectrum cephalosporins, monobactams, and carbapenems [20, 21, 22].
Monolaurin stabilizes cell membranes and blocks DNA transcription, improving outcomes in bacterial toxin diseases .
Monolaurin Antiinflammatory Activity
Monolaurin Immunity Action
At concentrations below 10 micrograms/ml, monolaurin increases the number of T-cells, improving immunity. It does this by its action on the DNA signaling pathway controlling the release of IL-2, a cytokine necessary for T-cell proliferation .
Health Benefits of Monolaurin
1) Monolaurin Is Antibacterial
Additionally, monolaurin can inhibit the activity of many gram-positive bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis .
However, monolaurin is not effective against most gram-negative bacteria like Salmonella, which has a different kind of outer cell membrane than gram-positive bacteria .
In contrast to this general finding, monolaurin was able to inhibit the growth of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria in children’s skin .
Monolaurin is much more effective than lauric acid at killing viruses and bacteria .
Monolaurin Fights Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Many bacteria can develop drug resistance, but monolaurin is effective in treating antibiotic-resistant organisms .
A cell study compared monolaurin and 6 common antibiotics (including penicillin, oxacillin, and vancomycin) in the treatment of skin infections. Monolaurin showed similar effectiveness and less antibiotic resistance against a wide range of bacteria .
Monolaurin is a promising agent in the fight against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in human cells .
However, there are various super strains of vancomycin–resistant Enterococcus (VRE) that have developed partial (up to 70%) resistance to monolaurin. Mutated Enterococcus bacteria had learned to tighten their cell walls, making it more difficult for monolaurin to get in .
Monolaurin reduces the toxicity of gram-positive infections and helps vancomycin work better against the resistant strains .
Additionally, monolaurin has no adverse effect on gut bacteria .
Monolaurin Stops Bacterial Toxin Production
Bacillus anthracis is a gram-positive bacteria that produce toxins and has potential use in bioterrorism. Monolaurin inhibits the genes (pagA, lef, and cya) that enable anthrax to generate toxins .
This mechanism of reducing toxicity from gram-positive infections applies to many organisms, so monolaurin is likely to help reduce the toxicity of any gram-positive infection by making it less severe. Healthy cells become stronger with monolaurin .
Monolaurin Prevents Toxic Shock Syndrome
It also reduced TSS-related deaths in rabbits .
Monolaurin Kills H. Pylori
Monolaurin is effective at killing the common intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori . H pylori is a gram-negative bacteria. Unlike other gram-negative bacteria, H. pylori is extremely sensitive to monolaurin. However, the mechanisms have not been identified yet .
Taking monolaurin, alone or combined with antibiotics, may prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of stomach ulcers, especially those that are difficult to treat and/or are antibiotic resistant .
Monolaurin May Prevent and Treat Staph Infections
In bacteria, monolaurin combined with monocaprin, lauric acid, or monomyristin had better results against Staphylococcus aureus .
Untreated mice injected with Staphylococcus aureus died within a week. However, 50% of mice treated daily with vancomycin and monolaurin survived for 30 days .
Additionally, over 60% of mice survived when receiving a daily combination of origanum oil and monolaurin .
In another mice study, the groups receiving vancomycin, monolaurin, or a combination of both showed some protection against S. aureus (50 to 70% survival rate) .
Monolaurin May Treat Lyme Disease
Monolaurin kills the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is difficult to treat, as hidden forms of the bacteria can cause the disease to relapse. Monolaurin treatment may be beneficial in enhancing current treatment or in providing a new option in recurrent Lyme disease [40, 36].
Monolaurin inhibits several fat-coated viruses that infect humans and animals. Fat-coated viruses can live in your body fat for years and interfere with your metabolism. Monolaurin weakens or disintegrates viruses’ fat coatings and kill them .
