Avocado can be a curly girl's best friend

I love the avocado in all of its forms. I find an avocado can give a decadent flair to an otherwise bland salad or sandwich, not to mention my affection for guacamole. But it's also an amazing beauty elixir, especially good for curly hair.This article will systemically explain "everything avocado" -- from its origins and history to its growth, distribution and uses -- both folk and commercial -- in health and beauty products.

As a beginning soap maker and creator of natural products, I have found a 1,001 uses for avocado oil. It is great for super-fatting soap, which means it remains a free, readily available ingredient in soap, unhampered by the cold processed soap-making process. Avocado oil, added at the end of its process (right before pouring into molds), adds emollient and humectant properties. Of course, as a hot-oil treatment, it does much the same for the hair (there is a recipe at the end of this article). The oil can be used for manicures and pedicures as well. Today, avocado butter -- another way of processing the oil -- has a dense, buttery consistency, making it ideal for creating at-home spa products.

Apart from the oil, the flesh itself can be mashed and prepared into an effective, easy-to-make deep conditioner for damaged or dry hair. I started making soaps and creams about eight years ago. Since then, a plethora of products -- especially hair products -- have popped onto the market containing avocado.

Avocado Persea Americana

Avocado belongs to the Laurel family; in fact, it is the only significant edible fruit of the laurel family, Lauraceae. It is related to cinnamon, camphor and sassafras.

There are three major botanical classifications for avocado:

Guatemalan Avocado: P. nubigena var. guatemalensis L. Wms.
Mexican avocado: P. Americana Mill. Var. drymifolia Blake
West Indian Avocado: Persea Americana Mill. Var Americana

Many of the nicknames for avocado attest to its lush consistency: vegetable butter, butter pear, Midshipman’s butter. In Spanish, it is called aquacate, cura, cupandra and palta.

History

Avocados flourish in Florida and California. Those U.S. states and Mexico are where we get most of our avocados. But the avocado has been a world traveler.

The avocado probably comes from Southern Mexico, but has been cultivated from the Rio Grande to Peru long before the arrival of European explorers. With the explorers, it was transported to the West Indies, making it to Jamaica by 1696 and many other places in the tropics and subtropics where it grew well. At the end of the 1700s, it was taken to the Philippine Islands. It was established in the Dutch East Indies by the mid 1700s and Mauritius in the late 1700s. The avocado was transported to Singapore around 1835 and India by the late 1800s, growing well around Madras and Bangalore. It was grown in Hawaii in 1825, and was common throughout the Hawaiian Islands by the early 1900s.

Dr. Henry Perrine brought avocado trees to Florida and California in 1833 and 1871 respectively. Propagation began by the late 1800s.

Today the avocado is raised commercially in North and South America as well as Australia and New Zealand. It does especially well on islands, including the Polynesia, the Philippines, Madagascar, Mauritius, Madeira and Canary Islands. It also is grown in many parts of Africa. including Algeria and Egypt, tropical Africa and South Africa. Avocados grow in Europe's Mediterranean region, including: Southern Spain and Southern France, Sicily and Crete. It also is grown in Palestine and Israel. The five largest exporters of avocados are Mexico, California, Israel, South Africa and Florida.

Growth and Habit

Because of the numerous varieties, avocado trees vary in height, leaf shape and trunk size. They grow on erect trees, 30 to 60 feet high. The tree is remarkably green, although it is not a true evergreen. It only sheds its leaves during dry seasons in the tropical places where it grows. Perhaps the greatest variation is within the leaves, which can be 3-16 inches long The leaves are dark, glossy and forest green on one side and whitish on the other. The shape also varies. The Mexican variety smells like anise (mildly licorice-like). Small, pale-green or yellow-green flowers appear during the blooming season, showing up profusely near the branch tips.

The avocado fruit ranges from 3 to 13 inches long and can be 6 inches wide. The flesh ranges from a yellowish-green to deep-green or very dark-green, reddish-purple, or so dark a purplish black. The tough outer skin has a broad range of appearances. from small yellow speckles to a smooth, pebbly one; glossy or dull; thin or leathery and up to 1/4-inch thick. Right under the skins of some avocados, you’ll find a thin layer of soft, bright-green flesh. But most often, the flesh is consistently pale to rich-yellow, with mildly buttery taste.

One of the more interesting parts of avocado for health and beauty is the seed, which is oblate, round, conical or oval; 2 to 2 1\2 inches long, hard and heavy. An off-white skin is enclosed in a couple of layers papery brown, thin skin. The seed pushes out of the fruit easily.

Avocados begin to ripen when removed from the tree, because of a maturation inhibitor in the stem. Gardeners consider the crop ripe when some of the mature fruits fall to the ground. The largest fruits are generally picked first. Avocados ripen in one to two weeks. It is not advisable to allow the fruits to remain on the tree too long into the season because they will most likely be destroyed by weather conditions.

Nutritious Avocado Oil

Chemically, avocado contains 1.5 to 2.5 percent protein and 13-22 percent oil[1]. Avocado Oil is rich in vitamins A, B, C and E. The amino acid content range is: palmitic, 7.0; stearic, 1.0; oleic, 79.0; linoleic, 13.0.

