Cupuacu (pronounced Kupuassu) is a cacao plant native to the Amazon. The fruit is mainly used in the production of confectionery, dairy products and alcohols. It also has great skin and hair care properties, similar to cocoa butter or shea butter. In its homeland, the plant is also used as a medicinal plant and is said to help against stomach aches, high blood pressure, cholesterol and much more.
In our big cupuacu test 2021 we have tested all possible effects of cupuacu on the basis of studies so that you can get the most out of the plant. If you are interested in the tropical plant itself or already want to buy a cupuacu product, this guide will give you all the information you need.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 The most important facts
- 3 The Best Cupuacu: Our Picks
- 4 Buying and evaluation criteria for Cupuacu products
- 5 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying cupuacu products
- 5.1 What is cupuacu and how does it work?
- 5.2 What does cupuacu consist of?
- 5.3 When and for whom is the intake / use of cupuacu sensible?
- 5.4 How is Cupuacu taken / used?
- 5.5 What parts of the plant are used in cupuacu?
- 5.6 What do Cupuacu products cost?
- 5.7 What are the different types of cupuacu?
- 5.8 How should Cupuacu be dosed?
- 5.9 What can cupuacu be combined with?
- 5.10 What are the side effects of Cupuacu?
- 5.11 How do I prepare cupuacu?
- 5.12 How can I grow cupuacu myself?
- 5.13 What is the Comedogenic Rating of Cupuacu?
The most important facts
- Cupuacu is a plant native to the Brazilian Amazon. It is closely related to the cacao tree and is very similar to it in use and processing.
- Cupuacu is mainly used as a food and in the production of sweets, as well as in skin and hair care. Less well known is its use as a natural remedy and food supplement.
- Cupuacu is available in oil, butter, ointment and powder form and its use varies. While there are many studies on its effects in body and hair care, its healing properties are not widely researched.
The Best Cupuacu: Our Picks
Buying and evaluation criteria for Cupuacu products
If you use cupuacu as a healing or care product, it is essential that you pay attention to a few aspects when buying it, so that you really do something good for your body and don't waste money.
When buying cupuacu, you can and should pay attention to various criteria, such as:
By making the right choice for you, you also ensure that you don't give your body anything it doesn't need or even harm it. Therefore, always make sure that the products are of high quality.
First of all, you need to know what you want to use cupuacu for. If you want to pamper your skin or hair, then it is advisable to use cupuacu in butter or oil form.
However, if you want to supplement your diet or use cupuacu as a remedy, you should consume it in powder or pill form. It is also possible to use cupuacu as an ointment to heal wounds.
Package size can also be quite important when purchasing cupuacu products.
Depending on how familiar you are with the effect of the plant or how long you want to benefit from its effect, you need different pack sizes.
There are also different sizes of powder and pill packaging. You can decide individually how much product you want. Whether you just want to try Cupuacu or you are already convinced and don't want to order again every fortnight, there is the right package size for you.
When it comes to cupuacu, it's important to make sure you're buying pure products. Many creams and oils are contaminated with essential oils, fillers or, in the worst case, heavy metals, plastics and pesticides.
Cupuacu in cream form does not usually need any other additives, but as a food supplement cupuacu can benefit from other substances such as acai. These additional substances should then only promote your desired result.
Quality certificates such as the natural cosmetics seal are particularly important to ensure the previous point. Only if a product meets the quality standards of these seals is it suitable for your consumption.
Seals like the Leaping Bunny seal and the vegan badge can also be very important to stop testing on animals in the make-up industry. If animal welfare and sustainability are a priority for you, look out for these things next time you buy.
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying cupuacu products
In order to inform you comprehensively about the effectiveness of cupuacu and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.
What is cupuacu and how does it work?
Due to their close relationship, cupuacu and cocoa are very similar in their application and processing. The positive properties of cupuacu come into their own especially in skin and hair care.
The Brazilian fruit is also widely consumed as a food and is also used in natural medicine as a remedy in ointment and powder form.
Used for wound healing(4, 5, 6), abdominal pain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low libido and to strengthen the immune system, cupuacu is used for many ailments and is said to have all kinds of healing properties.
We will discuss and explore what is true about these claims in the rest of this article. There are not many studies to back up these modes of action and there are many better researched alternatives(8), however there are many testimonials about Cupuacus effect on the skin.
Moisturising for skin and hair
The best known effect of cupuacu is on the skin and hair(1, 6). Due to the ingredients such as phytosterols, antioxidants and vitamin E and due to the pleasant scent of the butter, it is often used in body care.
Cupuacu is also very popular in vegan cosmetics, as cold-pressed butter can bind 240 % more water than lanolin (sheep's tallow) and does not cause allergic reactions(1).
