Cocoa Oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects
The cocoa oil benefits are mainly attributed to its rich source of antioxidants called flavonols. They help fight against free radicals, making your skin look youthful for longer.
Besides the oil, consuming cocoa powder also helps the skin cells and fights premature wrinkles. Cocoa oil, popularly known as cocoa butter, is well-regarded for its medicinal properties since ages.
Let’s understand about this essential oil in detail.
What is Cocoa Oil?
Cocoa oil is also known as theobroma oil or cocoa butter. It is extracted from the cocoa beans, which is also an edible fat. (1) It is commonly used to make chocolates, ointments, pharmaceuticals, and toiletries.
The cocoa essential oil is the key ingredient that melts in your mouth, giving you the silky feeling when you eat chocolates.
Scientific Name of Cocoa Oil
The botanical name of cocoa is Theobroma cacao.
History of Cocoa Oil
Cocoa is native to South & Central America. In the Caribbean and Mesoamerica, they have been growing cocoa to produce a natural skin moisturizer for ages.
Cocoa is mainly used for making chocolates. Cocoa beans are first fermented, dried, and then separated from their hull (or shell).
When cocoa is separated from its shell, the residue is known as cocoa nib. Then, the cocoa nibs are crushed to produce a powder called cocoa powder. Cocoa powder turns liquid at a temperature above its melting point, which is 34 – 38 °C.
The liquid is known as chocolate liquor or cocoa liquor. Then, the cocoa liquid is pressed to separate solids, and the remaining liquid is known as the cocoa essential oil.
The cocoa nib constitutes up to 58% cocoa oil. There have been records stating that cocoa essential oil is deodorized to suit the tastes. Though cocoa is popular in the form of chocolates, it holds an incredible medicinal value and has been used since ages.
Color, Consistency, and Smell of Cocoa Oil
- The color of cocoa oil is pale yellow.
- The consistency of cocoa oil is thin and liquid (at melting point) but solid otherwise.
- The smell of cocoa oil is coffee-like.
Properties of Cocoa Essential Oil
The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature. No wonder chocolates become solid at room temperature and melt as soon as they are in the mouth.
Same way, cocoa essential oil also exhibits polymorphism with different melting points, ranging from 17.3°C to 38°C.
- Real cocoa butter is edible; it smells and tastes like dark chocolate.
- It has a mild fragrance.
- Smooth structure.
- It is ultra-hydrating.
- The cocoa essential oil is a healthy fat. Up to 64% of cocoa butter is saturated fat.
The therapeutic properties of cocoa oil include:
- Antioxidant – Inhibits the process of oxidation
- Anti-inflammatory – Reduces redness, pain, and swelling
- Emollient – Helps soften or soothe the skin
Chemical Compounds in Cocoa Oil
Here are the major components of cocoa oil:
- Oleic acid – 5%
- Stearic acid – 5%
- Palmitic acid – 26%
- Linoleic acid – 2%
- Arachidic acid – 1%
Apart from the above, it also contains traces of caffeine & theobromine.
Health Benefits Of Cocoa Oil
- Used to make chocolates
- Protects the skin
- Useful in pharmaceuticals
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Normalizes the blood pressure
- Prevents heart attacks
- Prevents and fights inflammation
- Prevents type 2 diabetes
- Fights cancer
- Prevents fracture in older adults
The detailed explanation of cocoa oil benefits are given below:
1. Used to make chocolates
Cocoa is highly used in making chocolates. Cocoa butter is useful in making all types of chocolates – be it dark, milk, or white. The rich, smooth, and silky texture that you get when you eat chocolates is due to cocoa butter (2).
2. Protects the skin
Cocoa butter heals the damaged skin and protects the skin from further harm. It is especially useful in winter care creams, lotions, and lip balms. Cocoa butter’s smooth structure, ability to blend well, and mild fragrance also makes it an excellent ingredient in lip glosses, chapsticks, soaps, and beauty creams.
A study claims that cocoa has a positive effect on skin when applied for five days at least. They improve the skin tone and elasticity, provided that the effective dosage of cocoa is 0.75% and 0.5% respectively.
Cocoa butter also protects your skin against the damage caused by UV rays (3).
3. Useful in pharmaceuticals
If literature reports are to be considered, cocoa has been a vehicle to deliver medicines since the 1500s. The paste of chocolate was also used to mask the taste of bitter medicines (4).
Cocoa oil is an ideal base for medicinal suppositories (to relieve hemorrhoids) and ointments. Thanks to its therapeutic properties, which makes it solid at room temperature and liquid at a specific temperature.
4. Improves cholesterol levels
Cocoa butter has a high content of fatty acids. One-third of cocoa is stearic acid, which is saturated fat. Generally, saturated fatty acids are harmful to your health, especially for the heart, as they raise LDL as well as total cholesterol.
Stearic acid is an exception. Though it’s saturated fat, it still does not increase LDL and total cholesterol levels (1). On the contrary, stearic acid that is predominantly present in cocoa butter helps to:
Stearic acid is far better than other saturated fats like palmitic acid, myristic acid, and trans monounsaturated fatty acids. It can replace the use of other unhealthy fats, especially when you have diet restrictions.
There are two main types of cholesterols in your body – good and bad. Good cholesterol is known as HDL/ High-Density Lipid. HDL improves your heart health, and the more HDL you have, the better it is.
LDL/Low-Density Lipid is bad cholesterol, which is responsible for high blood pressure and heart failure. The lower the LDL, the better it is.
5. Normalizes the blood pressure
The compound stearic acid in cocoa butter helps lower the blood pressure (BP) in hypertensives.
You are hypertensive if your DBP/ Diastolic Blood Pressure exceeds 90 mmHg, and or your SBP/ Systolic Blood Pressure is above 140 mmHg for more than two occasions.
