Avocado Oil

avocado-oil

About Botanical Oils

The use of botanical oils can be traced back thousands of years, with roots in cultures as diverse as the ancient Sumerians, Chinese and Roman Empire.[1] Botanical oils are prepared from whole plant, preserving its scent, main active ingredients, and the essence of the plant. Botanical oils made from various plants have been used throughout history to honor gods,[2] prepare bodies for funerals,[3] preserve beauty, assist with hygiene and treat a wide variety of medical conditions. Instructions for the preparation and use of plants as medicine is catalogued in the works of Dioscorides, De materia medica[4], back in the first century.

Modern technology has allowed the active parts of plants to be identified and studied for their role in health and their usefulness against various medical conditions. The value of botanical oils has stood the test of time.

 

The Properties Of Avocado

History

The avocado was first grown in Southern Mexico, enjoyed by Native Americans and cultivated by the Aztecs. Seeds of avocados, determined to be 10,000 years old, have been found in caves south of Mexico City. Throughout the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers to South and Central America made reference to these strange “pears” whose edible part is “a paste similar to butter” and noted the compatibility of the avocado with cheese.[5]

The avocado, whose botanical name is Persea Americana, is a member of the Lauraceae or laurel family, along with cinnamon and bay leafs. All members of this family have a woody part to them, easily noted in the hard seed at the center of the avocado. Although we are most familiar with the Hass Avocado, there are at least 80 varieties of avocado. Avocado plants were planted in Florida and California in 1850[6]. Today approximately 90 percent of the U.S. avocado market and 10 percent of the world avocado market is produced in California.[7]

 

The Seed

avocado

The hard pit at the center of the avocado is not widely considered edible, but it is rich in anti-oxidants and potassium. The skin and the seed are usually discarded when oils or the fruit are commercially prepared. In an effort to minimize waste, extracts are made from the polyphenol-rich skin and seeds. These extracts are added to oils and to burger meat to prevent oxidation, extending their shelf life.[8]

Eating avocado seeds is not harmful to humans, except the mechanical difficulty of chewing such a woody seed. There are avocado enthusiasts who advocate blending the seed and adding it to smoothies, oatmeal or other foods.[9] The assumption that the presence of polyphenols in the seed means that they come out simply by blending is misleading. The anti-oxidants present in the dense material of the avocado skin and seed are obtained via an extraction process that is beyond the capacity of a blender.

 

Nutrients

The avocado is extremely nutrient dense, and people who eat them are less likely to have common nutritional deficiencies than most Americans. A typical serving size is one half of an avocado, and it provides a rich variety of nutrients. Each half of an avocado contains 4.6g of fiber, very little sugar (0.2g), and lots of water, making it an ideal snack for diabetics. Along with its rich fatty acid content, the high fiber and water content creates a food that satisfies hunger for longer[10] and improves weight loss.[11]

The avocado is rich in beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs, 71 percent), some polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, 13 percent) and saturated fats (16 percent). It contains no cholesterol. The small amount of saturated fat in the avocado actually decreases as it ripens, converting to more oleic acid, the primary MUFA in avocados.[12] Monounsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature, so you can note this process yourself as the fruit becomes more pliable over time.

In addition to fatty acids, avocados contain double the potassium found in bananas, very little sodium, lecithin and high amounts of several other vitamins and minerals including magnesium, vitamins A, C, E and K1, B vitamins folate, B2, B3, B5 and B6, choline, antioxidants such as lutein/zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin and phytosterols. It is the only plant food that is high in both vitamin C, a water-soluble anti-oxidant, and vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant.[13]

Beyond the nutrient benefit that the avocado itself brings to the diet, the use of avocados or avocado oil on a salad actually increases absorption of other anti-oxidants, especially carotene.[14] Add an avocado to meals with carrots, salsa and spinach and other carotene rich foods to get the maximum benefit.

 

Did You Know?

Enhance the phytonutrient content of your avocado snack by eating the dark green layer found along the nutrient-rich peel and seed. Use the “nick and peel” method suggested by the California Avocado Association:

1) Cut the avocado in half the long way, all the way down to the seed.

