Coconuts are nature's IV bags

Everyone reading this has heard of herbal medicine, but this is taking things a little too literally. Coconuts have been used as IV bags to rehydrate severely ill patients in remote areas. Learn why this works, and consider what it might tell us about the universe.

There were legends that, during World War II and during the Vietnam War, hospitals used coconuts as IV drips to rehydrate sick or unconscious patients. Some say that both sides of a battle would gather coconuts together before the fight, in order to have medical equipment afterwards. There is one actual, documented case of the coconut IV being used in modern times. Atoifi Hospital is a small facility in the Solomon Islands. Air travel in and out is difficult, and supplies sometimes run short. At one time, when visiting medical officials were there, they saw a forty-something man come in with partial bodily paralysis and a high fever. The man was unable to take in fluids, and soon became severely dehydrated. The hospital was running low on IV bags, and so they decided to enact a slightly less-standard, but still-used procedure. One of the relatives of the sick man scaled a coconut tree and fetched a coconut down, careful not to crack the outer husk. Part of the husk was peeled away, exposing the eyes of the coconut. Doctors jabbed a large needle through one of them. The needle came out full of coconut meat, and so a new needle was inserted in the existing hole, and, presumably, sucked a little nutrition out of the original needle. The coconut was connected up to the IV tube, which was jabbed right into the patient. The man stayed hydrated with coconut water for two days, after which he recovered and went home.

Coconuts, although not ideal, are well-suited to use as rehydration IVs. As long as they aren't cracked open they are sterile, the water inside them is a little like the intracellular fluid that we have in our bodies, and they have the same overall specific gravity — density when compared to water — as human plasma. Although some doctors think that the high level of potassium might cause cardiac or renal problems when used for an extended period of time, others point out that coconuts are an ideal way of replenishing the potassium levels of people who are deprived. Overall, they're safe to use.

So now that we know that a medical serum and storage system is naturally-occurring right here on Earth, what are you hoping to find growing naturally on other planets? I'm thinking... computoplant. When you want a newer, smaller version, just take a cutting.

Image: Robert Wetzlmayr

Via International Notes.