Cocoa Butter

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Cocoa Butter has become one of the most popular ingredients in natural handmade cosmetics. It is one of the most stable fats and oils, and has many beneficial properties for general health and well-being. It is also used for the treatment of skin and hair. Cocoa Butter can be found in a wide selection of products ranging from soaps and other cleansing products. It is used in bath products and skin care products such as lip balms, creams and lotions. Hair conditioners, shaving products, eye and facial makeup products, suntan products and depilatories can also contain this ingredient. Oddly enough, Cocoa Butter is the also the main ingredient in chocolate

History

Cocoa Butter is obtained from whole Cacao beans that grow on the Theobroma Cacao (Cacao tree). The beans are fermented, roasted and then separated from their hulls. What’s left behind is about 55% Cocoa Butter. The Cacao tree and its Cocoa was a very important commodity in pre-Columbian America. It was used by the natives primarily as a beverage, but also for medicinal purposes, and ultimately, as a gift and sacrifice for the gods. In the Aztec empire, the Cacao beans were a major currency system, and the empire required a tribute of 980 loads of Cocoa beans per year. Each load would be counted out for exactly 8,000 beans (7,840,000 beans in total!). Raw Cacao and Cocoa Butter contain vitamins A, B, C, E & K, and one of the highest sources of magnesium and chromium found within the food group. Other minerals like copper, calcium, zinc, manganese, sulphur, iron and phosphorus are present in it as well. Essential omega fatty acids, amino acids, soluble fiber, enzymes, flavonoids and other beneficial phytonutrients including sitosterol, serotonin and theobromine can be found in raw Cacao and Cocoa Butter. At room temperature, Cocoa Butter can be found in a solid state, which can hold anywhere from a faint to a strong nutty chocolate smell (depending on refining) and can be of a light yellow to a dark brown color depending on the tree (there are two types). It has a melting point of around 34-38°C which makes it readily dissolvable when it meets the skin. Antioxidants found in Cocoa have been clinically proven to dissolve plaque buildup in the arteries. This helps in reversing heart disease, improving blood circulation and naturally lowering the blood pressure. Prolonged consumption of raw Chocolate or Cocoa Butter has been shown to have a plethora of health benefits. One of the benefits is a positive effect on cardiovascular health and lower LDL cholesterol levels. Harvard Medical School studies on Panama’s native Kuna people, whom are heavy consumers of Cocoa, showed that Kuna Indians living on the islands had significantly lower rates of heart disease and cancer. This became evident when compared to the natives on the mainland who did not consume Cocoa. Prolonging and increasing human longevity has also been closely linked to Cocoa and raw natural Chocolate. In fact, the oldest human being that was recorded to live was Jeanne Louise Calment. She reached an age of 122 and many experts linked her longevity to her regular consumption of 2.5 pound of bitter dark chocolate per week. The phytochemical structure of Cacao beans and Cocoa Butter can also be very beneficial. Phenethylamine, Serotonin, Dopamine and Theobromine are compounds and neurotransmitters that can act positively on overall wellbeing and creation of good emotions. Phenethylamine is a neurotransmitter known as the love molecule. Dopamine boosts motivation and pleasure. Serotonin acts as a stress protection shield that makes you feel good. Theobromine helps with increasing heartbeat rate and blood flow, lowering the blood pressure, and is also regarded as one of the ingredients that make Chocolate and Cocoa a reputed aphrodisiac.

Geography

The Cacao tree is native to the Americas. The tree requires a humid climate, good soil and regular rainfall at elevations of around 200-400m to develop and grow properly. Being an understory tree it grows best in the presence of some overhead shade. The conditions required for its growth make cultivation possible both north and south of the Equator (by approximately 20 degrees). Experts are not certain whether the tree itself originated in the foothills of the Andes (current Venezuela) or in Mesoamerica. The Olmecs that inhabited south-central modern day Mexico were the first civilization to have started cultivating and domesticated the Cacao tree around 1500 BC. There is also older archaeological evidence of Cacao beverages found on the Pacific coast of south Mexico dating back to around 1900 BC. After discovering the Americas, Europeans brought the Cocoa bean to Europe and spread it forward to West Africa and the West Indies. In 1753, the Swedish natural scientist Carl Linnaeus named it Theobroma cacao which is derived from the Ancient Greek words (theos-god) and (broma-food) or “food of the gods”. Today more than 60% of Cocoa is produced in the West African tropical belt.

Skin & Body Care

For centuries, pregnant women have been using Cocoa Butter to massage their stomach and breasts during pregnancy. This supposedly prevented the creation of stretch marks on the skin after the baby was born. It did not (and does not) however, remove them. The emollient properties of Cocoa Butter however, do allow it to moisturize, soothe and soften the skin. The application of Cocoa Butter on the surface of the skin provides a barrier that prevents the loss of water. This keeps the skin supple and hydrated, ultimately protecting it from the environment. These qualities also help to protect, treat and rejuvenate the skin. The high content of natural vitamin E and antioxidants found in Cocoa Butter help prevent the creation of free radicals by protecting the skin from oxidation, UV rays and other environmental dangers. Cocoa Butter does not just protect skin exposed to harm, it also provides relief to injured or damaged skin. Its topical application on scarred skin is known to help with fading the scars and enhancing the skin’s appearance. Cocoa Butter will often leave the skin looking soft, clear and blemish-free while providing it with anti-aging effects Cocoa Butter is believed to promote the production of collagen and elastin in our skin. Regular use should even out the skin tone, get rid of dark marks and allow your skin to glow radiantly Cocoa Butter is regarded for its excellent emollient qualities, which make it an ideal treatment for dry skin. It can be applied to lubricate extra dry areas of the skin such as elbows, knees and feet. It will lock in the moisture, keeping the areas hydrated all day.

Hair Care

Your hair can be damaged by chlorine, which will result in dry, weak, dull, brittle or even discolored hair. Cocoa Butter, when applied to the hair, is known to prevent damage caused from the chlorine in swimming pools. It can also be an effective treatment for fine, dry or damaged hair. Cocoa Butter can be used as a pomade to help control the styling of frizzy hair. When added to hair treatment products, it provides extra conditioning, nourishment and shine to the hair.