Sacha Inchi Oil: The Omega-3 Rich Elixir for Balanced, Nourished Skin
by Heather Smith on Jul 30, 2022
Sacha inchi oil is extracted from the small seeds of the Plukenetia volubilis plant. These seeds are very healthy when eaten, but the benefits of sacha inchi oil for skin care have been gaining much attention lately.
This article is part of our series on face oil where we cover the best oils for each skin type and concern. Read on to find out exactly why sacha inchi seed oil is so beneficial as a skincare ingredient.
The Sacha Inchi Plant
Sacha inchi has many names: Plukenetia volubilis, sacha peanut, mountain peanut, Inca nut, and Inca peanut.
Sacha inchi is a perennial plant native to the Amazon. It is also farmed in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. It has medicinal and nutritional properties and has gained global recognition over the last several decades. Its traditional medicinal uses include the treatment of rheumatic pain.
The fruit is beautiful with its star-like features. Each fruit usually has four to seven nut-like seeds, from which one extracts Sacha Inchi seed oil.
While it’s only in the last few years that Sacha inchi oil has become popular with the rest of the world, the plant’s history started thousands of years ago.
Sacha inchi was found originally in Peru during the ancient pre-Inca era and became a dietary staple. Depictions of the plant were found on the ceramics used by the Mochica and Chimu civilizations dating back over 3000 years.
The Peruvians started toasting Sacha inchi seeds since eating them raw gave them headaches. They also extracted oil from the seeds and used it as a remedy for various illnesses.
In 1978, scientists found important chemical and nutritional components. Sacha inchi also started making its way outside Peru around that time when the Peruvian Minister for Agriculture began to promote the Amazon’s potential for new food crops.
Sacha inchi seeds are rich in fiber and protein. They are also rich in unsaturated fat, which lowers the risk of heart disease. The seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which fight off free radicals. Moreover, seeds have phenolic compounds, which reduce inflammation and help protect the body from chronic diseases.
Consumption of about 10 grams of Sacha inchi seeds will provide the following:
- 70 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates
- 1 gram of fiber
- 3 grams of proteins
- 5 grams of fat
Sacha inchi seed oil is produced through the cold pressing process to preserve all the delicate phytonutrients that make it such a healthy oil. The seeds also contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Once cold-pressed, the oil is over 90% polyunsaturated. Essential fatty acid composition is about 50% Omega-3 linolenic acid and 40% Omega-6 linoleic acid. The antioxidants in sacha inchi help extend the shelf-life of natural products.
Sacha Inchi Oil Skin Benefits
The use of facial oils is generally soothing and moisturizing because of the emollient properties of all oils. Additionally, cold-pressed plant-based oils are all high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytosterols, and phytochemicals. Therefore, the general use of face oils is always nourishing and beneficial for your skin.
When it comes to sacha inchi oil specifically, the high levels of linolenic acid make it a lightweight oil that rapidly penetrates the outer skin layers. There is also some thought that sacha inchi oil has humectant properties due to the presence of beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol.
Combined, the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and phytochemicals work together to provide these nourishing skin benefits:
- moisturizes, soothes, and smoothes the skin surface
- strengthens and restores the skin's outer lipid barrier
- improves hydration by preventing trans-epidermal water loss
- protects from free radical damage, which helps prevent premature aging and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- anti-inflammatory properties help reduce redness, irritation, and potentially acne
- Vitamin E levels can reduce UV damage to the skin and reduces the risk of atopic dermatitis
Comedogenicity: Will Sacha Inchi Oil Clog Pores?
Sacha inchi oil is ultra-light and rapidly absorbs. It scores a comedogenic rating of 1, meaning it won’t clog pores and is suitable for all skin types. A small study in Thailand showed that oral administration of Sacha inchi oil helped alleviate symptoms of acne.
Safety of Sacha Inchi
The raw seeds of Sacha inchi contain organic substances called alkaloids, saponins, and lectins. These are somewhat toxic, and eating raw sacha inchi seeds is not advised. However, once roasted, the substances are degraded, and the seeds are safe to eat.
Although it is sometimes called “Peruvian peanut” or “Inca peanut,” sacha inchi seeds are not botanically related to peanuts. Therefore, it is not identified as a common food allergen.
Sacha Inchi Oil Sustainability
By virtue of being indigenous to the Amazonian rain forest, we have red-flagged sacha inchi as being at risk for agricultural controversy.
The rationale is that once something catches on as a ‘super food’ in North America, it can create a market frenzy that results in local communities and farmers changing their farming practices so that biodiversity is reduced or deforestation occurs.
However, sacha inchi has the potential to have significant benefits to the rainforest and crop farmers in the Amazon. Sacha inchi farming can help re-forest areas previously clear-cut for mass livestock operations. It gives local farmers an alternative to farming corn or illegal coca. As a perennial forest crop, sacha inchi farming will encourage reforestation.
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