Most commonly identified as the ingredient that gives chocolate its substance, consistency, and melting property, Cocoa Butter is a rich natural fat derived from the cacao beans contained inside the pods of the Cacao Tree. This botanical is also recognized as the Cacao Tree and the Chocolate Tree, the latter name being derived from the Mayan term “Xocolatl” – their word for chocolate, which they derived from the Cacao tree. The difference between the words Cocoa and Cacao is that Cacao is the name given to the raw, unprocessed beans found in their fruit pods, whereas Cocoa is the name given to the beans after they have been harvested and processed.
Cocoa itself has been given several nicknames, the most common one being Theobroma, meaning Food of the Gods. The word ‘chocolate’ is derived from the Aztec word Cacahuatl, meaning “black nut,” “cacao fruit,” or “gods’ food.” Cacahuatl is the same name that was given to the human hearts that were offered as sacrifices to the gods or to the sun, in order to appease them. Chocolate was also used to sanctify the commencement of these sacrifices. For the Mayans, the Cacao tree was similarly believed to have a divine origin and to not only span the wide separation between Heaven and Earth in order to connect the two but to also preserve life while representing a portal to death.
In West Africa, where more than half of the world’s commercial cocoa is produced, and in parts of Central and South America as well as in the Caribbean – countries to which they are indigenous – Cacao beans have been harvested for centuries to create Cocoa Butter. This smooth emollient with a mild aroma has been used for centuries as a moisturizer that heals and protects skin and hair that is exposed to the harsh effects of the sun and the wind. For years, this pale-yellow, edible vegetable fat has been used in the manufacturing of toiletries and pharmaceuticals. Cocoa Butter has also been used traditionally for culinary purposes, such as in the production of chocolate, of which the butter is also a by-product. Aside from its culinary and medicinal applications, Cacao beans were used as currency and continue to be used as such in parts of South America.
As early as 1500-400 BC, the community of The Olmecs discovered that the Cacao tree’s fruits were not only edible but that the fruit could be processed for a multitude of purposes that all resulted in the creation of different flavors along the course of their development. One of the first discoveries made about the Cacao tree’s fruit was that crushing its beans and mixing them with water, spices, chilies, and herbs produced a drink that they referred to as Chocolate, a bitter beverage often reserved for priests, royalty, and other members of the elite classes. In 600 BC and in 400 AD, the Mayans and the Aztecs respectively established effective techniques for cultivating Cacao, which came to symbolize abundance. Cacao beans eventually began to be used as both a monetary unit and a measuring unit. Aztec religious rituals often involved offerings of Cacao beans to the god Quetzalcoatl, who was believed to have gifted humanity with the Cacao tree, which had previously been reserved for only the gods. The beans were also offered in rituals dedicated to the Mayan patron saint of Cacao as well as in funerals of noblemen.
Over time, the Cacao fruit came to be known for its medicinal properties, being used to address intestinal infections and diarrhea, to regulate the thyroid, to reduce secretions, and to work as a mild stimulant. The tree’s young leaves were found to be advantageous for disinfecting wounds, while the peels of the beans were applied in remedies for diabetes as well as ailments affecting the liver, bladder, and kidneys. Cacao beans and leaves were brewed into concoctions for addressing cough, asthma, colic, loss of appetite, weakness, malaria, fractures, parasites, pneumonia, and poisoning. Lastly, the butter made of the beans was used to soothe and relieve fatigue, split lip, uncomfortable skin conditions, and burns.
According to historical sources, in 1502 Columbus and his crew became the first Europeans to come in contact with Cacao beans. The story goes that in the Bay of Honduras during the fourth voyage, they first spotted what would eventually come to be known as “Brown Gold” at the bottom of a canoe, which belonged to the aboriginals of New Spain, who used the beans as currency – money that literally grew on trees. Having been mistaken for almonds, the potential value of the beans could not be predicted or appreciated, thus they went dismissed.
