Babassu coconut oil (Orbignya oleifera) is similar to palm oil – both have high lauric oil content. It is very stable at high temperatures and can be used for cooking and frying. Among all vegetable oils, babassu oil has the highest saponification index, making it very suitable for soap making as a substitute for animal fats and for the preparation of creamy ointments.
It is important to note that lauric acid is attributed an antimicrobial effect. The cosmetics industry therefore uses babassu oil not only for dry and rough skin, but for oily and inflamed skin as well as a cooling component for skin with atopic dermatitis and itching. Highly recommended for massage oils.
Almost everything can be used from this palm tree. Its leaves are used to frame house covers; the fibers of the leaves are used to produce handicraft products; the green almonds provide a milk with nutritional properties similar to human milk and widely used in cooking; from the mesocarp is extracted a flour widely used as a food supplement and to make cakes and porridge.
The main purpose of the almonds is the production of babassu coconut oil. This oil is widely used in cosmetics, food, soaps, detergents, lubricants, etc. The extraction of the almonds is traditionally homemade, done by the local population and the “coconut breakers”. The endocarp is used to make a charcoal of high calorific potential.
The babassu palm is native to the northern region and Cerrado areas with occurrence concentrated in the states of Maranhão, Tocantins and Piaui, occupying an estimated area of 100-150,000 km² and is expanding in areas degraded by human action.
The palm can reach a height of 10 to 30 meters and its large leaves can reach eight meters in length. Each palm can have three to five long clusters. Peak growth occurs between January and April and the fruits ripen between August and December.
Each palm develops between 3 – 5 bunches, which in turn can produce 300 to 500 coconuts. The shell of the fruit is resistant and inside there are 3 to 5 kernels that have commercial value as they are the main raw material for the production of babassu coconut oil. On average there are 100-200/ha of babassu palm trees with a yield of 90-150 kg/ha of oil.
GREEN, P.G. et al (2005): In vitro and in vivo enhancement of skin permeation with oleic and lauric acids. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, v. 48, issues 1-3, p. 103-111, dec. 1988. .