Monolaurin kills the following viruses, which have fat envelopes :
- Epstein-Barr virus
- HIV-1, HIV+
- Measles virus
- Herpes simplex virus-1 and 2
- Herpesviridae (all)
- Human lymphotropic viruses (type 1)
- Vesicular stomatitis virus
- Visna virus
- Influenza virus
- Sarcoma virus
- Syncytial virus
Monolaurin and HIV
There was one unpublished trial that was reported with 14 HIV-positive patients taking monolaurin at two doses (2.4 g vs 7.2 g) with about 3.5 tablespoons of coconut oil. Seven patients had reduced loads at 3 months, and 8/14 patients had reduced viral loads at 6 months. However, the reduction was significant in only 3 patients .
There need to be large clinical trials in order to determine if monolaurin can help HIV+ patients.
Monolaurin Fights Herpes
Monolaurin is effective against Herpes viruses, which cause cold sores and genital herpes .
It may also be effective against Herpes varicella-zoster virus (causing chickenpox and reactivating to cause shingles) as it has a fat envelope. However, no human trials are available .
In animals, monolaurin shows antiviral activity and low resistance rate against Herpes simplex virus (which causes cold sores) .
However, monolaurin (5% glycerol monolaurate in warming jelly or salt water) greatly increased genital herpes transmission in mice .
Monolaurin May Kill Other Viruses
There are many anecdotal reports of monolaurin helping combat the flu. Monolaurin from human breast milk was effective against cytomegalovirus (CMV) but was not effective against the cold-causing virus, rhinovirus .
Monolaurin and Swine Flu
In a review, monolaurin is mentioned as a possible agent against swine flu .
3) Monolaurin Is Antifungal
Monolaurin may inactivate or destroy various fungi and yeasts. These include several species of ringworm .
In a study (DB-RCT) of 36 women, monolaurin was effective against Candida albicans, which may help treat vaginal infections. It may also control the growth of Candida albicans in the gut and decrease the risk of fungal infections .
4) Monolaurin Is Antiparasitic
Monolaurin kills the parasite Giardia lamblia .
Animal research indicates that the intestinal parasites Giardia lamblia and Entamoeba histolytica show a good response to treatment with a combination of metronidazole (an anti-parasitic drug) and monolaurin .
5) Boosts the Immune System
Besides treating infections, monolaurin can be an immune booster.
Laboratory studies show that monolaurin is effective in preventing and treating immunosuppressed cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy with C.albicans infection .
Monolaurin is one of many supplements users report to improve immune function in chronic fatigue syndrome. Monolaurin may be effective in killing several of the viruses responsible for infections in chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome .
6) May Help with Weight Control
Many fat-coated viruses can live in your body fat and disturb your metabolism, promoting obesity. Monolaurin may assist in weight management by killing these stored viruses .
In a study of 9 healthy overweight men, consumption of medium-chain fatty acids increased calorie burning and fat breakdown (through oxidation), reducing fat storage .
7) May Improve Skin Health
Monolaurin stops skin infections, so it may be of use for acne .
A study (DB-RCT) in two dermatology clinics showed that coconut oil, which contains monolaurin, is effective against Staphylococcus aureus infected eczema .
Monolaurin may be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, which has been linked to herpes infection .
In Alzheimer’s patients, the presence of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) in the brain people with the type 4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene is positively associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s .
Medium-chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid, are present in coconut oil and convert into monolaurin in the body. The liver can convert them into ketones, which are an important alternative energy source for the brain. They may be beneficial to people with memory impairment .
Is Monolaurin Safe?
Monolaurin is categorized in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) .
Monolaurin is present in breast milk, one of the safest substances available.
Monolaurin is safe for most people when used in small amounts (i.e in foods). Although it is not proven if it’s safe in medicinal amounts, thousands of studies report its therapeutic worth .
Some people report short-term side effects and caused by the “die-off” effect (Herxheimer reaction: when large numbers of infecting organisms die quickly, these microbes give off toxins as they die) .