Despite Columbus and his crew being the first to find the beans, it was the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez, who introduced the Cacao tree to Europe. It is believed that while visiting the Aztec community, he shared a chocolate drink with their emperor, after which he introduced the drink and its brewing equipment to the Spanish court in 1528. At this time, chocolate was still not foreseen to be a potentially significant international trade commodity, but after winning the war against Native tribes and after the collapse of the Aztec civilization, Cortez increased his efforts to cultivate the Cacao tree in New Spain, intending to develop a profitable trade with Europe.
The cultivation of Cacao trees in Europe soon migrated East, eventually allowing them to become an international botanical. In 1828, a scientist named Conrad Von Houten invented the Cocoa press to extract a purer chocolate. It was during the Cacao bean pressing process that Cocoa Butter was discovered.
COCOA BUTTER BENEFITS
The main chemical constituents of Cocoa Butter are Oleic Acids, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Arachidic Acid, Palmitoleic Acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, alpha-Linolenic Acid, and Phytosterols (namely Stigmasterol).
OLEIC ACIDS (OMEGA 9) are known to:
- Maintain the softness, suppleness, and radiance of skin and hair
- Stimulate the growth of thicker, longer, and stronger hair
- Reduce the appearance of aging, such as premature wrinkles and fine lines
- Eliminate dandruff and thereby support hair growth
- Boost immunity
- Exhibit antioxidant properties
- Prevent joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain
- Impact the hardness or softness of the butter
STEARIC ACID is known to:
- Have cleansing properties that purge dirt, sweat, and excess sebum from hair and skin
- Be an ideal emulsifying agent that binds water and oil
- Help products remain potent when stored for long periods of time
- Condition and protect hair from damage without diminishing luster or making it feel heavy
- Have exceptional cleansing properties
- Soften skin
- Provides the butter with a solid consistency
PALMITIC ACID is known to:
- Have emollient properties
- Soften hair without leaving a greasy or sticky residue
- Be the most common saturated fatty acid
LINOLEIC ACID (OMEGA 6/Vitamin F) is known to:
- Moisturize hair and promote its growth
- Facilitate wound healing
- Be an effective emulsifier in the formulation of soaps and quick-drying oils
- Exhibit anti-inflammatory properties
- Soothe acne and reduce chances of future outbreaks
- Promote moisture retention in skin and hair
- Make oils feel thinner in consistency when used in an oil blend, thus being beneficial for use on acne-prone skin
- Soothe and promote the healing of skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis
- Slow the look of premature aging
ARACHIDIC ACID is known to:
- Enhance and promote muscle gain/mass by boosting the body’s inflammatory responses
- Boost immunity
- Ease symptoms of depression
- Soothe pain and discomfort associated with arthritis
- Reduce weight
PALMITOLEIC ACID is known to:
- Delay the appearance of premature aging
- Moisturize and tighten the skin
- Promote the growth of shiny hair
- Enhance the brightness of the complexion
- Boost the growth of healthy-looking nails
- Enhance skin elasticity to prevent symptoms of premature aging, such as wrinkles
VITAMIN E is known to:
- Have antioxidant properties that slow the look of aging and boost circulation
- Repair scarred and blemished skin
- Prevent moisture loss from skin and hair
- Offer soothing relief to skin that has been burned
- Deeply cleanse pores and balance oil production
VITAMIN K is known to:
- Boost the body’s ability to clot blood, thereby facilitating the healing of wounds and bruises
- Reduce swelling and bruising
- Helping prevent acne and reduce the appearance of scars caused by acne
- Slow the look of aging by preventing wrinkles
- Regenerate hair strands and promote regrowth
ALPHA-LINOLENIC ACID (OMEGA-3) is known to:
- Lessen inflammation
- Control blood clotting on the skin
- Soothe joint pain and ease stiffness to improve flexibility
PHYTOSTEROLS (STIGMASTEROL) is known to:
- Have skin lightening properties
- Effectively soften dry, brittle hair
- Ease frizzy hair
- Have anti-inflammatory properties
- Exhibit anti-aging effects
- Improve blood circulation
Used topically, Cocoa Butter melts at body temperature and works to naturally soothe dry, sensitive skin while reducing and preventing the appearance of scars and unwanted marks. Its richness in vitamins and anti-oxidants makes it ideal for use as a moisturizer that promotes skin health and relieves the itching, chapping, peeling, or burning discomfort associated with conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. By creating a protective barrier between skin and the harsh, weathering environmental elements, Cocoa Butter’s saturated fats allow the skin to retain its required moisture, thereby restoring the health of remaining on the skin for hours despite being easily absorbed. The polyphenols in Cocoa Butter are known to diminish the appearance of aging by enhancing skin’s moisture content, skin tone, elasticity, and collagen production. By virtue of these polyphenols, Cocoa Butter is reputed to avert skin sensitivities, damage, and degeneration. By deeply penetrating skin to offer intense hydration, Cocoa Butter boosts dermal circulation while facilitating the reparation of damaged skin as well as the growth of newer, healthier skin that looks and feels younger, softer, and smoother. Cocoa Butter is believed to have photoprotective properties that serve to protect the skin from harmful UV radiation. It can also be used to protect against frostbite or even indoor heat.
