PHYSICAL-CHEMICAL DATA AND APPLICATIONS
The cupuaçu butter (Theobroma grandiflorum) offers fantastic properties for the cosmetic industry. The cupuaçu butter is a triglyceride that presents 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 in contact with the skin. The cupuaçu butter possesses a high capacity power to absorb water, approximately 200% higher than that of lanolin, acting as a plant-based substitute for it (see below graphic). It contains phytosterols (especially beta-sitosterol) that operate at the 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 cupuaçu 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 cupuaçu 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 cupuaçu, the fruit pulp industries and cooperatives begin to separate and process the seeds in larger quantities.
The cupuaçu, 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 cupuaçu, 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 of 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 cupuaçu can be produced.
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