Further properties in skin care are summarised below(1)
- Suitable for dry, cracked and cold-prone skin
- Not suitable for oily or combination skin
- Strengthens the lipid layer (due to phytosterol content)
- Acts as a vegetable lanolin substitute (vegan cosmetics)
- Is a good alternative to shea butter
- Anti-ageing formulation makes it valuable for mature skin as well
- Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory (combats redness and inflammation caused by chapped skin)
- absorbs quickly due to lower melting point
As far as hair care is concerned, we are still lagging behind a bit, but hopefully not for long. Cupuaçu improves the tensile strength and elasticity of the hair through its coemulsifying properties and lipid-containing ingredients.
Cupuacu is also popular in lip care, sun protection and anti-aging(1). It is also worth noting that cupuacu outperforms the popular shea butter.
With its better tolerance and ability to release more water to the skin, it is far superior to shea butter.
Against high cholesterol
In the case of cupuacu, the high fibre content in combination with about 43 percent oleic acid ensures a lowering of cholesterol levels and thus has a positive effect on weight regulation and digestion. The antioxidant properties of the tropical plant also support weight loss.
This thus also has a positive effect on people with diabetes(5, 9). Elderly people or those suffering from abdominal pain can also benefit from the high fibre content.
One of the biggest differences between cocoa and cupuacu is that cupuacu contains theacrine, which works similarly to caffeine and is a real pick-me-up(2, 3, 4, 7).
This is why cupuacu is also often used as a performance and concentration enhancer. Its effects are highly valued in learning situations as well as in sports.
In a study with rats, the activity-enhancing effect of theacrine was tested. It showed that the caffeine-like substance strongly stimulated activity in contrast to the untreated rats.(2)
The effect has also been tested on humans. The result was that the willingness to perform, concentration and energy level increased strongly according to self-assessment.(3)
What does cupuacu consist of?
The plant provides vitamins B1, B2, B3, selenium, calcium, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. The fruit owes its energising effect to its high content of B vitamins, while the vitamins A and C contained in cupuaçu have an immune-strengthening effect.
Here is a summary of the ingredients.
- Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and E
- B vitamins
- Dietary fibre
- nine flavonoids, polyphenols and the alkaloid theacrine
As you can see, cupuacu has many valuable ingredients for a balanced diet. Even if the many healing effects of cupuacu are not documented, the fruit can be worthwhile if you want to eat healthy and try something new.
When and for whom is the intake / use of cupuacu sensible?
Food supplements can be taken at any time, even without symptoms. Cupuacu Butter is especially recommended for use in winter, as it counteracts skin and hair damage caused by the weather.
How is Cupuacu taken / used?
Especially when applying it to the hair, the right dosage is very important. After all, the hair should not be oilier after the shower than before.
If you want to take cupuacu as a dietary supplement, you can simply mix it into your food in powder or puree form or use it for cooking. It is very convenient to use and you do not have to pay special attention to anything. The recommended amount for cupuacu powder is about 3 g.
What parts of the plant are used in cupuacu?
Other parts of the plant, such as the wood and the leaves, are of no interest. Only in near-natural cultivation is the plant itself used. This protects the Amazon from slash-and-burn agriculture and provides the local people with a sustainable source of trade.
What do Cupuacu products cost?
Our skin is the biggest factor in a first impression. Whether it's age, diet or work circumstances, all these factors can be read from the skin.
That's why you should only buy pure cupuacu products, so as not to jeopardise the health of your skin's appearance with harmful by-products.
It is also worth investing more in dietary supplements. Many cheap cupuacu powders also contain a high proportion of sugar and fillers. Accordingly, a cheap cupuacu powder tends to have the opposite effect instead of the desired one.
|Cupuacu butter, oils, peelings||10-30€|
|Powder and pulp||20-40€|
High-quality cupuacu products can be more expensive, but it's worth it in the end. Your skin will thank you.
What are the different types of cupuacu?
The other is mainly produced to save costs and due to its production method, many positive properties of the cream are lost.
The search continues for the best way to produce cupuacu butter(10).
- refined cupuacu
- unrefined cupuacu
In the next two sections we will go into more detail with these two types of cupuacu body care.
As can be seen in the table above, refined cupuacu butter or oil is the inferior type. Although it is cheap to produce and therefore more affordable for many people, and can be safely heated to higher temperatures, nutrients, flavours and odours are lost.
In addition, the oil loses its health benefits through this method of production. It can still be used for cooking, but it completely loses its health and care properties.
Refined cupuacu oil is therefore only useful for cooking and should not be used for skin or hair care.
Cupuacu oil or butter from this type of production is also called cold-pressed. The oil is extracted from the seed by transporting it through a narrowing screw conveyor.
By adding increasing pressure, the oil is gently pressed out of the cupuacu fruit. This addition of pressure does generate heat, but nowhere near as much as in refined extraction.
This method is more expensive, but it guarantees that ingredients such as polyunsaturated fatty acids, flavours, odours and secondary plant compounds are preserved.
How should Cupuacu be dosed?
If one uses cupuacu and cream, ointment or butter form the only guideline is the size of the area to be treated. To get the ideal result and the softest skin, one should not use too much cream. This allows the cream to be absorbed freely and nourish or heal the skin.
