Did You Know…Brazil’s crown jewel can help prevent skin cancer?
In Brasilia, the capital building faces a square where a single buriti palm tree grows, signifying the great importance of this tree in the Brazilian nation. The capital building is called Palácio do Buriti—the “Buriti Palace,” further underlining the value of this species of palm tree.
The buriti tree, pronounced “bu-REE-chee,” produces an edible fruit often made into juice … jam … ice cream … and a fermented “wine.” The crown jewel of the buriti tree, however, is the potent, protective oil extracted from the pulp. This oil has the capacity to heal a variety of chronic skin conditions from psoriasis to eczema, and it may even be protective against cancer.
The “Tree of Life”—An Oil with a Rich History
Natives and visitors alike have long recognized the powers of the buriti tree. Explorer and naturalist Baron von Humboldt (1769-1859), who lead one of the first scientific missions to the Amazon basin, called buriti “the tree of life.” Perhaps an even more fitting descriptor for the people of Amazonia would be “the tree of daily life.”
According to Chris Kilham, author, professor, and “Explorer in Residence” at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the fruits of the buriti are “popular snacks, and you can find them in every market throughout the entire Amazon basin.” Buriti fruit can be ground and pressed to yield a reddish-orange oil that is rapidly gaining popularity in international markets as a base for products intended to heal and beautify the skin and hair.
TT Cream: Skin Care’s New Triple Threat
Research conducted in labs across South America indicates buriti oil has three especially promising areas of action: anti-inflammatory… anti-oxidant… and photo-protective.
Buriti sparks a natural anti-inflammatory reaction that tames redness, soothes sensitive skin, and calms skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. It can also clear up rashes and irritation. Studies on buriti’s antioxidant activity show it protects the lipid membrane surrounding all skin cells, thereby enhancing cell longevity. The last property may be the most significant.
Scientists noted that some Amazonian natives smear a paste made from buriti on their skin before prolonged sun exposure, and after investigation, were able to confirm its photo-protective powers. It appears buriti oil shields the skin from potentially damaging UVA and UVB rays, making it a suitable, all-natural choice for sun protection. Ongoing research indicates the beta-carotene found in buriti can filter and absorb cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays.
The oil’s power is from its high concentrations of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants such as…
Tocopherols, which Kilham notes provide “superior antioxidant activity”
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids (important precusors to vitamin A)
A “Feel-Good” Side Effect
Buriti may have a significant effect on global as well as personal health. That’s because the production of buriti oil is typically controlled by women, whose job options in Amazonia are highly limited. Women carry out every step of the process: from stripping the fruit from the branches, to soaking the fruit, to scraping the scales, and so on.
Using buriti oil comes with the side effect of a boost to supplementary income for native communities.