The Health Benefits of Monolaurin

A substance with antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiotic properties

Monolaurin capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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Monolaurin is derived from glycerin and lauric acid, a medium-chain saturated fatty acid found in coconut oil and human breast milk. This chemical byproduct has antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial properties and is said to help treat a number of health issues such as acne, chronic fatigue syndrome, colds, flu, herpes, and shingles.

However, there is limited evidence to support any such health claims.

Monolaurin is available in dietary supplement form and as a topical cream. It is also used in the food industry to prevent disease in livestock, poultry, and fish, and as an emulsifier or preservative in prepared foods. Additionally, monolaurin is used in cosmetics, detergents, and as an antimicrobial agent in medical devices.

Also Known As

  • Glycerol monolaurate
  • GML

Health Benefits

Although clinical trials testing the health effects of monolaurin are currently lacking, some preliminary research suggests that monolaurin may offer certain health benefits worthy of further investigation.

Lyme Disease

A 2015 laboratory study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology tested the effectiveness of 15 plant compounds and nutrients against Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia garinii—the bacteria known to cause Lyme disease. Tests indicated that monolaurin and baicalein, a compound found in skullcap, were the most effective antimicrobial compounds against Lyme.

However, the study was limited to cell cultures. More research, done on humans, is needed before monolaurin can be recommended as a treatment for Lyme disease.

Vaginal Health

A 2010 study published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy found that vaginal gels containing GML that were self-administered every 12 hours for two days effectively reduced both Candida (the fungus that causes yeast infections) and Gardnerella vaginalis (the bacterium that causes bacterial vaginosis).

A vaginal gel containing the probiotic Lactobacillus was given to the control group. It reduced Gardnerella counts, but had no impact on Candida.

While promising, the study sample was small and larger trials are needed before recommending monolaurin as a treatment for these infections.

Immune Health

Monolaurin is being explored as an immune booster due to its antibacterial, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.

A 2019 review of published studies found monolaurin’s antibacterial activity is effective against multiple strains of streptococcus, listeria, campylobacter, and several other bacteria, but not e. Coli and salmonella. In addition, monolaurin’s antiviral activity may protect against HIV, herpes, and cytomegalovirus, but not human rhinovirus. 

Monolaurin may help to prevent or reduce the severity of the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Laboratory studies show the fatty acid works against the coronavirus in three ways: It facilitates the disintegration of the virus membrane, inhibits the virus’s ability to mature, and prevents the viral proteins from binding to the host cell membrane. 

While the bulk of research on monolaurin's immune-boosting potential is limited to studies on cell cultures, a 2013 animal study found consumption of monolaurin may confer benefits as well. In the study, mice given regular doses of monolaurin for one week prior to exposure to the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus were significantly less likely to become infected and die.

Possible Side Effects

Monolaurin is generally regarded as safe in amounts found in food. However, due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of high doses or long-term use of monolaurin.

In some cases, people have experienced an upset stomach or loose stools with higher doses.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use monolaurin supplements as safety has not been established.

Dosage and Preparation

Monolaurin supplements are widely available in health food stores and online and are sold in capsule, powder, and pellet forms, as well as topical preparations.

Currently, there is not sufficient evidence to support a specific dose of either monolaurin supplements or topical preparations.

The daily doses recommended by supplement manufacturers range from 500 milligrams (mg) to 1,000 mg. If you choose to use monolaurin, follow the instructions on the product packaging.

What to Look For

Dietary supplements are not well regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To ensure you are buying a quality product, look for a third-party certification seal, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

This does not guarantee that the product is safe or effective, but it does give you peace of mind that what you're getting actually matches what is listed on the product label.

A Word From Verywell

Although monolaurin may show some promise as a potential treatment for certain conditions, it shouldn't be used as a substitute for medical treatment for any condition. Avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

If you're considering trying monolaurin, be sure to consult your healthcare provider first to weigh the pros and cons in your case.

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