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All about Cocoa Butter

Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter

Theobroma cacao L.



Cocoa was named Theobroma and means ‘food of the gods’. The genus Theobroma originated millions of years ago in South America, to the east of the Andes. Cocoa Butter is becoming increasingly popular in the natural bodycare and cosmetic industries due to the wide range of benefits it offers skin. It has been used for centuries in Africa for its moisturizing and healing properties, where it has been used to protect and condition skin which has been damaged by the sun and wind.

Cocoa Butter, also called Cacao Butter, is the cream-colored fat extracted from cacao seeds (cocoa beans) and used to add flavor, scent, and smoothness to chocolate, cosmetics, tanning oil, soap, and a multitude of topical lotions and creams. Cocoa Butter has been called the ultimate moisturizer, and has been used to keep skin soft and supple for centuries. It is one of the most stable, highly concentrated natural fats known, and melts at body temperature so that it is readily absorbed into the skin. Cocoa Butter is often recommended for treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. When applied topically, it creates a barrier between sensitive skin and the environment and also helps retain moisture. In addition, Cocoa Butter contains cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP), a substance that inhibits the production of the immuno globulin IgE. IgE is known to aggravate symptoms of both dermatitis and asthma.


What’s in Cocoa Butter?

Dry cacao seeds (also known as “beans”) may contain as much as 12-18% polyphenols, known as cocoa polyphenols or cocoa flavonoids. Most of the polyphenols in cacao are epicatechin and catechin, but other catechins and quercetin are also present. Cocoa flavonoids have potent antioxidant activity, and have been shown to scavenge free radicals and inhibit the oxidation of LDL. They may also have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities, and may promote cardiovascular and immune health. The seeds contain about 2% of the alkaloid theobromine, which is a central nervous system stimulant, similar to caffeine. Theobromine is used as a diuretic and to lower blood pressure, since it dilates the blood vessels.

It contains a large proportion of minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper and iron, all of which are in a highly bioavailable form that render them more effective than commercial vitamin supplements. Not only that, though, it also contains tryptophan, involved in the formation of serotonin, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter, and also dopamine and phenylethylamine, all good substances. It is brain food as well as food for your skin.

Cocoa Butter contains a number of different antioxidants that can kill off a wide range of different free radicals that destroy your skin cells and lead to premature aging. This makes it an ideal skin care product. Free radicals destroy cells. They are organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases. These molecules are very unstable, therefore they look to bond with other molecules, destroying their vigor and perpetuating the detrimental process. They do this through a process known as oxidation, which antioxidants can prevent. Cocoa Butter contains Vitamin E, which is a strong antioxidant – the strongest of all the antioxidant vitamins in fact, and can easily kill off hydrogen peroxide and any other oxidizing agent.

It also contains phytochemicals (plant chemicals) such as flavanoids that are also strong antioxidants. Polyphenols are very effective at neutralizing free radicals, and the cocoa mass polyphenols are particularly effective. In fact, Cocoa Butter contains a much higher antioxidant concentration then even blueberries and other so-called superfoods.

cocoa butter pods

Cocoa Butter also contains fatty acids in these percentages:
Oleic (Omega 9) – 33-39%
Palmitic – 24-30%
Stearic – 30-36%
Linoleic (Omega 6) – 1-3%


Benefits of Applying Cocoa Butter to Skin

For centuries pregnant women have used Cocoa Butter formulations to prevent and treat stretch marks, but this pleasant-smelling substance is added to countless other topical preparations. Lotions and oils containing Cocoa Butter are often used in aromatherapy massage to promote relaxation and the feeling of well-being. Research indicates that massaging the skin with Cocoa Butter may help relieve stress, boost the immune system, and even prevent cancer. This is because Cocoa Butter, like chocolate, contains a lot of CMP (cocoa mass polyphenol) and there is some evidence that the CMP in Cocoa Butter may also help prevent heart disease and ease arthritic symptoms. Cocoa Butter is mainly used is a thickening agent and is a common ingredient in lipsticks, soaps and emollient creams. It is also a folk remedy for burns, cough, dry lips, fever, malaria, rheumatism, snakebites and wounds. It is reported to be both antiseptic and diuretic.