2) Cut the avocado in half the long way again, creating 4 long quarters.

3) Rotate the avocado in your hands to separate the quarters.

4) Pull the seed out gently with your fingers.

5) Peel the fruit gently by sliding your thumb under the peel to start, and then pulling the peel back off the fruit.[15]

 

Avocado Oil Preparation

Avocado oil is made from the fruit of the ripe avocado. More oil is extracted from fruit that is past the peak of the ripeness, but if it is rotten when processed, the collected oil has a foul smell.[16] The skin and the seed are removed before processing.[17] There are many suggestions for how to make avocado oil at home,[18] but they often use coconut cream as part of the process. While it is removed via straining at the end, it is not pure avocado oil.

 

Mechanical Extraction

The fruit of the avocado, once separated from its skin and seed, is mechanically pressed or ground to a pulp, then “malaxed” or left alone to allow oil to form large droplets, for 40 to 60 minutes. The pulp is then removed by a centrifuge, leaving a bright green oil. The green color comes from the high chlorophyll content.[19] Water comes away from the pulp along with the oil, so the oil, which floats on the water, is allowed to flow out of holes in the collection drum. The resulting unrefined oil is somewhat thick. If further processed, the resulting refined oil will be smoother and lighter in color.[20]

 

Distillation Extraction

Distillation extraction means exposing a plant to water or steam to break down the plant material and release the essential oil. The oils are cooled and condensed for collection.[21]

Steam distillation is used to extract active constituents from the peel and seed of the avocado. The oils, which are valuable for their anti-microbial properties and anti-oxidant capacity,[22] are effectively removed simply using steam distillation. These oils, which are poorly soluble in water, do have an affinity for ethanol and a higher yield of these oils is possible if anhydrous ethanol is used.[23]

 

Medicinal Uses For Avocado Oil
avocado-oil2

Botanical oils are a base for many cosmetics and topical pharmaceuticals. The best absorption happens when plants have lots of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that is present in abundance in avocados, and saturated fats with long carbon backbones, like the stearic acid present in avocados.[24]

 

Uses In Ayurvedic And Chinese Medicine

In Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine system of India, the rich oils of the avocado are valued as grounding and nourishing. It is a food recommended in Ayurvedic medicine for use in the dry seasons of fall and winter, and to support poor digestion, joint health, essential vitality and skin conditions.[25]

In traditional Chinese medicine, avocado is used to treat the GI tract and lungs. It lubricates the colon to treat constipation and stomach ulcers. Avocado also moistens the lungs to treat chronic coughs. The oils are considered nourishing to the Yin and therefore protective of an aging body.[26]

 

Burns And Scars

Stearic acid, the saturated fat in avocado oil, is anti-viral and anti-inflammatory. It has been demonstrated to be effective at treating chemical burns, decreasing the redness and irritation of the burn.[27] There are no trials demonstrating that effect on humans, but there is evidence from trials done on rats that components of the avocado,[28] combined with similar components of the soybean, did improve wound healing.[29] The component is called an unsaponifiable, which means oils that retain their properties and do not mix to create soap.[30]

 

Osteoarthritis

The unsaponifiable part of an avocado is the fraction that cannot be made into soap. It contains lots of fat-soluble vitamins and phytosterols. Avocado unsaponifiables, when combined with soy unsaponifiables (together abbreviated as ASU), are very effective at treating osteoarthritis, a painful condition of the joints. ASU has been shown to reduce joint pain and inflammation, reducing the need for medications, which carry the risk of serious side effects. More impressive, these plant components prevent the progression of osteoarthritis, which pain medication alone cannot do.[31]

 

Anti-Aging

Avocado oil is green, and fairly thick, making it less desirable as massage oil. However, its ability to penetrate the skin deeply, paired with the rich nutrient profile of avocado oil, makes it a popular choice for anti-aging. Vitamins A, D and E, all of which are abundant in avocado oil, moisturize dry skin. Its rich antioxidant profile combined with the high fat content work to restore collagen and skin elasticity.[32]

