Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Monolaurin, or glycerin monolaurate or GML, is a substance formed from a mixture combining glycerol and lauric acid from coconut oil. Lauric acid is a component in human breast milk and known to help protect infants from infection. According to a study in the October 2007 issue of "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology," coconut oil has fatty acids made from lauric acid. Monolaurin is an antimicrobial agent that has some promising health benefits, especially in the arena of combating infection.

Immune System Health

The human body will naturally convert coconut oil to monolaurin. Beth Beisel, a registered dietitian, claims in an article for NourishedMagazine.com that ingesting coconut oil daily helps to build up the immune system and fight infection from attacking agents, such as swine flu. In the magazine piece, Dr. Mary Enig adds that 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil provides enough lauric acid to help fight virulent infections. The magazine encourages using coconut oil for cooking or as part of a recipe for salad dressing.


Animal research may prove that monolaurin in gel form helps prevent the transmission of a virus similar to HIV. Reuters reports that a study from the University of Minnesota offers promising results for controlling sexually transmitted viruses in female monkeys. Researchers inserted GML into the vaginal cavity of monkeys and then exposed them to SIV, a virus molecularly similar to HIV. Only one out of five female monkeys became infected with SIV. The test shows that GML improves immune response to the infection. This is not definitive evidence that monolaurin offers protection against HIV, but it is promising according to Reuters. More studies will be necessary to determine the effectiveness of monolaurin to prevent HIV transmission in humans.

Skin Infections

In Ms. Carpo's 2007 study in the "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology" regarding the use of monolaurin to fight skin infections, the researchers inserted GML into a test tube culture of skin infections from pediatric patients. This study concluded that Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus spp. and other bacteria were sensitive to the agent. Researchers were able to determine that monolaurin works as an effective broad-spectrum drug, meaning its use was not limited to a single pathogen, to fight common bacteria found on the skin.

Toxic Shock Syndrome

Monolaurin helps prevent bacterial infection that may lead to toxic shock syndrome in women. Toxic shock syndrome is a life-threatening complication of tampon usage. Although the exact mechanism of the illness is unknown, the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center suggests that superabsorbent fibers in some tampons develop staph bacteria. This bacterium enters the body via a tear in the vaginal lining. Monolaurin applied externally to tampons lowers the staph colonies on the surface and reduces the risk of toxic shock syndrome. A 2009 study by the department of microbiology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, published in "Clinical Infectious Diseases," indicates that monolaurin may help decrease bacteria on tampons.