Overview
Castanha do Para are seeds, not true nuts, according to the United Nations. A tree that is native to the Amazon rainforest produces them. The oil from Castanha do Para is edible and South Americans often use it in salad dressings. Traditional uses of Castanha do Para oil also include moisturizing the skin. Applying Castanha do Para oil to your skin makes it smooth and adds nutrients. Natural cosmetics manufacturers make a variety of skin care products that incorporate this nut's rich oil.

Identification
The Castanha do Para tree, Bertholletia excelsa, is a member of a plant species that grows from 120 to 180 feet tall. Each tree lives 500 to 800 years and they grow in Peru, Bolivia, Jamaica, Guyana, Malaysia and the United States. Each tree bears its fruit inside of pods the size of a grapefruit, with the individual nuts encased inside. Butter nut, para nut, and cream nut are other common names for Castanha do Para. Brazil has exported the whole nuts with distinctive hard shells for centuries.

Constituents
Brazil Nut, also known as Castanha do Pará, is a native species of the high forests in the non-floodable zones of the Brazilian Amazon region; it is well known and used in food and cosmetics. The seeds contain kernels that are its most useful part. They give a fine, valuable oil, which is rich in vitamins A, B, C and E; it also contains proteins, minerals, and trace elements, such as calcium, iron, zinc, sodium and potassium, which are essential for skin and hair vitality. The nuts are 66 to 69 percent oil. The oil is a good source of vitamins A and E, selenium, magnesium and thiamine. The extracted oil also contains phytosterols and amino acids.

Uses
Castanha do Para oil often becomes an emulsifier for body creams or butters. It makes a rich, moisturizing soap. You can use this oil alone on your skin or as a carrier for essential oils in skin care preparations. Skin care products that contain Castanha do Para oil range from moisturizers to foot creams and soap. Bath oils, aftershave, sunscreen, lip balms and massage oils use Castanha do Para oil. Leading cosmetics brands sell these products in health food stores, upscale cosmetics boutiques and department stores.

Benefits
Dry skin, aging skin, psoriasis and eczema are the main uses for Castanha do Para oil. The nut's high selenium content gives it excellent antioxidant properties. The vitamins A and E in this oil provide additional antioxidants that increase the value of the oil on your skin.

Considerations
Since Castanha do Para are edible, little scientific research has been conducted on the cosmetic uses of the oil. Income from the extraction of Castanha do Para oil gives people in Brazil's rural areas an alternative livelihood that does not depend on destruction of the rainforest's eco-system through logging. Several nonprofit organizations work with local communities to develop marketing and distribution options for Castanha do Para oil products. The wild-harvested nuts also have good potential for sales in the organic products marketplace, but certification standards are often difficult to meet. Greenpeace notes that large international cosmetics companies can set prices that do not conform to established fair trade practices. Investigate the retailer's and manufacturer's fair trade policies before you buy Castanha do Para skin care products.

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Brazil Nut
Castanha do Para