The anti-aging effects have been found from eating avocados as well. The rich anti-oxidant content of avocados helps repair DNA, reversing the effects of ionizing radiation and slowing the aging process.[33]

 

Infections

The pits have been studied for their anti-microbial activity. As more organisms show resistance to pharmaceutical antimicrobials, the interest in plant material is expanding. Avocado seeds have been shown to be effective against several strains of Candida, E. Coli, Staph aureus and methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA).[34]

 

Cardiovascular Health

While it is very high in fat, the avocado oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, along with beta-sitosterol, and contains no sugar. The low sugar content of the avocado helps stabilize blood sugar in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.[35]

Plant sterols are used to help lower cholesterol. Better clinical studies are needed to determine whether avocados prevent deaths from heart disease, but it has been shown that an avocado-rich diet improves the risk factors for heart disease. Avocados have been shown to lower total cholesterol while preserving[36] or increasing HDL, and lowering LDL, the “bad cholesterol.”[37]

The main saturated fat in avocados is the 16-carbon fat stearic acid. Stearic acid when eaten is the most poorly absorbed of the common fatty acids, so most of it is passed through the GI tract. When found in the blood stream, it does not convert to the triglycerides that are well recognized as a contributor to heart disease. The liver quickly converts stearic in the blood stream to the unsaturated fatty acid oleic acid.[38]

 

Cancer Prevention

In addition to the recognized place for nutrient-dense foods, including the avocado, in preventing cancer,[39] the avocado is being studied for possible efficacy against cancer. Several bioactive phytochemicals taken from avocado have shown promise in fighting cancers ranging from cancers of the head and neck to prostate cancer.[40] Persin, an anti-fungal agent present in small doses in the avocado’s skin and seed, may be effective at treating breast cancer.[41]

 

Psoriasis

When combined with vitamin B12 in a topical cream, avocado oil has been shown to be effective for managing chronic plaque psoriasis. It was consistently effective at managing symptoms without side effects and without waning in efficacy over a 12-week trial.[42]

 

Traditional Uses

Spanish explorers observed Aztec cultivation of the avocado and noted the resemblance of the avocado to a testicle. The Spanish word for avocado is ahuacate, which was the Aztec word for testicle.[43] At the time it was believed that plants that resembled body parts would enhance the function of that body part, so they believed the avocado would serve as an aphrodisiac and enhance male virility.[44]

Avocado oil is also popular for essential oils preparations. The oil has a bland scent,[45] so it does not overpower the essential oils that may be added to it.

avocado-oil3

 

Questions About Avocado Oil

What should I look for in an avocado oil?

Unrefined, expeller pressed almond oil will contain the best profile of nutrients and fats. Avocado oil is green when it is extracted, but it quickly turns pale brown. If an avocado oil is bright green, it has probably been altered or dyed with coloring agents.

 

If I am allergic to latex, can I use avocado oil?

If you have an allergy to latex, or if you are not sure if you have a latex allergy, avocado oil should be avoided, even as a topical agent. The IgE reaction that occurs when someone has a latex allergy seems to cause a cross-reaction with certain foods, including avocados, as well as bananas and kiwi.[46]

 

Is it safe to use avocado oil with kids?

If your child has a latex allergy or if you are not sure if your child has a latex allergy, avocado oil should be avoided, even as a topical agent. The flavor of the oil itself may not agree with kids, but the fats contained in an avocado are wonderful support for their developing nervous system. Whole avocados are often pureed as a baby’s first solid food or added to smoothies to give them a creamy consistency, loaded with nutrients.

 

Can I cook with avocado oil?

Avocado oil is an overlooked gem for cooking. Nutrient rich and stable at high heat (higher than olive oil),[47] it is a way to protect your heart when frying and a great option for sautéing as well.[48] It does have a bitter flavor when heated,[49] so adjustments to the recipe may be needed to improve the palatability.

 

How long is the shelf life of avocado oil?

