First in a series I’m calling “I need to know more about this crazy plant.”
Salvation is an absolutely amazing balm that goes on relatively silky and matte, considering it is composed purely of oils and butters. It was inspired by a random purchase of Ucuuba butter. Many of my suppliers have minimum order requirements, and as a small business just starting out, sometimes it can be hard to meet them. On one such occasion, I needed to purchase a few other items to get my order to meet the minimum at a supplier who is truly renowned for their incredibly broad selection of natural raw materials, so I just started browsing.
I found this crazy, brown crumbly butter called Ucuuba and just figured it would be fun to experiment with, so I bought it. Did it ever blow my mind when it arrived. Both the smell and texture were absolutely perplexing yet addicting and I will try very hard to explain them here.
Smell: It smells like a mix of soap and BBQ sauce, but is not unpleasant. It is in fact, quite comforting, compelling and utterly distinctive. My mother likened it to the scent of a venerable old home with ancient polished woods, and it was my brother who used the word “perplexing” and said he didn’t know if he was in the shower or at a barbeque. It is clean and earthy all at once.
Texture: In this line of work, I am always getting requests from friends and family for things to make. Usually it annoys me because I know I want to focus on this very narrow niche of anti-aging, luxury acne skincare, but it’s stuff like: Black pepper smells amazing – make black pepper lotion. Or: If you can make a salve for climber’s hands, you could make a mint. The hand salve that is truly repairing and hydrating is a recurring theme, and one I resonate with because my hands get uncomfortably dry as well.
Well, the Ucuuba, if you take a chunk, and close your hand around it, begins to soften and you can rub it into your hands. And oh my goodness, wow. The feel is a little like wax – matte and protective, but oh so hydrating and nourishing. And instead of disappearing in 5 minutes, this stays on for a long while. But despite all of this, it feels light and lovely and not at all heavy. And putting it on my face does not clog pores (Yay!) but DOES (and I was surprised) mellow cysts out, so they shrink overnight.
So absolutely ravishing and powerful and unique was this butter, that I HAD to find out more. So I googled. Unfortunately, there is not a lot out there, but this is what I was able to compile:
Ucuuba is a native tree of the floodplains found throughout the Amazonian region, but it is found throughout Central and South America. The indigenous name of the tree means grease (ucu) and tree (yba). Its botanical name is Virola surinamensis and it is also called Baboonwood and Wild Nutmeg. It prefers flooded regions, and reaches a height of 25 to 35 m. A mature tree can produce between 30 to 50 kg of seeds per year. The seeds are so rich in fats that butter extract yields can reach 50% per kilo of seeds (dry weight).
Interestingly, the Amazonian rainforest, known to be one of the most species-rich areas on the planet, is actually dominated by a only few types of trees. While the forest harbors around 16,000 tree species, only 227 of them account for nearly half of the trees that thrive there, and Baboonwood is one of the dominant species. Although, it is still on the endangered list, because it has been cut down a lot for its wood, which is of very good quality.
In home medicine, it is used to treat rheumatism, arthritis, colic, ulcers, and hemorrhoids. Soaps and creams made with ucuuba show a proven anti-inflammatory effect, and have healing and anti-septic properties. Ucuuba Butter is said to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and is ideal for treating acne, eczema and dry or irritated skin. Exceptionally rich in essential fatty acids, Ucuuba Butter is considered to have anti-aging properties and can be used to replenish tone and moisture to dry and mature skin.
Traditionally, the tree was used to treat intestinal worms. The Amazon Indians who live in the west of Amapá State in Brazil, treat malaria with an inhalation of vapor obtained from leaves of Ucuhuba (another spelling). It’s also used as a ceremonial hallucinogenic and as snuff by other tribes. Crazy!
The fruits are collected along beaches and streams throughout the Amazon region, stored, and sold – that is why it is easy to find “wild-crafted” Uccuba butter – because no one is growing these trees outside of their natural wild habitat – the rainforests!
The butter of ucuuba has a high-melting point (53 °C) and saponification value (220 mg KOH / g oil), which exceeds the values of beef tallow (!!!) and makes ucuuba butter an ideal raw material that could replace animal tallow in fine soaps and other fatty substances in the food and pharmaceutical industries that need a high melting point. Vegans rejoice!
Ucuuba butter is ultra rich in Lauric, Myristic and Palmitic acid – crucial in healthy cell development, regulation of the immune system and maintenance of healthy skin and hair.
Ucuuba butter is also rich in:
- Vitamin C – contributes for maintaining a healthy skin by promoting wound healing and by protecting cellular DNA against damage caused by oxidation. Vitamin C helps to improve wound healing by stimulating fibroblasts to divide and by promoting their migration into the wounded area speeding the healing process of the skin damage.
- Vitamin A (retinol) – vitamin A derivatives helps to unclog pores, boost collagen synthesis, reduces fine lines, speed cell renewal, evens out discoloration and smoothes the skin.
- Rich in unsaturated fatty acids (UFA) fundamental for maintain skin hydration and the equilibrium of skin barrier and in phenols with anti-inflammatory, healing and anti-septic properties.
Bottom line: my face and skin and armpits (long story – recovering from a deoderant mishap) all love this butter as does my mind and soul!
It is a shame there is not more information about (or interest in) the richness of Amazonian (and other exotic) flora. I hope that with moss, not only will I make beautiful, effective skincare that people obsess over, but I hope to bring awareness to the plants and the regions the ingredients come from, inspiring us to take care of the beautiful gifts Nature has given us.
Ucuuba: a very special butter from a very special plant.