In our household avocado, both the fresh pears and the rich green oil, rules supreme – whether eaten with a spoon and some Herbamare salt, straight from the skin, or included in luscious, unctuous salads, or mashed with soy sauce and spread on hot toast, or in a spicy guacamole, or simply smeared all over my face!
I can remember my husband David (my boyfriend at the time) giving me some very strange looks when we first met 40 years ago, as I was often tinged pale green. When making salads, the inside of the avocado skin became my instant face pack, or I used the whole fruit in a glorious green hair conditioning concoction. He obviously got used to this strange green-girl sight, because we’ve been married for 42 years and he still loves avos (and me), and I’m still an avid natural oils advocate, for internal (kitchen cuisine) and external (kitchen cosmetics) pleasures.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The word ‘avocado’ originally seems to have derived from the Aztec word ‘ahuácatl’, which means ‘scrotum’, since they considered this shapely delicacy a fertility fruit.
Cold-pressed, unrefined avocado oil is a verdant deep green, with a slightly earthy aroma, while refined oil is usually pale yellow or colourless, and odourless.
Like olive oil, unrefined avocado can solidify somewhat when refrigerated, but it readily returns to its liquid state at room temperature. It is quite common for the oil to be slightly cloudy in cold conditions, and there may even be a deposit present; this can be considered a good sign, as it indicates that the oil has not been through an extensive refining process.
Texture-wise, avocado oil is considered very oily. (I know this sounds a bit oxymoronic, but oils have textures!) It is also slightly viscous, for example compared with grapeseed oil. This texture and viscosity is fine for culinary purposes, but not ideal for personal care use, for example when making a massage oil. For the latter purpose, it can be combined with other oils, such as grapeseed or almond, at a rate of 10 to 25%, though it can be used on its own for very dry skin conditions, as it is readily absorbed. It makes a deeply enriching body butter, which is great for skin that is very dry or exposed to harsh elements. The oil has a good shelf life, generally about 12 months, owing to its inherent antioxidant properties.
Although cosmetic-grade oil was originally expressed from dried avocado pears, or damaged fruit not good enough to market as fresh produce, these days extra-virgin avocado oil is available, extracted from top-quality fruit and suitable for both the discerning culinary and cosmetic markets.
WHAT IS IN AN AVO?
Avocados and their oils contain vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2 and pantothenic acid, and the minerals potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, sodium and copper. They are also rich in lecithin and contain saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids and amino acids/protein.
The avocado is almost a complete food and is easily digested. According to various sources it helps with gastric problems, including constipation, as well as being beneficial for the natural treatment of liver and gallbladder conditions. Being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, avocados are also a healthy food choice for conditions such as Raynaud’s disease.
Where to start? There are myriad external indications, since it is a superb emollient that is moisturising, softening, anti-ageing (it softens wrinkles), and suitable for all skin types. It is rich, nourishing and compatible with the skin’s own sebum, helping to prevent stretch marks, since it improves elastin. Avocado oil is especially recommended for dry and dehydrated skins, inflammation and eczematous conditions, and has a higher degree of penetration into the epidermis than many other fixed (carrier) oils. It can be used instead of wheat germ oil in the case of wheat allergies, due to its antioxidant profile.
FOLKLORE AND TRADITIONAL USES
According to Leung and Foster,1 avocado pulp has been used as a hair pomade to stimulate hair growth, to hasten suppuration, and as an emmenagogue. There are also anecdotal stories about it being used for treating solar keratosis. In Ayurvedic medicine it is regarded as a warming oil, which increases Pitta, so red-heads may want to use it with circumspection. And to top it all, avocado is purported to encourage the eyelashes to grow. Delicious, compact, and oh so versatile!
Green goodness: avocado oil pesto paste sauce
- Leung A, Foster S. Encyclopedia of common natural ingredients used in food, drugs and cosmetics. New York: J Wiley & Sons, 1996.