Avocado oil has a great shelf life (one of the qualities I appreciate the most with herbal formulations). It has been reported to last as long as 12 years when kept at 40ºF. I have found it to be very useful for kinky, curly or wavy hair because of its rich viscosity. Like many tropical oils, it has some ability to filter out rays of the sun, it is non-allergenic and is similar to lanolin in its penetrating and softening abilities.

Because avocado oil is highly humectant and emollient, it draws moisture, which is especially good for hair. A nutritious hair and skin oil, avocado oil contains traces of B complex and iron, phosphorus, varying a range of calcium, and a decent amount of ascorbic acid - a natural preservative. Avocado halves average only 136 to 150 calories. Avocado oil contains a healthy variety of amino acids, saturated fatty acids and lipids. As fatty as it sounds, it is a good type of fat recorded to help reduce (bad) cholesterol in some patients.

Uses:

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is a very thick, nutritious oil useful for soaking nails, smoothing the feet, elbows and rough skin (a dime-sized amount) applied directly to the area. Oil extracted from the seed has been applied to skin eruptions. (Always choose cold-pressed over other processes for health reasons.)

For hair, it is used in hot-oil treatments and for deep, hair conditioning;

Avocado Skin

The skin is antibiotic and is is used in folk medicine to kill bugs within the body and to treat dysentery.

Avocado Flesh

Avocado pulp can be whipped smooth and applied to face or massaged into the hair for a quick and easy softening, conditioning and moisturizing mask.

The fruit has the highest energy content of any fruit. It is high in its vitamin and mineral content, as well as a good source of mono-unsaturated fat and soluble and insoluble fiber.

In poor areas of the world, it has been coined the “poor man’s butter.”

Leaves

  • Avocado leaves produce an oil, estragol, that is used in the cosmetics industry. and also possesses the ability to deter insects.
  • The leaves are chewed to treat pyorrhea, a very serious gum disease.
  • Leaf poultices are used to treat wounds.
  • Heated leaves can be applied to the forehead to relieve headaches.
  • The leaf juice contains antibiotics.
  • An herbal infusion made from the leaves is used to treat hypertension.
  • Avocado leaf infusion is used to treat diarrhea, sore throat, stomachache, hemorrhage as well as irregular menstruation.

Seed

  • The powdered seed is used to combat dandruff.
  • The seed is cut in pieces, roasted, powdered and used as a diarrhea or dysentery remedy.
  • A piece of the seed, or a bit of the decoction, put into a tooth cavity is used in folk medicine to relieve toothache.
  • Ointment made of the pulverized seed is rubbed on the face to draw energy to the area, reddening it and working as a natural blusher.

Summary

There is so much goodness in avocado. Thankfully today it is readily available just about anywhere you look. If you have coarse, kinky, naturally curly or wavy hair, run; don’t walk--get yourself an avocado to condition your hair or a hair care product containing a high percentage of organic avocado—an unbelievable, naturally nutritious treat for the hair.


Products Featuring Avocado


Avocado Recipes

Avocado Hot-Oil TreatmentWhatever the season, the hair can benefit from a little special treatment beyond the usual shampoo or conditioner. I recommend this dense, hot oil treatment to add shine, strengthen and, if used regularly, lengthen the hair. It has a minty, floral scent provided by the essential oils, which also help condition hair and scalp. Recommended for dry, damaged, color-treated or chemically treated hair.¾ cup avocado oil
1/8 cup safflower oil
1/8 cup sweet almond oil
8 drops lavender; 6 drops lemongrass oil and rosemary; 4 drops geranium (essential oils)Mix fixed oils (first three ingredients) in order given in a non-reactive bowl. Heat 40 seconds in microwave-safe bowl. Using individual droppers, drop in essential oils in order given; swirl to mix. Test on back of wrist to make sure temperature is acceptable (not too hot). Divide hair into small sections; secure with clips or bobby pins. Apply warmed oils to scalp and ends of hair. Massage in. Put on a shower cap or other plastic head wrap. Let oils continue to warm using body heat and sunlight if available for 45 minutes. Shampoo and style as usual.Remainder can be stored in sterile jar for later use as long as you keep it pure (no water). It is okay to double this recipe for longer hair.

Avocado Conditioner

Avocado Conditioner is designed to be made and used immediately. Discard leftovers, use as a facial or share it with someone else to use.

Flesh of a ripe avocado
¼ cup coconut cream
¼ cup coconut water
3 tablespoons mayonnaise containing egg

In medium-sized bowl mix avocado and coconut cream). In very small bowl whisk together coconut water and mayonnaise; use spatula to add this to the first mixture. Whisk all together until smooth. Divide hair into 6-8 segments. Slather green mixture on each segment working all the way into hair, from scalp area to the ends. Put on shower cap or other loose fitting plastic cap. Sit out in the sun if possible or under dryer on medium high setting, if available. Leave on hair for 45 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Shampoo and style as usual.


Resources

1) A couple of good online essential oil suppliers are: www.100pureessentialoils.com and www.libertynatural.com. Liberty Natural Products also sells bottles, jars, avocado oil and butter; natural sponges and many other natural ingredients, so it is easy to accrue their minimum.2) Wholesale Supplies Plus sells a base shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath, body butter, lotions and creams to which you can add avocado oil and essential oils. This company also sells bottles, jars, funnels and labels.

3) www.Fromnaturalwithlove.com sells avocado oil and avocado butter as well as pure essential oils. (From Nature With Love)


[1] Dooley, Puerto Rican Cookbook, 109.