- (Theobroma grandiflorum, Malvaceae)
FATTY ACID COMPOSITION AND PHYSICAL-CHEMICAL DATA
The extracted oil from cupuaçu seeds offers fantastic properties for the cosmetic industry. The cupuaçu butter is a triglyceride that has a balanced composition of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, which gives the product a low melting point (approximately 30 °C) and an appearance of a soft solid that penetrates quickly when in contact with skin. Cupuaçu butter posses a high capacity to absorb water, approximately 120% higher than that of lanolin, and can act as a plant-based substitute for it. It contains phytosterols (especially beta-sitosterol) that operate at the cellular level to regulate water balance and the activity of lipids in the superficial layer of the skin. Its ability to absorb large amounts of water can be attributed to the hydrogen bridges formed between the water molecules and phytosterols. Phytosterols have been used to treat dermatitis and disorders by stimulating the healing process.
For the most part, only the fruit pulp of cupuaçu is commonly consumed, in the form of juices, ice creams, creams, and sweets. The removal of the pulp from the seeds is rather laborious and performed with scissors. In some regions the seeds are fermented, dried in the sun, roasted, ground in a mortar, and used as chocolate (also called cupulate). In general, seeds are a byproduct of processing the pulp and are underutilized and thrown away. However, because there is a growing interest of the pharmaceutical industry to acquire the butter of cupuaçu, the fruit pulp industries and cooperatives are beginning to separate and process the seeds in larger quantities.
Cupuaçu, a native of Amazonia, is a small tree that is 4 to 8 meters (when cultivated) or up to 18 m high (in growing in the wild). It belongs to the same family as cacao. The fruit is very large, cylinder-shaped with rounded ends, up to 30 cm long, and has an average weight of 1.2 kilograms. At maturity the fruits fall, without the stalk, when they start releasing a characteristic odor, which indicates that they are ripe. The fruit contains a juicy and creamy pulp, with a characteristic flavor, which surrounds 20 to 30 large oval seeds. The butter of cupuaçu, similar to the "butter" of cacao but superior in quality, is extracted from the seeds and contains approximately 45% oil. On commercial plantations fruit production begins in the 3rd year and trees produce an average of 12 fruits per tree, per year, when mature. It is recommended that 180 trees be planted per hectare, which produces approximately 2148 fruits per year, 990 kg of pulp, and 443 kg of seeds (an average fruit is composed of 38.4% pulp, 17.2% seeds, and 44.4% skin). In general, 1000 kg of fresh seeds will produce 135 kg of cupuaçu butter.
CHLEBAROV, S. 1990: "Die Kosmetichen Eigenschaften der Phytosterole"1 TW Dermatologie.
MORAIS, L. R. : Banco de Dados Sobre Espécies Oleaginosas da Amazônia, não-publicado.
MÜLLER, C. H. et. al. : A cultura do cupuaçu. 1995, Embrapa-CPATU, coleção plantar 24, p.61.
WINKLER, A. 1977: Experimental studies of effect of water content of upper layers of human skin. Arztl. Kosmetologie,7 , 65-77.