Kept under proper storage conditions, avocado oil will last about 1 year. Vitamin E may be added at a concentration of 1 percent to help extend the shelf life.[50]

 

Is avocado oil a good sunscreen?

Many sites claim that avocado oil is effective as a sunscreen, however there is no evidence to support that claim. While avocado oil penetrates the skin and contains lots of antioxidants, the only study examining it as a sunscreen was using the avocado oil as a base for octyl methoxycin and titanium dioxide.[51] Always use a sunscreen with a guaranteed SPF.

 

Will I gain weight from the calories in avocado oil?

Most studies show that weight loss is the result of avocado in the diet. As a nutrient-dense food, it can help you feel full sooner, replacing higher carbohydrate foods that are lower in nutrients overall.[52][53]

 

Caution And Considerations

The IgE allergy reaction that occurs when someone has a latex allergy seems to cause a cross-reaction with certain foods, including avocados, as well as bananas and kiwi.[54] Avoid avocados if you have a latex allergy until you talk it over with your doctor.

Persin is the toxic component of the skin and seeds of avocados. It seems to be mostly safe for dogs to eat, but other household or farm animals, including cattle, goats, horses, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, sheep, budgerigars, canaries, cockatiels, ostriches, chickens, turkeys and fish, may develop serious complications from eating avocados.[55]

 

References:

[1] http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Botanical_Medicine.aspx

[2] Bill T. Arnold, H. G. M. Williamson. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. InterVarsity Press, Sep 26, 2011. P 33

[3] http://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Burial/

[4] https://www.wdl.org/en/item/10632/

[5] http://www.britannica.com/plant/Laurales#ref594467

[6] http://ucanr.org/sites/alternativefruits/files/121262.pdf

[7] http://www.britannica.com/plant/Laurales#ref594467

[8] Gómez, Francisco Segovia et al. “Avocado Seeds: Extraction Optimization and Possible Use as Antioxidant in Food.” Antioxidants 3.2 (2014): 439–454. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4665478/

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/10/08/eating-avocado-stone-seed-benefits_n_8262648.html

[10] Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/

[11] Wien, Michelle et al. “A Randomized 3×3 Crossover Study to Evaluate the Effect of Hass Avocado Intake on Post-Ingestive Satiety, Glucose and Insulin Levels, and Subsequent Energy Intake in Overweight Adults.” Nutrition Journal 12 (2013): 155. PMC. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4222592/

[12] Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/

[13] Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/

[14] Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. “Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil.” J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):431-6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15735074

[15] http://www.californiaavocado.com/how-tos/how-to-choose-and-use-an-avocado#cut-cac

[16] http://www.avocadosource.com/WAC1/WAC1_p159.pdf

[17] http://www.californiaavocado.com/blog/how-avocado-oil-is-made

[18] http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Avocado-Oil

[19] http://www.aocs.org/Membership/FreeCover.cfm?ItemNumber=1099

[20] http://www.californiaavocado.com/blog/how-avocado-oil-is-made

[21] https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/how-are-essential-oils-extracted/

[22] Gómez, Francisco Segovia et al. “Avocado Seeds: Extraction Optimization and Possible Use as Antioxidant in Food.” Antioxidants 3.2 (2014): 439–454. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4665478/

[23] http://scholarsresearchlibrary.com/aasr-vol3-iss4/AASR-2011-3-4-411-423.pdf

[24] Viljoen JM, Cowley A, du Preez J, Gerber M, du Plessis J. Penetration enhancing effects of selected natural oils utilized in topical dosage forms.Drug Dev Ind Pharm. 2015;41(12):2045-54. doi: 10.3109/03639045.2015.1047847. Epub 2015 Jul 10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26161938

[25] http://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/ingredient/Avocado/90

[26] Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, CA. 1993, p 617.

