Cocoa originated in South America, according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICO).
Evidence shows Mayan traders enjoyed the bean in liquid form as early as 400 B.C. In fact, the Aztec culture emphasized the “sanctity of cacao.” The ICO also indicates that Christopher Columbus was the first person outside of South America to imbibe and Hernan Cortés brought the drink recipe back to Spain with him.
Today, the cocoa bean has found a place on store shelves in the form of chocolate bars and as a key ingredient in hot chocolate drinks. Thanks to Conrad Von Houten who invented the cocoa press in 1828, the product became available in butter form. This allowed it to be used in diverse products, including massage creams.
Jean Shea, CEO and founder of BIOTONE, notes that cocoa butter is “a versatile, smooth-textured natural fat derived from the cocoa bean,” which makes it the “ultimate moisturizer.” She adds, cocoa butter is rich in Vitamin E and other important vitamins and minerals. It not only hydrates the skin and protects skin from harsh environmental conditions that might cause dryness and promote aging.
Research for Cocoa Butter
A 2014 review supports Shea’s claims. According to the authors, “a growing body of evidence from clinical and bench research has begun to provide scientific validation for the use of cocoa-derived phytochemicals as an effective approach for skin protection.”
The review notes that cocoa contains a number of healthy agents, including plant polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory, immunodulatory (i.e., it can modify or regulate one or more immune functions) and DNA repair properties. They also may help skin that has been overexposed ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Additionally, the presence of the botanical agent theobromine “…stimulates the heart muscle, relaxes bronchial smooth muscles in the lungs and plays an important role in the transmission of intracellular signals,” meaning that it stimulates antioxidant activity.
Cocoa beans are rich in magnesium, copper and potassium, which “…may affect vascular health and function,” according to the review. In spite of these encouraging findings, the authors caution that more studies are needed to “…determine the possible synergistic interaction…” among its many bioactive compounds.
Cocoa Butter May Not Affect Stretch Marks
Indeed, earlier claims that cocoa butter helps reduce stretch marks have not held to scientific scrutiny. A 2008 study examined the effect of cocoa butter lotion on the development of stretch marks on the abdomen, breasts and thighs.
Of 175 first-time mothers, 91 received cocoa butter lotion and 84 were in a control group. They found that patients using the cocoa butter treatment had no difference in likelihood of getting stretch marks compared to the control group.
Cocoa butter creams and lotions still delivers a pleasant experience for your clients. The scent is recognizable and Shea says, “in terms of its use for skin care and massage products, cocoa butter easily absorbs into the skin. It provides smooth glide and extended workability and is good for all modalities.”
Shea reminds massage therapists to check with clients to see if they are allergic to cocoa before using this product.