The symptoms are temporary and may include:
You can avoid this die-off reaction by building up to a full dose gradually (over about 7 to 10 days). If adverse effects occur, simply stop taking the monolaurin for a day or two to give your body a little extra time to remove the dead organisms. Start again at a little lower dosage and gradually increase, until your body can handle it .
Monolaurin May Cause Inflammatory or Immune Issues
While monolaurin may be a beneficial substance in many instances, lauric acid causes T cells (immune cells) to increase inflammation .
In mice, it worsens multiple sclerosis, in which your immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body .
Monolaurin increases the effectiveness of some antibiotics (nisin, sodium dehydroacetate, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) .
The antibacterial effectiveness of monolaurin in the food industry may be reduced significantly in high-fat or low-starch food products, but is not affected by proteins .
Limitations and Caveats
- Do not use monolaurin if you have a coconut allergy.
- We currently have no information for monolaurin interactions with other drugs.
- Not enough is known about the use of monolaurin during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- There is limited evidence from human studies about monolaurin, so benefits listed may not translate to humans .
Monolaurin has not been evaluated by the FDA for any medical condition, so there are no standard dosing guidelines .
If someone is taking coconut oil as a source of lauric acid, the ideal dosage may also depend on the body’s genetic ability to convert the acid into monolaurin.
Dr. Jon Kabara, Ph.D., who discovered monolaurin in mother’s milk in the 1960s and sells a supplement called lauricidin, has a paper that discusses the conversion rates .
He claims that the monolaurin yield from coconut oil is no more than 3% .
He also claims that people need to take 3 – 9g of monolaurin in order to experience a significant effect .
He says that adults start with 750 mg of monolaurin two to three times per day for one week, then take 1,500 mg, and maintain at 3,000 mg, two to three times per day. In stubborn cases this may be increased, he claims.
Assuming you get 3% monolaurin from coconut oil, that means in order to get 750mg 3x a day, one would have to consume close to 6 tablespoons a day, which is excessive.
To get the upper dosage suggested by Kabara (9g monolaurin), one would need to consume about 22 tablespoons of coconut oil in a day, which is unreasonable.
It’s important to note that Kabara has a vested interest in selling his supplements, so his information may not be reliable. Also, coconut oil contains other antimicrobial fats and compounds not found in pure monolaurin. For example, lauric acid itself is anti-microbial.
Monolaurin is quite bitter. Supplements are available in capsule, pellets and powder. It is also available in a lip balm.
The richest food source of lauric acid is coconut oil (50% lauric acid). It is also present in coconut milk, coconut water, and solid coconut. Your body can convert lauric acid into monolaurin. It is not known how much coconut must be consumed to receive enough monolaurin to treat or prevent certain illnesses .
Lauric acid is mainly found in :
- Coconut oil (50%)
- Coconut cream
- Coconut milk
- Human breast milk (12%)
- Goat and cow milk (contain only a small percentage of lauric acid)
Monolaurin vs. Lauricidin vs. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is the edible oil harvested from the meat of mature coconuts (Cocos nucifera). Roughly 40 to 60% of coconut oil is comprised of lauric acid .
Monolaurin is the highly purified glycerol ester of lauric acid and is more biologically active than lauric acid .
Lauricidin is a commercially available product. It combines lauric acid from coconut oil with a plant-based glycerol (non-soy), creating the purified ester known as monolaurin .
While consuming coconut products will give health benefits, monolaurin and lauricidin are more potent and reliable for treating specific diseases.
User reviews are highly positive for effectiveness, ease of use, and satisfaction. Viral infections from herpes, parvo, and also candida infections also disappear or lessen within 2 to 3 months without side effects. Consistent continuous use also decreases the frequency of herpes breakouts.
One user reported that a painful herpes eye ulcer, which other conventional treatments could not treat, healed after taking monolaurin.
Many holistic doctors report that they see an amazing improvement in clients’ overall sense of well being. The improvement in energy is the most impressive.
However, users complained about its bad taste. Also, some people did not experience any health benefits from monolaurin supplementation.
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