Cocoa Butter – Cacao Butter – Cocoa Butter Benefits
Cocoa Plant Description & Ingredient Extraction
Cocoa / Cacao butter is extracted from the seeds (cacao beans) of the cacao tree. Native to the topical regions of Central & South America, the trees reach a height of around 4-8m and have long leaves with small flowers. Interestingly the flowers aren’t pollinated by bees or butterflies but by tiny flies! Each fruit produced (cacao pod) holds around 40 seeds (or ‘beans’) in a pulp. Each seed is around 50% fat, this fat is cocoa butter.
The cacao beans are fermented, dried, & roasted. In order to make raw Cacao butter the roasting does not take place. The beans are then smoothed into a paste, then melted to form chocolate liquor. This is then pressed to remove the butter. Another method of removing the butter is the Broma method where the seeds are hung up in a warm room, and as cocoa butter melts at around 35°C the butter drips off the beans and is collected.
History of Cacao
Residues of cocoa beverage preparation has been found in ceramic vessels dating back 3500 years ago. Ancient texts describe cacao mixtures being used for a variety of reasons, and cacao is referred to in a hieroglyphic text on a vessel from the important ancient archaeological site of Rio Azul.
Ancient stories from Mesoamerica describe how cacao was discovered by the gods, up a mountain with other foods. These stories could well have influenced the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus when he coined the genus name Theobroma – food of the gods.
Modern history sees the spread of cacao across Europe after the Spanish invaders of the New World brought it back; the following huge demand led to the establishment of cacao plantations in a number of European colonies.
Cocoa Butter Benefits
Cocoa butter has been called the ultimate moisturiser, it melts at skin temperature. This makes it perfect for lip balms as it is solid in the stick but then melts onto the lips.
Cocoa butter is exceptionally high in antioxidants which help to fight damaging free radical oxygen, that contribute to skin ageing and depletion. This makes it great for protecting skin from the elements, and nourishing it after sun exposure.
Cocoa butter’s high fatty acid profile ensures skin is nourished on a deep level, it contains up to 39% Oleic acid (Omega 9) which promotes skin suppleness, and the butter has been used on a variety of skin conditions including calming skin sensitivities such as eczema, and aiding healing of scars and stretch marks. The positive effect on eczema is probably from cocoa butter’s polyphenol content, which inhibits the production of the immuno globulin that aggravates skin conditions. Its deep hydration of the skin promotes skin regeneration and health, reducing the potential for scarring and repairing skin that is damaged.
Cocoa butter contains many minerals including iron, magnesium and zinc, and as they are naturally occurring in the butter these minerals are readily bioavailable. Cocoa butter also contains tryptophan, an amino acid which is involved in serotonin & dopamine production, this must be why chocolate makes us feel good!
Find it in all of our balms. We use both traditional Cocoa butter and a raw (cold pressed unroasted) Cacao butter which has a strong characteristically chocolate smell.
The majority of plant and history information was gleamed across various pages of Wikipedia. Skincare benefits were found and collated from a number of websites and books.
Image: “Matadecacao” by Luisovalles – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Matadecacao.jpg#/media/File:Matadecacao.jpg