Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum)
PHYSICAL-CHEMICAL DATA AND APPLICATIONS
The extracted butter from the cupuacu seeds offers fantastic properties for the cosmetic industry. The cupuacu butter is a triglyceride which presents a balanced composition of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, which gives the product a low melting point (approximately 30 °C) and a appearance of a soft solid that penetrates quickly in contact with the skin. The cupuacu butter posses a high capacity power to absorb water, approximately 240% higher than that of lanolin, acting as a plant-based substitute for it. It contains phytosterols (especially beta-sitosterol) that operate at cellular level regulating the water balance and the activity of lipids of the superficial layer of the skin . The high power of absorbing water of the cupuacu butter 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.
Popularly, only the fruit pulp of cupuacu is used for consumption, in the form of juices, ice creams, creams and sweets. The removal of the pulp from the seeds is rather laborious and performed by scissors. In some regions the seeds are fermented, dried in the sun, roasted, ground in a mortar and used as common chocolate, also called cupulate. In general, seeds are a byproduct of pulp processing and therefore underutilized and thrown away. With the growing interest of the pharmaceutical industry to get the butter of cupuacu, the fruit pulp industries and cooperatives begin to separate and process the seeds in larger quantities.
The cupuacu, native of the Amazon region, is a small tree with 4 to 8 meters (when cultivated) or up to 18 m high (as wild growing individuals in the native forest) and belongs to the same family of the cacao. The fruit is very large, cylinder-shaped with rounded ends, up to 30 cm in length with an average weight of 1.2 kilograms. At maturity the fruits fall without the stalk when they start releasing the characteristic odor, which indicates the perfect ripening of them. The fruit contains a juicy and creamy pulp with characteristic flavor which is adhered to 20 to 30 large oval seeds. The butter of cupuacu, similar to the “butter” of cacao, but with superior quality, is extracted from the seeds that contain approximately 45% of butter. The production in commercial plantations will begin from the 3rd year and reach an average of 12 fruits per tree. It is recommended the planting of 180 plants per hectare, which can produce 2148 fruits, representing 990 kg of pulp and 443 kg of seeds (an average the fruit is composed by 38.4% of pulp, 17.2% of seeds and 44.4% of skin). In general, with 1,000 kg of fresh seeds, 135 kg of butter from cupuacu can be produced.
FLECK, C., NEWMAN, M.: Advanced Skin Care – A Novel Ingredient; Journal of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists (2012) 4, 92–4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4495740/ .