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Seeds from Theobroma cacao L. (Sterculiaceae) are the base for the production of the most important and widespread functional food in human history. The origin of cocoa dates back to more than 3000 years ago, and it was used for nutritional and medicinal purposes by the Mayan and Aztec civilizations . Although the cocoa plant contains an enormous range of beneficial components, processing and manufacturing alters its content and bioactive moieties, particularly during roasting, fermentation and drying, as well as with the use of analytical methods for isolation, characterization and quantification of its bioactive compounds. Cellular studies and results from...

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The fresh, herbal, pine-like sweetness of rosemary is a favorite of chefs around the world, especially when chopped up fresh, and tossed onto roasted pork, chicken, or potatoes. Fragrance lovers too can enjoy this same scent in the form of an essential oil. Botanical Name: Rosmarinus Officinalis An evergreen shrub with thick leaves that are lustrous and dark green. Its tiny pale blue blossoms abound from December through spring, and it can grow to heights of close to two meters in height. Its name means 'dew of the sea' because rosemary naturally grows near the Mediterranean Sea. It has been...

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This week we will explore a staple in western African culture, shea butter! Shea butter is an off-white fat extracted from the nuts of the african Shea tree. The Shea tree, also commonly known as Karite, grows wildly in several West African countries. It takes the tree around 15 years to begin producing these nuts, and will stay highly productive even at 100 years old, with its highest output around the 50 year mark. The trees can end up living as long as 200 years. The shea fruit is reminiscent of a yellow avocado, with a similar seed in the middle. Around 50...

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Welcome back to Raw Material Monday! This week we are going to take a look at an essential oil that many are unaware of. We would like to introduce you to labdanum. Labdanum is a sticky resin extracted from the twigs of the Cistus ladanifer and Cistus creticus shrubs, species of rockrose. It originated in mountainous Mediterannean regions, primarily in Spain, France, Morocco, and Cyprus.  In ancient times, shepherds were the main gatherers of Labdinum after they noticed the resin collecting on the beards and thighs of their grazing goats and sheep.  They later created a tool to easily gather the resin...

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This week we will explore the history and uses of one of the oldest fragrances in documented history, Patchouli. Patchouli is a bushy herb in the mint family, wearing small pale pink-white flowers, from the Pogostemon genus. Its origin stems from the tropical region of Asia, and is now primarily produced in India, China, Seychelles, and Indonesia.   China has a long history of using patchouli medically, but researches are still conflicted on when and how this herb was introduced into their culture. The flora of patchouli has shown that it is not indigenous to China, and is thought to have made an...

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