Shea butter has been the biggest deal in cosmetics lately but here’s a new contender!  Illipe Butter!

This is derived from seeds of Shorea Stenoptera an Asian tree that is actually native to Borneo forests/jungles.

The true Illipe nuts come from a genus with about eighty-five members, including the mamey sapote and other interesting tropical fruits. The Mamey is a fruit that seems to be a cross between an avocado and a papaya but it isn’t really!  It is orange with a brown skin and tastes a bit pumpkinish.  Quite fatty.  There are two crops of nuts on the sapote tree per year, one large and the other smaller. Native to India, but growing in Mexico too,  the tree produces a nut that is long, oval, and smooth, covering coffee-coloured seeds.

The nut contains saponin, which has an anti oxidant effect on the blood but you would need to be careful not to lower your blood pressure too much.   It prevents the absorption of alcohol and scientific research is being done into this.  Well, most fats can do that to some extent.  Talk to a naturopath before going on an illipe diet! The oil extracted is similar to pork fat or lard. Madhuca is certainly the most important genus as the fat produced from the seeds is often used to extend ghee and coconut butter.

What is known as False Illipe nut, Engkebang nuts (Shorea macrophylla — Family Dipterocarpaceae), related to the Stenoptera, were harvested by the Ibans and Chinese in Sarawak. The false illipe nut comes from another group of trees in a genus that has about 180 members, from Ceylon to Malaysia and south China and also in Mexico. Many of them are valued for their timber and have been hacked out and chopped down decimated their numbers in Borneo. The species found in Malaysia and three others in Borneo supply the nuts often mistaken for the illipe nut, and thus its name. From these nuts comes a substitute for cocoa butter in the manufacture of chocolates.  There’s a bit of confusion involved as you can see!  But most of these nuts have a high oil content and a high melting point.

True Illipe butter is a harder butter with higher melting point than Shea or Cocoa butter or most other plant derived exotic pastes, but when it comes into contact with the skin, it melts and is absorbed.

Harvest is easy: The tree grows from 5 to 15 meters in height, with 5 centimetre seeds which are enclosed in a thin shell with wing-like attachments kind of like those on Maples, Ashes and Elms.  They can flutter or fly across a wide area casting their seeds for propogaion. When they are on the ground, natives collect them and dry them in the sun.  Next step is to pound the shells in rice mortar & pestle setups and the seeds break away from this shell so that they can be winnowed off.

The Borneo Dayaks (indigenous to the area)  have been making a butter from Illipe nuts for countless centuries.  It was traditionally used for therapeutic (healing) and cosmetic purposes. Illipe butter is an excellent and lasting moisturizer that softens skin and is absorbed into the epidermis quite readily giving it a coating almost like an SPF.

Illipe’s chemical composition parallels cocoa butter with a slightly higher melting point.  This means soap makers love it.  It is also great for lipsticks and other stick cosmetics as  making it ideal for use in bar soaps, lip balms, lip sticks and other stick type applications where a higher melting point is desired in order for it to hold its shape.

3-100% can be integrated into Lip sticks, lip and body balms, creams, lotions, make-up foundations, hair conditioners and soaps in bars or other shapes.  I have a feeling that the Lush cosmetic company uses this but am not sure.  It just feels like Illipe in some of their body rubs.  It is so harmless that a 100% solution of it is OK to use (like Shea butter, a small pot lasts for EVER.)

Where to buy:

Ask your local chemist to source this for you and you may be surprised that they will have an industrial chemist supplier.

Naturopaths will also have a source as will health food stores.

Soap makers also are good sources for these butters such as Shea, Cocoa etc.. If you want to get it in wholesale quantities, then check for a supplier.

A little goes a long way.

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