If you use too much cream, it cannot be fully absorbed. The excess makes it hard for the skin to breathe, it quickly gets stuck in clothes and makes them dirty, and it can potentially close pores and lead to pimples.
Even if you take cupuacu as a powder or in pill form, the dosage is not that important. The recommended amount is 1 to 2 teaspoons, which means 3 to 6 grams of the product.
What can cupuacu be combined with?
Otherwise, there are no common combinations. However, if you have a desired mixture in mind, you can get creative with cupuacu powder. There are no known cross-reactions with other food supplements.
What is not recommended is to combine Cupuacu Butter with other oils or butters. For one thing, Brazilian butter conditions very thoroughly on its own and no other conditioning is usually needed.
In the worst case, the combination of different oils can lead to clogged pores and pimples.
What are the side effects of Cupuacu?
The best-known and only side effect is that pure cupuacu butter clogs pores. Therefore, it is not recommended for people with sensitive skin, acne or oily skin.
All other side effects recorded, such as redness and itching, usually go back to other substances. Many creams consist of only a portion of cupuacu and there are other active ingredients such as essential oils, heavy metals and others.
This means that pure cupuacu butter is one of the safest body care products.
To avoid these other active ingredients, it is essential to look for natural cosmetic seals and to buy only pure, unrefined products. You should not skimp on your skin care, otherwise you will pay the price in old age.
Even though chocolate and cocoa products are often associated with nuts, allergy sufferers need not worry about side effects. Cupuacu does not belong to the nut family and is therefore harmless.
How do I prepare cupuacu?
In this table we have briefly summarised the ways of using it.
|Fruit pulp||Beverages, confectionery, dairy products|
The pulp of the plant is mainly appreciated for its sour, aromatic taste. It is widely used in drinks, jams, liqueurs and dairy products such as yoghurt and ice cream. All these products can be bought ready-made, but you can also make them yourself as long as you have access to cupuacu pulp.
The seeds are also used to make chocolate, cocoa, chocolates, ice cream and cakes. The taste is comparable to cocoa, but very different from commercial chocolate. Many people appreciate the unique taste of cupuacu chocolate.
If you want to use cupuacu as a remedy, you should rather use cupuacu powder. This can be used for breakfast in muesli, breakfast bowls and much more.
How can I grow cupuacu myself?
In the German climate, the tree can really only be grown in a greenhouse under the right warmth conditions. In summer it needs 30 degrees and light shade. In winter, the temperature of the soil must not drop below 20 degrees to ensure the survival of the plant.
For the cultivation you need some tools. In this table we have briefly listed the most important ones.
|Glass house||Protects against wind and weather. Helps to keep the plant warm and provide it with enough light.|
|Heating mat or soil heater||Warms not only the visible parts of the plant but also the roots.|
|Spray bottle or automatic humidifier||Increases humidity to mimic Amazon tropical conditions.|
All the things you need for growing can be found on the internet or in garden shops. Both equipment and seeds. The seeds should be planted as soon as possible after purchase, as they quickly lose their germination capacity.
However, you should not be too upset if the tree does not bear fruit. Even with the best care, it can happen that you cannot harvest any fruit.
What is the Comedogenic Rating of Cupuacu?
If a product has a high rating, it will greatly promote acne by clogging pores and is not suitable for use on the face or acne-prone areas such as the back or arms.
However, if a product has a low rating, it is suitable for skin care on the face and sensitive areas. A rating of zero is most ideal. In the following table you can see a compact summary of the rating.
|0||Does not clog pores|
|1||Very low chance of clogged pores|
|2||Low chance of clogged pores|
|3||Medium chance of clogged pores|
|4||High chance of clogged pores|
|5||Very high chance of clogged pores|
Cupuacu butter has a comedogenic rating of 4, as does cocoa butter. This means it is not necessarily suitable for use on the face unless you have super resistant skin.
It is important to note that the comedogenic rating does not indicate the effect of the butter on the rest of the body. Cupuacu Butter is still one of the best body care products available.
Image source: 123rf / 147160323
Fleck, Cynthia Ann, and Mackenzie Newman. “Advanced Skin Care - A Novel Ingredient.” The journal of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists vol. 4,4 92-4. 25 Mar. 2014, doi:10.1016/j.jccw.2014.02.002
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Lo Coco F, Lanuzza F, Micali G, Cappellano G. Determination of theobromine, theophylline, and caffeine in by-products of cupuacu and cacao seeds by high-performance liquid chromatography. J Chromatogr Sci. 2007;45(5):273-275. doi:10.1093/chromsci/45.5.273
Coelho AG, Dos Santos WRP, Dos Santos AA, et al. Plant derived butters as lipid nanocarriers: a systematic and prospective review [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 22]. Recent Pat Nanotechnol. 2020;10.2174/1872210514666200522213144. doi:10.2174/1872210514666200522213144
Balisteiro DM, Araujo RL, Giacaglia LR, Genovese MI. Effect of clarified Brazilian native fruit juices on postprandial glycemia in healthy subjects. Food Res Int. 2017;100(Pt 2):196-203. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.08.044
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