[27] Khalil MH et al; Contact Dermatitis 43 (2): 79-81 (2000)

https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/stearic_acid#section=Drug-and-Medication-Information

[28] De Oliveira, Ana Paula et al. “Effect of Semisolid Formulation of Persea Americana Mill (Avocado) Oil on Wound Healing in Rats.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM 2013 (2013): 472382. PMC. Web. 5 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614059/

[29] Oryan A, Mohammadalipour A, Moshiri A, Tabandeh MR. “Avocado/soybean unsaponifiables: a novel regulator of cutaneous wound healing, modelling and remodelling.” Int Wound J. 2015 Dec;12(6):674-85. doi: 10.1111/iwj.12196. Epub 2013 Dec 10.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24321012

[30] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsaponifiable

[31] Christiansen, Blaine A. et al. “Management of Osteoarthritis with Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables.” Cartilage 6.1 (2015): 30–44. PMC. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303902/

[32] http://thenakedchemist.com/avocado-oil-benefits/

[33] Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/

[34] Falodun, Abiodun et al. “Evaluation of Three Medicinal Plant Extracts Against Plasmodium Falciparum and Selected Microganisms.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines 11.4 (2014): 142–146. Print.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202410/

[35] Lerman-Garber I, et al. “Effect of a high-monounsaturated fat diet enriched with avocado in NIDDM patients.” Diabetes Care. 1994 Apr;17(4):311-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8026287

[36] Colquhoun DM, Moores D, Somerset SM, Humphries JA. “Comparison of the effects on lipoproteins and apolipoproteins of a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids, enriched with avocado, and a high-carbohydrate diet.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Oct;56(4):671-7.

[37] Malhotra A, et al. “Dietary interventions (plant sterols, stanols, omega-3 fatty acids, soy protein and dietary fibers) for familial hypercholesterolaemia.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 10;6:CD001918. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001918.pub3.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24913720

[38] https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/stearic_acid#section=Therapeutic-Uses

[39] Ding H, Chin YW, Kinghorn AD, D’Ambrosio SM. “Chemopreventive characteristics of avocado fruit.” Semin Cancer Biol. 2007 Oct;17(5):386-94. Epub 2007 May 17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17582784

[40] Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

[41] Field JJ. “Microtubule-stabilizing properties of the avocado-derived toxins (+)-(R)-persin and (+)-(R)-tetrahydropersin in cancer cells and activity of related synthetic analogs.” Invest New Drugs. 2016 Mar 12. [Epub ahead of print]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26968704

[42] Stücker M, et al. “Vitamin B(12) cream containing avocado oil in the therapy of plaque psoriasis.” Dermatology. 2001;203(2):141-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11586013

[43] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5563805

[44] http://science.jrank.org/pages/3854/Laurel-Family-Lauraceae-Important-species.html

[45] http://www.avocadosource.com/WAC1/WAC1_p159.pdf

[46] http://latexallergyresources.org/allergy-fact-sheet

[47] http://healinggourmet.com/healthy-eating-101/avocado-oil-the-healthiest-cooking-oil-youre-not-using-yet/

[48] http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/food-guides/cooking-oils

[49] http://www.avocadosource.com/WAC1/WAC1_p159.pdf

[50] http://thenakedchemist.com/avocado-oil-benefits/

[51] Silva FF, Ricci-Júnior E, Mansur CR.

Nanoemulsions containing octyl methoxycinnamate and solid particles of TiO₂: preparation, characterization and in vitro evaluation of the solar protection factor. Drug Dev Ind Pharm. 2013 Sep;39(9):1378-88. doi: 10.3109/03639045.2012.718787. Epub 2012 Sep 24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998354

[52] Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 53.7 (2013): 738–750. PMC. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664913/

[53] Wien, Michelle et al. “A Randomized 3×3 Crossover Study to Evaluate the Effect of Hass Avocado Intake on Post-Ingestive Satiety, Glucose and Insulin Levels, and Subsequent Energy Intake in Overweight Adults.” Nutrition Journal 12 (2013): 155. PMC. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4222592/

[54] http://latexallergyresources.org/allergy-fact-sheet

[55] http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/toxicology/food_hazards/avocado.html

 

By Dr. Keri Layton, Naturopathic Medicine

 

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