Now, this is an Indian ingredient I never imagined seeing on an international platform – that too, courtesy one of my favourite brands. I just picked up Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm With Kokum Butter and it’s anchored around, of all things, kokum butter – a little known fruit that is native to India’s Western Ghats (think Mumbai and the surrounding areas) and is rarely seen beyond this area. And it’s not just Burt’s Bees… a quick search shows this fruit cropping up majorly in skincare products nowadays.
In fact, I had never heard of kokum till it was introduced to me by my grandmom-in-law in Mumbai. Scientifically known as Garcinia Indica, the kokum tree is a tropical that’s pretty low maintenance and needs few – if any – chemical fertilisers or pesticides. It bears dark red fruit, which look a little like small plums. In the kitchen, it is used as a souring agent (like tamarind) and has a sharp, acidic flavor with a fruity aroma.
And what does kokum have to do with skincare?
But it’s in the realm of skincare that kokum really comes into its own. The seed contains 23-26% oil (extracted as butter), which has made it the traditional moisturiser for the local population since centuries. It also has high levels of Vitamin E, is non-comodegenic (non-pore clogging), reduces degeneration of skin cells and restores elasticity.
And most ideally for a hot land, kokum butter has a relatively high meting point, which means it remains solid at room temperature and does not need refrigeration. This is what makes it perfect for an organic brand like Burt’s Bees, where it allows for the use of less wax and more butters for maximum skin benefits.
Exactly how to DIY your skincare with kokum?
When used in its purest form, kokum butter is held near a flame and the melted oil is applied straight to the skin (it’s especially great for tackling rough patches or cracked heels).
This is how you will see it being used in most traditional homes, where the women swear there’s nothing better to keep skin glowing, hydrated and wrinkle-free than this simple formulation.
Kokum butter is also excellent for healing burns and allergic rashes, since it simultaneously cools the skin while hydrating.
Don’t people drink kokum juice as well?
Absolutely! Kokum juice – made by steeping the fruit in water – is used to relieve gastric problems like acidity, flatulence, constipation and indigestion. It is also helpful in controlling diabetes and is especially popular during summer as it has a cooling effect and shields the body against dehydration and sunstroke
Besides this, kokum also contains rich amounts of anti-oxidants that bind with free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to body cells. It also helps promote cellular repair and regeneration.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy this delectable, multi-benefit-laden fruit is through the appetizing sol kadhi, which is a much-in-demand summer drink as it cools the body internally, thereby reducing sun damage and keeping heat-related problems like acne at bay.
Kokum is easily available in Indian stores across the world – when buying, look for dark, soft, pliable rinds that release their juices easily. Then just dunk in the water and enjoy!