In order for Cocoa Butter to be effective, it should get in contact with as many of your skin cells as possible, which requires rubbing it well into your skin. Once Cocoa Butter is absorbed it will destroy free radicals in the lower depths of your skin as soon as they are produced, and before they can do damage. It has been scientifically proven that Cocoa Butter will prevent skin degradation due to the harmful effects of the sun.

Applied topically, Cocoa Butter immediately impacts the texture of the skin, making it feel more supple and soft. It also provides instant pain relief for skin irritations. Because it can penetrate the skin layers so deeply, you do not have to apply Cocoa Butter lotion or cream more than a couple of times a day which is an added benefit in eczema and dermatitis treatment. Continued use keeps the skin hydrated, enforces collagen and elastin production, and prevents the skin from the long-term effects of external influences, such as pollution. Cocoa Butter is a natural emollient, making it desirable for use in pharmaceuticals, ointments and toiletries. Emollients help to soften or treat skin by increasing its ability to hold water. Using Cocoa Butter regularly can repair and protect skin from drying.


Benefits of Cocoa Butter in Your Diet

Cocoa Butter in chocolate raises endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain which can improve your mood.

High magnesium levels in high quality chocolate containing Cocoa Butter can prevent the progesterone drop that leads to PMS.

Eating a few squares of dark chocolate every day, with a high percentage of Cocoa solids can help cut the risk of serious heart disease by helping to stave off the hardening of arteries. Studies have shown that Cocoa does seem to boost heart health. Some heart benefits seen are increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting.

Consumption of chocolate has been often hypothesized to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) due to chocolate’s high levels of stearic acid and antioxidant flavonoids.

Cocoa Butter in dark chocolate can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Also, Cocoa Butter contains oleic acid, an unsaturated fat that raises HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

Cocoa Butter in high quality chocolate contains a chemical called Pentamer which can help protect against cancer.

Cocoa Butter has a large amount of CMP (Cocoa Mass Polyphenol) which is a chemical that helps to prevent heart disease as well as treat the symptoms of arthritis and dermatitis.

Studies have shown that consuming a cocoa-enriched diet could diminish periodontitis-induced oxidative stress, which, in turn, might suppress the progression of periodontitis.


Medical Conditions that Benefit from the use of Cocoa Butter:

Stretch Marks
Heart Disease
Mood Disorders
Cholesterol Problems
High Blood Pressure
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Burn Aftercare

Facts at a Glance:

100% Natural
Excellent Source of Antioxidants, Vitamins & Minerals
Solid at Room Temperature
Has Melting Point at Body Temperature
Easily Absorbed by the Skin
Known for its Hydrating Effects
Gentle on Skin
Helps to Even Out Skin Tone
Improves Skin Texture
Helps Fade New Scars
Has a Pleasant Aroma
Excellent for Dry Skin and Wrinkles
Great for Soap Making and Lotions
Used as a Thickening Agent in Beauty Products
Beneficial for Topical Use
Edible and Nutritious

Cocoa Butter Contains:
Stearic Acid
Palmitic Acid
Oleic Acid
Linoleic Acid
Vitamin E
Sterols and Methylsterols
Vitamin K

cacao pod


Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass Dilleniidae
Order Malvales
Family Sterculiaceae – Cacao family
Genus Theobroma L. – theobroma
Species Theobroma cacao L. – cacao

Additional Reading:

Cocoa – history, uses, chemistry…

Great News About Chocolate


Thomas, Laura. “The Benefits of Cocoa Butter for Skin Care”. Articlesbase. 14 July 2009. web. 24 Jan. 2010

“Organic Cocoa Butter and Wafers Profile”. Mountain Rose Herbs. n.d. web. 24 Jan. 2010

“Cocoa Butter Profile”. Mountain Rose Herbs. n.d. web. 24 Jan. 2010

“Cocoa Butter Quick Facts”. Tropical Magic. 30 May 2010. web. 12 Oct. 2010

Sahelian, Ray. M.D. “Cocoa Bean Chocolate Benefit”. n.d. web. 8 Aug. 2010

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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