Used in hair, Cocoa Butter moisturizes to strengthen strands and make them more manageable, which in turn prevents breakage and subsequent hair loss. While repairing damaged strands, Cocoa Butter prevents further damage while also replenishing the naturally-occurring oils found in the hair and scalp. By offering intense moisture to the scalp, Cocoa Butter soothes the itchy, flaky, inflamed conditions characteristic of dandruff. For most types of hair, Cocoa Butter makes an effective conditioning hot-oil treatment and, when styling hair, it can be used as a nourishing pomade that reduces frizz, adds shine, intensifies resilience, boosts thickness, and adds volume and strength without weighing the hair down.
Used medicinally, Cocoa Butter works as an anti-inflammatory moisturizer that offers relief to skin afflicted with the swelling, irritation, and redness characteristic of conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and rashes. Cocoa Butter is reputed to naturally enhance the body’s immunity by promoting relaxation. This, in turn, facilitates stress relief by decreasing the feelings of fatigue that can often weaken immunity. Cocoa Butter is gentle enough to use for soothing burns and infections without causing further sensitivities.
Cocoa Butter is reputed to have many therapeutic properties. The following highlights its many benefits and the kinds of activity it is believed to show:
- COSMETIC: Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, Stimulant, Nutritive, Detoxifying, Revivifying, Moisturizing, Anti-Aging, Rejuvenating.
- MEDICINAL: Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, Stimulant, Nutritive, Detoxifying, Revivifying, Moisturizing, Anti-Septic, Aphrodisiac, Bactericidal, Emmenagogue, Antispasmodic, Nervine, Uplifting.
CULTIVATING AND HARVESTING QUALITY COCOA BUTTER
The Theobroma cacao botanical, better known as the Cacao Tree, is indigenous to South America’s Amazon basin where it thrives in the hot, damp, still air characteristic of tropical climates. It can be found growing in the rainforest’s understory layer of vegetation among the shrubs, seedlings, young trees, palms, and vines. The Cacao tree is also often found along rivers. When manually planted and cultivated, it is often restricted to regions with steady rainfall year-round or is planted with other crops like Banana trees, Cassava (Tapioca) trees, or other trees with large leaves that will protect it much like it is protected in the forest by the upper layers of growth, such as the canopy layer. Conversely, Cacao trees are grown in full sun in Malaysia and Indonesia, although they are given shade in the process of establishment. Although the trees can live for up to 100 years, those that are cultivated are considered to be economically productive for approximately 60 years.
For optimal growth, Cacao trees require a minimum temperature of 18-21°C (64-70°F) and a maximum of 30-32°C (86-90°F). Cacao trees cultivated for commercial production are restricted to regions where the coldest months have an average minimum temperature of 13°C (55°F), as temperatures lower than this, especially on numerous consecutive nights, can potentially lead to reduced yields. It can also cause defoliation, which is the loss of leaves, or dieback, which is when a plant begins to die from the tips of its leaves going inward, due to the unfavorable environmental conditions. Cacao trees are able to grow on a wide range of soil types but prefer moist soils that are well-drained or that have free-draining mixes and that have a pH close to 6.5.
