Andiroba | What's that?
The andiroba tree (Carapa guianensis) lives in the South American rainforest and belongs to the mahogany family. Its wood is used to make furniture and boats. Andiroba trees are also used to try and repopulate the swathes of rainforest that have fallen victim to slash-and-burn agriculture.
One particularly valuable part of the plant is andiroba oil, which is extracted from the nut-like seeds of its four-sided fruit. One tree produces an average of 125 kg of seeds per year, which is enough for approximately 20 l of oil.
To extract the oil, the seeds are first soaked for two weeks until they break down and then cold-pressed using a simple mechanical method. The result is an almost buttery, whitish-yellow oil with an aromatic, nutty scent.
Andiroba is traditionally used to make the dyes that Indigenous peoples living in the Amazon use to paint their skin. In Brazil, it is also used to make soap. Its gedunin content repels flies, mosquitoes and other parasites that can damage the skin.
The oil is either applied directly to the skin or made into candles which are burned as a mosquito repellent. More recently, this well-tolerated, skin-friendly ‘Amazon oil’ has also grown in popularity as an ingredient in beauty and wellness products.