Of the approximately 2,650 species of palm, only a few are widely used by humans. The most popular is the edible coconut, and not far behind it is the African palm. Far out of the realm of highly touted palms, there is a prickly fellow gaining the attention of curly tops — it is called murumuru.
You may have seen this name on some of your favorite hair or skin care products, yet may feel in the dark about what it is and where it comes from. Murumuru and murui are the Portuguese names for Astrocaryum murumuru. In Spanish this tree is called chonta, chuchana and huicongo. Murumuru is in the family arecaceae; the genus Astrocaryum and the species Murumuru. The plant has spines or sharp edges that require proper precaution during harvest. Murumuru is prickled everywhere, even the seeds and flowers.
Murumuru grows in the Amazon Basins, enjoying a distinctive place in the local ecosystems as one of the dominant trees. It grows particularly well in Northern Brazil, especially Maranhao. Finding the tree on your own could prove tricky, however, because the species varies radically. It can be short and without stems or tall with more than one robust trunk. Murumuru has a shuttlecock-like crown at the top, with large, flat leaves that have very closely spaced leaflets and silvery undersides.
Useful Parts of Murumuru
Oil is a common constituent of most types of seeds, and palms have large, abundant seeds. The palm nut is wildcrafted (meaning it is not cultivated). Many people prefer wildcrafted botanicals because they have not been treated with pesticides or fertilizers and are a very integrated part of their environment. Local people cherish Murumuru nuts for their numerous contributions to health and wellness. They also hold a special place in the folklore and mythology of several areas.
The oil derived from murumuru nut is used for many purposes. The large fruits are edible, and the seed kernel is a significant source of edible oil. The kernel also produces a rich extract used by the beauty industry for shampoos, conditioners and skin care products. A rich lather is derived from its kernels is useful in soaps and shampoos.
Integrating Murumuru into Your Beauty Regimen
Still, with so many types of oils available internationally you might wonder why folks go through all the stinging prickles to get to the fruit and seed of murumuru in particular. For one, the lipids present in the plant material hydrate and moisturize the skin and hair in a very intense way. The emolliency supports the integrity of the skin and your hair’s cutaneous barrier. Moreover, murumuru is chock full of nurturing vitamins and minerals. The nutty aroma of organic murumuru puts us in touch with Mother Earth — and is a tangible part of the great Amazon rainforest.
Pertinent specifically to visitors to NaturallyCurly.com, murumuru is especially useful to people of all ethnicities with kinky, curly or wavy hair because of its softening ability. Often, kinky, and some types of curly, hair feels coarse. Murumuru coats coarse curls, making them more supple and manageable. Products containing an appreciative amount of murumuru oil or extract are well suited to textured curls. Murumuru products moisturize the hair with lasting hydration, controlling frizz and defining curls.
The rich butter made from murumuru is a light amber color, with an earthen aroma. It is rich in oleic acid, which promotes health. Oleic acid-rich botanicals aid with moisture retention, benefiting the skin and hair. The emollient constituents in murumuru enhance the natural gloss of hair and provide sheen to naturally dull, kinky or highly textured hair. Murumuru ingredients also provide a healthy shine to chemically treated, over-processed or otherwise damaged hair
If these stunning benefits were not enough to draw your attention, there is even more to murumuru. As mentioned earlier, murumuru is wildcrafted and this is done by local residents of Amazon communities. Purchasing Amazonian murumuru products helps remote communities gain income opportunities and strengthens local economies. This helps indigenous and rural communities retain or build economic independence. Utilizing products or botanical ingredients that have been purchased through fair-trade programs deters deterioration of local communities and the rich cultural heritage they support. It also slows down the economic drive for cutting down trees. The eco-system is allowed to function naturally as it has for many years. Through fair-traded products such as those containing murumuru, the community is rewarded for stewarding trees while the local economy is enhanced.
For example, the river-dwelling population of Marajo stopped cutting down trees including murumuru palm once they could generate income from the fruits and fallen seeds of the plants. Professional growth in harmony with natural resources is being referred to as ‘socially responsible entreprenuership’. In the following resources you will find a few of the companies promoting hair and skincare products that contain wildcrafted murumuru obtained using fair-trade programs.
Stephanie Rose Bird | May 1st, 2006