The Cacao tree can reach a height of up to 20 m. A mature tree grown from a seed has a root system that is comprised of surface lateral roots in the top 20 cm of the soil. As they spread outward horizontally, the roots can form a dense surface feeding “mat” as wide as 5-6 m. Below this layer, the tree has taproots that grow vertically downward to a length of 2 m. This deciduous tree loses its smooth, glossy, oblong, bright green leaves but experiences spurts of new leaf growth 2-4 times per year. When the leaves are still young, they hang vertically and are a flashy shade of red, which makes them less likely to be negatively impacted by damage caused by the intensity of the tropical sun. At the bases of the leaves, there are nodes that change their stiffness according to the temperatures. This allows Cacao leaves to rotate their leaves horizontally as required, in order to get better access to sunlight and to protect other young leaves.
When grown from seed, Cacao saplings form a single vertical main stem called a “Chupon,” which grows to 1.5 m before spreading into layers forming 3-5 branches that collectively comprise a “Jorquette.” These groups of branches grow outward on an angle, forming a fan shape. Upright Chupons or “Suckers” begin to develop below the Jorquettes, growing upward through the fan branches and forming more coiling arrangements of branches. As the tree develops several layers of Jorquettes, each one sequentially weakens and fades out.
When the tree is at least 2-3 years of age, thousands of white flowers develop from the “cushions” – small swellings in the wood – found on the main stem and the fan branches. The flowers are pollinated by insects, mainly midges, and occasionally by bats. The Cacao tree has unusual growth in that it has flowers and fruits at the same time. On Cacao plantations, out of 1000 flowers, only 3 are pollinated and fertilized to grow into fruit. Flowers that are not pollinated will die within 24 hours.
The flowers that are successfully pollinated will form Cacao pods. Due to the high volume of fruit pods produced by the tree – a number so high that it prevents all of the fruits from being carried until maturity – the fruit’s natural thinning mechanism allows young fruits, the “Cherelles,” to stop growing. They begin to blacken and shrivel, a process called Cherelle Wilt; however, they do not fall off the tree. This often makes the tree appear to be diseased, although that may not necessarily be the case. The remaining pods ripen 6 months after pollination but do not fall off the tree either. During the ripening process, most pods change in color from green or deep red to yellow or orange. Some species’ mature pods retain their green color. Often spherical or oblong in shape and with 5-10 longitudinal ridges, the appearance of Cacao pods can be likened to an American football. Cacao beans are further propagated when small mammals such as monkeys break the Cacao pods to eat the fruit pulp, leaving the beans scattered on the ground.
Cacao pods are harvested manually, sometimes over the course of several months, with some growing regions potentially having pods available for harvest year-round. Pulling the Cacao pods off the trees can potentially result in damage to the flower cushion or the bark, thus the pods are typically cut from the trees with the aid of machetes or knives.
HOW IS COCOA BUTTER EXTRACTED?
There are 2 stages at which Cocoa Butter can begin to be processed from the seeds/beans: Before Germination and After Germination. Cacao seeds that are processed before they have begun to germinate will produce ordinary Cocoa Butter, ranging in color from off-white or light beige to pale-yellow. It may retain the tempting scent of chocolate. On the other hand, Cacao beans that are processed after they are allowed to germinate will produce Black Cocoa Butter, which has the brown color of chocolate and the aroma of roasted cacao.
After the Cacao beans have been harvested, fermented, cleaned, dried, and shelled, they are roasted. Next, they are ground into small bits called “nibs” or into a fine powder, which is added to boiling water and stirred to ensure thorough blending. During the boiling process, the vegetable fat of the Cacao beans rises to the water’s surface and is collected into containers. As this oil cools, it solidifies.
