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What Is Caprylic Acid?

Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, an essential fatty acid.
Caprylic acid is often used in the making of perfumes.
Human breast milk contains caprylic acid.
Milk contains caprylic acid.
Article Details
  • Written By: Douglas Bonderud
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2014
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Caprylic acid is a medium-chain fatty acid. It has eight carbons in its chain, and is also known as octanoic acid. Considered to be an essential fatty acid (EFA), caprylic acid is necessary for the human body to function properly. A lack of it can cause memory or concentration problems.

This substance is found naturally in human breast milk, as well as milk from cows and goats. It also occurs in small amounts in coconut and palm kernel oil. Often described as having a rancid smell, this fatty acid is partially soluble in water.

Commercially, caprylic acid is used in the making of perfumes and also to manufacture dye. This acid is also found in antimicrobial sprays used to disinfect food processing and dairy machinery. In addition, it is used as a fungicide in nurseries. This is because the short length of its carbon chain allows it to easily penetrate the walls of yeast and fungal cells.

It is this ability to attack yeast that gives rise to caprylic acid's main holistic function. Taken in capsule form, this fatty acid is used to combat Candida albicans bacteria, often referred to simply as candida. This bacterium gives rise to the condition candidiasis, which is better known as a yeast infection.

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Almost all individuals have small amounts of this bacteria in their intestinal tract, but it's effect is minimized by the presence of the naturally occurring lactobacillus bacteria. If an imbalance occurs, however, the result can be indigestion, abdominal pain, or generally itchiness. Caprylic acid tablets are intended to combat candida bacteria by dissolving their cell walls, making them semi-permeable. This in turn causes their cytoplasm to leak out, resulting in cell death.

When candida bacteria die, it often causes a period of more intense symptoms before any improvement is seen. This is due to the fact that a greater number of yeast toxins are released into the body's system all at once. Headaches, nausea, and severe diarrhea can result.

Caprylic acid is easily absorbed by the human body, which can make treating a candida infection difficult. Often, the acid is absorbed by the stomach or small intestine before reaching the main source of infection in the large intestine. To combat this problem, many caprylic acid capsules are time-released, so their anti-fungal properties are not wasted.

This acid is also available in liquid form. One common variety is caproyl, which combines caprylic acid with safflower oil and psyllium husk. The oil also operates as an anti-fungal, and the husk is a colon cleanser. While there is no significant clinical evidence to support the use of this acid as a yeast control device, it has acquired a reputation for effectiveness.

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