Several studies have concluded that long-term consumption of cocoa improves BP in hypertensives. Consuming dark chocolate for a week reduces BP by 3 mmHg in hypertensives.
In 2014, 36 people enrolled in a study, to assess the immediate effects of cocoa on hypertension. Out of 36 people, 19 were hypertensives, and 17 had normal BP.
The research team measured their blood pressure every half an hour, for 8 hours a day, for three days.
On the first day of research, there was no intervention. On the second day, few participants received 5-gram cocoa in 125 ml water, and others received a placebo (neutral medicine).
The researchers ensured that cocoa powder had the highest flavonoid content. The results showed a decrease of 8 mmHg and 18 mmHg in DBP & SBP respectively in hypertensives. Cocoa started reducing high BP within an hour!
Moreover, this improvement in BP was not related to taking antihypertensives. Even those hypertensives who never took BP medicines showed improvement in their BP after having cocoa.
This study suggests that even if you have flavonoid-rich cocoa once, your BP improves. However, the results did not last longer than three hours. This suggests that long-term consumption of cocoa or having small amounts of cocoa in intervals helps to sustain low BP (7).
6. Prevents heart attacks
LDL and atherosclerosis are the main reasons for heart attacks and heart failures. Stearic acid in cocoa butter reduces atherosclerosis and protects heart (8).
The latest research says that chocolate consumption is inversely related to atherosclerotic plaque in coronary arteries. 2217 participants were assessed for their chocolate consumption frequency and the status of their coronary arteries.
The participants, who consumed chocolates more than 2 times a week had healthier coronary arteries with minimal atherosclerosis. The study also took other factors such as age, energy intake, sex, smoking, consumption of non-chocolate candy, and other diseases in consideration. The results concluded the same. More the chocolate consumption, better was the health (9).
What is atherosclerosis?
LDL in blood deposits on the inner walls of blood vessels, and forms a layer called atherosclerotic plaque. It is dangerous, as it can narrow down the blood vessels and hinder the blood flow.
Sometimes, atherosclerotic plaque can dislodge and get stuck in some other, especially small blood vessels. When atherosclerotic plaque blocks coronary blood vessels (blood vessels which supply the heart), there is a heart attack.
When there is a heart attack, a portion of the heart doesn’t receive blood supply, it begins to die. Atherosclerotic plaque is dangerous and can block the blood supply to any organs including brain and eyes.
7. Prevents and fights inflammation
Redness, loss of movement, heat, pain, and swelling are the signs of inflammation. Inflammation can affect joints, muscles, or any part of your body. However, the antioxidants of cocoa essential oil such as polyphenol and flavonoids help fight inflammation.
8. Prevents type 2 diabetes
The insoluble fibers present in cocoa butter help in preventing and improve type 2 diabetes. Note that insoluble fiber is present in all types of chocolates. A 100k-calorie portion of chocolate has the following amount of insoluble fiber:
- Milk chocolate: 0.6 g
- Semi-sweet chocolate: 1.2 g
- Dark chocolates: 1.7 g
Dark chocolate contains the highest amount of insoluble fiber (10, 11). Cocoa essential oil addresses both causes of type 2 diabetes. Cocoa prompts your body to produce more insulin, and it also makes your body respond better to insulin (12).
Diabetes is a condition wherein there are high blood sugar levels. When you eat, your body converts that food to glucose. Your body needs a hormone known as insulin to use glucose. Type 2 diabetes is either due to insufficient insulin production or decreased insulin sensitivity.
Insufficient insulin production is when your body (beta cells of the pancreas) produces less insulin than it should. Decreased insulin sensitivity is when your body produces enough Insulin, but your cells are not responding well to it.
9. Fights cancer
Flavonoid is a type of antioxidant. Pollution and chemicals can produce free radicals that alter the cell structure, causing cancer. Flavonoids help destroy the free radicals. In addition, cocoa butter also has vitamin E, making it effective against cancer.
10. Prevents fracture in older adults
Osteoporosis is a disease where bones get brittle, and easily fracture.
Chocolates have innumerable health benefits. However, the tendency to indulge may overdo the benefits. But dark chocolates provide maximum health benefits, as they don’t let you indulge when compared with milk or sweet chocolates.
What Blends with Cocoa Oil?
Cocoa butter blends well with carrier oils like:
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Castor oil
- Argan oil
Cocoa oil blends well with other essential oils like:
How To Use Cocoa Oil?
- To heal dry lips and skin, mix cocoa butter with other essential oils or jojoba or castor oil. If you feel cocoa butter is hard, take a handful of cocoa butter in a vessel and pour hot water over it to make it easy to spread.
- You can make a lip balm with cocoa butter using essential oils.
- You can add some cocoa butter to your old chapstick and use it over your lips whenever you want.
- You can mix cocoa oil with essential oils to make your own body lotion.
- If you have painful blisters, you can apply a little bit of cocoa butter directly over blisters to soften them.
- During pregnancy, you can apply cocoa butter over your tummy to prevent stretch marks. You can also use cocoa butter post pregnancy to lighten stretch marks which are already there.
- You can make a chocolate syrup or pudding with it.
Side Effects of Cocoa Oil
- In a very few people, cocoa butter may cause a skin rash. You can try a patch test to rule out allergy. Apply a little amount of cocoa butter with the tip of cotton over your forearm and observe for ten minutes. If you don’t see rashes, redness, or swelling, you are not allergic to it.
- Few studies say cocoa butter causes blackheads in animals. The same has not been confirmed in humans.
- Overindulging in chocolates can cause weight gain, digestive complaints, migraines, and caffeine-related side-effects such as sleeplessness, nervousness, and fast heartbeat.
- If you are suffering from any diseases such as GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), speak to your doctor before you begin to use cocoa oil.