Alternatively, the beans can be pressed or cold-pressed. This involves the groundmass of Cacao beans being placed inside a hydraulic press machine that extracts the liquid known as Cacao Oil, from which Cocoa Butter is produced. The solids that remain inside the press machine are referred to as the Cocoa Cake, which is processed to make Cocoa powder. Cocoa Butter that undergoes Degumming, Bleaching, and Deodorizing is known as Refined Cocoa Butter.
USES OF COCOA BUTTER
The uses of Cocoa Butter are abundant, ranging from medicinal to cosmetic. Its many forms include massage oils and balms, tanning oils, lotions, creams, soaps, lip balms, lipsticks, shampoos and other hair care products, and ointments or salves.
Used topically, Cocoa Butter can be applied directly to the skin to hydrate and prevent dryness and peeling. The hardness and brittleness of Cocoa Butter can be softened by warming its container in a bowl of hot water to make the butter more spreadable. Alternatively, for a more liquid texture, it can be combined with carrier oils like Coconut, Castor or Jojoba. These blends – specifically Cocoa Butter combined with Jojoba Oil – are reputed to be beneficial for removing dead skin cells and addressing stretch marks, scars, sunburns, and signs of maturing skin.
Cocoa Butter can be applied directly to the skin as a lip balm that heals chapping and protects against harmful UV radiation as well as harsh cold temperatures. To create a natural lip balm that has the additional benefits of essential oils, simply combine and melt 1 tsp. grated Cocoa Butter, ½ tsp. grated Beeswax, and ½ tsp. Unrefined Sunflower Carrier Oil (Walnut and Almond Carrier Oils can be substituted) over low heat in the microwave or on the stove. Once the blend has melted, pour it into lip balm tins, allowing them to set until they solidify. This lip balm can be applied as required.
A small amount of Cocoa Butter can be applied to skin afflicted with burns, rashes, or infections to soothe and replenish skin. Cocoa Butter can be applied to the skin as a soap replacement for a silky-smooth shave that prevents nicks, or it can be applied afterward to soften the skin and reduce the appearance of blemishes. Applied as a lotion after a shower, Cocoa Butter promotes skin health and elasticity while smoothing out rough patches of skin, especially on the elbows and knees. Used in a natural manicure procedure, it can moisturize and soften dry cuticles. For a bath that leaves skin feeling silky and soft, a small chunk of Cocoa Butter can be melted into hot bath water.
To incorporate Cocoa Butter into a natural exfoliating scrub, mix 1/8 cup melted Cocoa Butter with ½ cup Brown Sugar, 3 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder, and ¼ cup Sweet Almond Carrier Oil before rubbing it in gentle circular motions on the skin. This will remove dead skin cells and leave skin looking radiant.
For a creamy, whipped Body Butter that softens and soothes dry, itchy skin, combine and melt ½ cup Cocoa Butter, ½ cup Shea Butter, ½ cup Organic Coconut Carrier Oil, and ½ cup Almond Carrier Oil stirring constantly. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool before adding 20 drops Lavender Essential Oil. Allow the mixture to harden in the fridge for 1 hour, then use a hand mixer to whip it until the texture is fluffy. Return this whipped butter to the fridge for 15 minutes before transferring it to a glass jar for an easier topical application.
Used in hair, Cocoa Butter can reduce frizz if a dime-sized amount is smoothed directly onto the strands before styling. It makes an ideal pre-shower conditioning treatment if melted before being applied to the hair; however, this hot oil treatment should not be left on the hair for longer than 20 minutes, as it will solidify at room temperature. This means it can potentially harden in the hair and become difficult to wash out. To use Cocoa Butter as a hair conditioner in the shower, it can be melted and added to a regular conditioner, or a nickel-size amount can be applied directly to the ends of the hair and left in for up to 4 minutes before being washed out. To prevent hair from looking and feeling greasy and heavy, avoid applying plain Cocoa Butter directly to the scalp.
