We’re guilty of being a team of chocoholics, but that’s not why we’re excited about this ingredient today. We’re getting to know the cacao tree because we use it in our Palo Santo Body Butter. Like all of the ingredients we use in our products, our cocoa butter is organic and sustainably sourced. We research everything that goes into our products and we're so enthralled with this healthy fat that we want to share a bit about it with you.
A little bit about the cacao tree
We can’t talk about Cocoa butter without talking about where it came from—the cacao tree.
The Latin name for this evergreen tree is Theobroma cacao and it means “food of the gods,” which we think is pretty apt considering all the chocolatey goodness that comes from this wonderful plant.
The cacao tree is in the Malva family (the same family as another of our favorites, the marshmallow plant) and is native to the Amazon Rainforest, Western Africa, and tropical Asia.
It is a smallish tree living under the canopy of the taller trees in the rainforest and very much evolved with the protection of other tropical plants. That means that on its own is very susceptible to pests, disease, and its environment—it doesn’t like too much wind or cold weather, it needs quite a bit of rain and deep, well drained soil.
Because of it’s very particular taste in environment and vulnerability, the cacao tree is difficult to cultivate and is best grown on very small farms or in small groves in rainforests. Even with the perfect growing conditions, it is not uncommon for a farmer to lose a lot of the crop each year, adding evermore to the sacred energy of the tree.
The cacao seeds grow in large pods. Each tree can yield about 70 pods annually, and each pods contains about 20-60 seeds (or beans).
These cacao beans are collected from pods and processed into the various chocolate-y options including cacao powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, cacao butter, and cacao nibs.
Like we mentioned before, we’re using cocoa butter in our newest product so we’re diving deep into this ingredient to get to know it a little bit better.
Exactly what is cocoa butter?
This might seem obvious, but it might be new for you too so we want to make sure that you know exactly what it is.
I know we talked about cacao tree—so where did the term “cocoa” come from? Well, they're the same plant but the difference is in the processing. A “cocoa” product, like cocoa powder or cocoa butter, is a cacao product that was processed with heat. The heating process changes the nutritional value of the cocoa, otherwise cacao and cocoa are interchangeably used.
Cocoa butter is the fat that is rendered from the cocoa bean during the processing to make cocoa powder. The cocoa beans are fermented, then roasted and then separated and pressed.
Cocoa butter is a vegetable fat and its rich flavor makes it a wonderful ingredient in desserts—most notably, it’s the main fat in chocolate and it’s what gives our favorite chocolate bars that creamy texture we love. Although it's great for heart health in low doses, cocoa butter is one of those high-calorie fats that can cause weight gain when it's over consumed. (So even though we wouldn't even tell you to drop your chocolate habit, it might be good to curve it a little.)
Cocoa butter is solid at room temperature but melts right around our body temperature, which may be a downside if you have a chocolate bar in your pocket, but definitely makes it great for skin care and other cosmetics.
Cocoa butter in skin care
Cocoa butter makes a phenomenal addition to any skin care routine—especially if you’re looking for a stable oil with a long shelf life to firm up the overall consistency of a product—for you DIYers, try adding deodorized cocoa butter to your deodorant recipe to add a thicker consistency and superior moisture.
Here are some other awesome benefits of this ingredient in skin care:
- Essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids firm and tighten the skin and cocoa butter is loaded with them.
- Anti-aging. Great for mature and dry skin types, cocoa butter is often used to relax and soften the parts of us that hold stress (and create lasting fine lines and wrinkles).
- Antioxidant. Protect from environmental stressors that cause the appearance of aging.
- Soothing. Cocoa butter has a protective dose of polyphenols, which are soothing to temporary redness.
- Aromatherapeutic. It has an amazing chocolate-y smell that enlivens your senses and almost forces a smile to your face.
Plus, it’s absolutely one of the safest and most effective moisturizer around. Try it in our Palo Santo Body Butter. It holds in hydration and lets your skin radiate health and beauty.
Aub is a certified clinical herbalist and content strategist/creator. She is the co-founder of Dandelion Branding, a digital marketing company that works with brands that are focused on revolutionizing their industries. When she's not working on a project, you can usually find her nosing about in the forest or giving congratulatory high fives to every plant in her house for growing.