Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum Wild.) is an Amazonian forest tree, having probably a pre-Colombian origin. Each tree produces about 20-30 fruits, having 15-25 cm in lengths and 10-12 cm in diameter, with a weight from 800g to 2Kg (that’s a very heavy fruit!). The fruit contains 30-50 seeds surrounded by a creamy yellowish pulp (almost 50% of the fruit), possessing a strong and pleasant scent (1). This pulp provides the Cupuaçu butter and the seeds have a high fat content (62%) with characteristics that resemble that of cocoa butter (2).
Cupuaçu butter is used by the cosmetic industry in both hair and skin care formulations.
THE UNIQUE AROMA
Fruits of Cupuaçu are very much appreciated for its acidic and highly flavored pulp and they are used in juices, ice creams and gems.
Forty-five volatile compounds were identified and 14 tentatively identified in cupuaçu pulp. Among them, 35 compounds were reported for the first time in this fruit. The olfactive characteristics of several compounds showed that linalol, α-terpineol, 2-phenylethanol, myrcene, and limonene were contributors of the cupuaçu pleasant, floral flavor, and ethyl 2-methylbutanoate, ethyl hexanoate and butyl butanoate contribute to the fruity aroma. Diols like (2,6-dimethyl-oct-7-en-2,6-diol are possible contributors of the typical exotic scent. Moreover, hexadecanoic acid can be considered as a contributor of the grassy, heavy odor of cupuaçu (3).
The reason I listed all these chemical compounds present in Cupuaçu fruit here is to show my aversion towards the adage floating around “If you cant pronounce it, don’t eat it” which bothers me on many levels, from the terrible impracticability to downright ignorance. Imagine someone would list instead of cupuacu all these chemical names on a label. The followers of this adage would definitely find the product “bad”, “not good for you”. I personally have hard time pronouncing “Cupuaçu”. Actually, I have no clue how to pronounce it.
CUPUAÇU BUTTER IN SKIN CARE
Cupuaçu butter is an excellent emollient that restores elasticity to the skin while providing anti-oxidants and hydration (4).
It is very good for dry, sunburned and aging skin.
Cupuaçu butter is comprised of long-chain fatty acids that are a perfect mixture of saturated fatty acids (57%) and unsaturated ones (~43%) that makes the butter to be absorbed quickly into the skin (5).
Cupuaçu’s ability to penetrate the skin quickly and to retain moisture is unparalleled and far superior to that of shea butter or lanolin (6). Cupuaçu butter could support 440% of its weight in water, which means that 1 pound of Cupuaçu butter could absorb 4.4 pounds of water! In comparison, shea butter supports 289% of its weight in water (6).
CUPUAÇU BUTTER IN HAIR CARE
The main claims of hair products using Cupuaçu butter are improved hydration, softness (emollient), shine, and decreased hair damage after coloring. It not only can act as a sealant but because of its ability to absorb water, it does restore moisture to the hair strands.
It performs particularly well on thick, dry hair, no matter if the hair is straight, wavy or curly. For women with natural hair who are looking for an alternative to shea butter, cupuaçu butter is definitely the way to go.
There is a good research on the effect of Cupuaçu butter used in hair formulations applied on dyed hair.
In the lab, hair damage after a dye treatment is measured as protein loss from hair strands. A research study (7) showed that applying hair care formulations containing 1% Cupuaçu butter post dye treatment, reduced protein loss with 35%, such that decreased the damage caused to the hair by the coloring process.
It is very important after hair dying to use high quality conditioners to minimize the damage, and to keep using them.
We are happy to provide our members with a shampoo/conditioner combo from Teadora that contains this really performing ingredient. The Teadora conditioner contains also argan oil, which was also scientifically proven to decrease the damage associated with hair dying.
Thanks Dr. Q, we love your chemist detailed insight into the wonderful ingredient we love. We use Cupuaçu in all of our body and hair care products. I definitely think it is the NEXT shea butter. Not to mention it is sustainably harvested by local women-led communities in the Amazon river basin.
- Boulanger and J. Crouzet, Free and bound flavour components of Amazonian fruits: cupuacu volatile compounds, Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 2000, 15, pag 251-257.
- Alvaro B.A. de Azevedo, Uiram Kopcak, Rahoma S. Mohamed, Extraction of fat from fermented Cupuaçu seeds with supercritical solvents, The Journal of Supercritical fluids, Volume 27, Issue 2, October 2003, Pages 223–237
- Boulanger, R. and Crouzet, J. (2000), Free and bound flavour components of Amazonian fruits: 2. Cupuaçu volatile compounds. Flavour Fragr. J., 15: 251–257.
- Yang H, Protiva P, Cui B, et al: New bioactive polyphenols from theobroma grandilorum (‘‘Cupuacu’’). J Nat Prod. 2003;6:1501–1504.
- V. Gilabert-Escrivá, L. A. G. Gonçalves, C. R. S. Silva and A. Figueira, “Fatty Acid and Triacylglycerol Composition and Thermal Behaviourof Fats from Seeds of Brazilian Amazonian Species,” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Vol. 82, No. 13, 2002, pp. 1425- 1431.
- Beraca: Rain Forrest Specialties; Data on File – Brazil. 2013.
- Pamella Mello Faria, Luciana Neves Camargo, Regina Siqueira Haddad Carvalho, Luis Antonio Paludetti, Maria Valéria Robles Velasco, Robson Miranda da Gama, Hair Protective Effect of Argan Oil (Argania spinosa Kernel Oil) and Cupuassu Butter (Theobroma grandiflorum Seed Butter) Post Treatment with Hair Dye, Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 2013, 3, 40-44.