For a more liquid leave-in hair conditioner, 2 Tbsp. of Cocoa Butter can be combined with 1 Tbsp. of Coconut Carrier Oil and melted thoroughly together in a double-boiler. Add 1 Tbsp. of Jojoba Carrier Oil to this mix and allow the blend to cool until it begins to harden. Before it becomes completely solidified, whip the blend with a hand blender for up to 5 minutes before applying it to the hair. Strands will feel softer and more manageable, and wavy or curly hair will appear to be more defined. For an overnight Coca Butter hair conditioner, combine and melt ½ cup Cocoa Butter, 2 Tbsp. Organic Coconut Oil, and 2 Tsp. Vitamin E liquid, stirring constantly. Remove the blend from the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before transferring it to an airtight container. Next, add 6 drops Vanilla Essential Oil to the container and freeze the blend for 15 minutes. After the container has been taken out and the mix has been allowed to soften, it can be applied to clean, dry hair before bed and rinsed out in the morning. As an overnight treatment, this blend will relieve and reduce dandruff, add shine, and strengthen hair follicles to prevent breakage and loss. Alternatively, it can be applied to hair as a styling product like mousse.
Used medicinally, Cocoa Butter soothes wounds, burns, and skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, rashes when applied directly to the affected areas. Applied in a therapeutic massage, it may even relieve the body of feelings of fatigue. To enhance the body’s natural immunity, blend 60 g (2 oz.) of Cocoa Butter with 5 drops of Geranium Essential Oil, 5 drops of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil, 5 drops of Lemon Essential Oil, and 5 drops of Jojoba Carrier Oil before massaging it into the preferred area of skin. For a Cocoa Butter blend with medicinal and protective properties that also work to boost collagen retention for healthier skin, blend ½ cup of Cocoa Butter with ½ cup of Shea Butter, ½ cup of Coconut Oil, and ½ cup of Olive Carrier Oil. A few drops of any essential oil can be added for scent, but this step is optional. This blend can be gently massaged into the skin then washed off after 15 minutes.
A GUIDE TO COCOA BUTTER VARIETIES & THEIR BENEFITS
|COCOA BUTTER (POYA BRAND)|
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|COCOA BUTTER – ULTRA REFINED – DEODORIZED|
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|COCOA BUTTER – PURE PRIME PRESSED – CRUDE|
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|COCOA ORGANIC BUTTER|
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Cosmetic butters are for external use only. Cocoa Butter should not be ingested and should not be stored within the reach of children, in case of accidental ingestion. As with all butters, a patch test should be conducted on the inner arm or other generally insensitive area of skin, using a dime size amount of Cocoa Butter to check for sensitivities. An absence of an allergic response within 48 hours indicates that the butter is safe to use. Individuals with allergies to nuts are at a higher risk of developing an allergy to Cocoa Butter and should avoid its use.
Potential side effects of Cocoa Butter include skin irritation, hives, itching, red and bumpy skin rashes, swelling, adult acne, peeling, and blistering that feels like a burn. In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent these side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use.
- Cocoa Butter is a rich natural fat derived from the cacao beans contained inside the pods of the Cocoa/Cacao Tree.
- Cacao is the name given to the raw, unprocessed beans found in their fruit pods, whereas Cocoa is the name given to the beans after they have been harvested and processed.
- Used topically, Cocoa Butter melts at body temperature and works to naturally soothe dry, sensitive skin while reducing and preventing the appearance of scars and unwanted marks. It is believed to have photoprotective properties that protect against harmful UV radiation.
- Used in hair, Cocoa Butter moisturizes strands to make them more manageable. While repairing damage, Cocoa Butter replenishes naturally-occurring oils, adds volume and shine, boosts strength and resilience, increases thickness, and reduces frizz.
- Used medicinally, Cocoa Butter works as an anti-inflammatory moisturizer that offers relief to skin afflicted with swelling, irritation, and redness. It is reputed to enhance the body’s immunity by promoting relaxation, and it is gentle enough to use for on burns and infections without causing further sensitivities.