I use coconut oil for a lot of things. I put it in my cookies, dab it on a cotton ball to remove my eye makeup, and mix it with sugar and peppermint oil to make a moisturizing facial scrub. One place I’ve never used it: my vagina. I usually have a water-based lubricant for sex in my nightstand, but would grabbing some coconut oil from the kitchen be a safe substitute if I ran out?

Dr. Kathleen Green, an OBGYN who focuses on sexual wellness at the University of Florida Health Women’s Center, says yes. However, Dr. Green says you might want to have sex on a towel — oil tends to get runny — but any kind of coconut oil is fine to use on and in the vagina. The catch is that natural lubricants like coconut oil or olive oil shouldn’t be used with condoms because their oil properties degrade the latex.

“This is for patients who are not using condoms for STD prevention or pregnancy prevention,” says Dr. Green.

So if you and your partner are free of sexually transmitted infections and you have an alternate form of birth control — or you’re trying to conceive — here are some tips from Dr. Green on how to use this oil of all trades as a natural lubricant.

Freeze it
Liquid coconut oil can get a little messy, so Dr. Green recommends freezing the oil first. Then pop a quarter size amount of cold oil in your vagina right before you have sex, the same way you would store-bought lube. You can freeze the oil in its original container, but Dr. Green suggests using the skinny ice cube trays designed for water bottles.

The cold can also provide some relief for those having vaginal discomfort during sex, like postmenopausal women, says Dr. Green. “Especially if they’re having pain with insertion, it can numb (the vaginal opening) a little bit and give long-lasting moisture as well,” she says.

It can work as a daily vaginal moisturizer
As estrogen decreases after menopause, the walls of the vagina can become dry and thin. Dr. Green tells her postmenopausal patients to use a little coconut oil in and around their vagina every day to decrease irritation. While she doesn’t recommend using vitamin E oil for lubrication during intercourse, it also works as a general vaginal moisturizer outside of sex.

Will it cause a yeast infection?
I’ve read that coconut oil might disrupt vaginal pH because of its antifungal and anti-yeast properties, but Dr. Green says none of her patients have ever complained of getting a vaginal infection after using coconut oil. Since some vaginas react poorly to added ingredients — like parabens and glycerin — in many store-bought lubricant, Dr. Green says coconut oil can be a comfortable, preservative-free option. However, to err on the safe side, use a small amount to see how your body reacts.

So if you decide to try it, remember to lay down a towel. While coconut oil can provide lasting lubricant, it can also leave you with lasting sheet stains too.

Keri Wiginton is a writer and photographer focusing on issues related to women's health, mental well-being, and feminism. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Austin-American Statesman, Tampa Bay Times and Houston Chronicle. Follow her work at www.keriwiginton.com or on Twitter at @keriphoto.