Chilean hazelnut oil

čileanski lješnjak

Gevuina avellana (Molina) Gaertn., Protaceae

INCI: Gevuina avellana seed oil

Purpose: good UV protection factor, sunscreens, general skin care, good carrier of essential oils.

Price: medium expensive

Healing secret: rare fatty acids (isomers), tocotrienols

My note: First choice when sunbathing, together with shea butter and raspberries. Very pleasant oil with a slightly unusual smell.

Oral use: extremely rare, but used as food in South America

Chilean hazelnut is also called “cold climate macadamia”, although it has very little in common with macadamia, just as it has little to do with hazelnuts. The Chilean hazelnut is a fairly hardy shrub that only slightly resembles a hazelnut in fruit. In Chile (and where else?) very tasty cakes are made with the likable fruit of this very resistant plant that tolerates both cold and drought.

The Chilean hazelnut, as we use it today, is the result of a painstaking selection of the best clones that give optimal amounts of oil. In addition to food, the plant has entered the world of cosmetics as a means of protection from UV rays. And there it immediately ascended the throne.

Chilean hazelnut contains α-tocotrienol in larger quantities, about 130mg/kg, while it contains other traces of tocopherols. It is very unusual for an oil to contain so much tocotrienol, and especially the complete dominance of tocotrienol over tocopherols. This tocotrienol is far more powerful than tocopherol in protecting cells from damage caused by UV rays. Chilean hazelnut is an oil of protection not only from UV rays but from all stressors. It can’t protect you from a difficult boss, but it can from climate threats and polluted air. Although the oil contains 15-19g/kg of unsaponifiable fraction, its composition is very little known except the tocopherol and tocotrienol profiles.

The oil gives very stable emulsions that don’t spoil easily. If you want to reward your skin with an anti-stress treatment, combine it with oils that contain a lot of tocopherols, such as wheat germ oil, and you may also think of American cranberry (γ-tocotrienol) or European blueberry (tocopherol) oils.

An unusual plant also has an unusual fatty acid composition. Chilean hazelnut seems to like to produce fatty acids with an unusual position of double bonds, the so-called iso-fatty acids. It contains iso-palmitoleic acid which is ω-5 i.e. Δ11, while palmitoleic acid is ω-7 Δ9. Omega, let us remember, means the distance of the double bond from the farthest carbon atom from the carboxyl group, and Δ means the position of the double bond from the carbon-carboxyl group. In addition to “normal” oleic acid which is ω-9 Δ9, it also contains iso-oleic acid which is ω-6 Δ12. It also contains a lot of long-chain, monounsaturated fatty acids, which are all equally exotic: C18:2 ω-9 Δ9,12 isomer of linoleic acid, ω-9 Δ11 and ω-5 Δ15 isomer of eicosaenoic acid, and ω-5 Δ17 and ω-3 Δ19 docosaic acid.

Little is known about how much such a composition contributes to the healing properties of the oil and what is the metabolism of these fatty acids, but practice shows that Chilean hazelnut oil is very pleasant to the skin. In vitro studies show that Chilean hazelnut oil absorbs in the UV spectrum between 260 and 280nm and thus potentially contributes to the protection of the skin from UV radiation. But the figures of a factor of 50 found on the internet are far from exaggerated and may only apply to the listed in vitro systems. A useful role in sunscreens probably rests on the content of α-tocotrienol, which protects against the effects of UV, and not just UV absorption.

Quality requirement*
Basic characteristics 
Organoleptic characteristicsClear oil of pale yellow color and neutral scent.
Relative density0,913 - 0.930
Refractive index of light at 20 °C1.468 - 1.478
Free fatty acids (%)maximum 2.0
Peroxide number mEq O2/Kgmaximum 8.0
Content of unsaponifiable matter (%)maximum 1.5
Presence of sesame oilnegative
Water content0.1
Fatty acid content (%)
C14:0 myristic acidmaximum 0.05
C16:0 palmitic acid1.0 - 5.0
C16:1 isopalmitoleic acid ω5 Δ1120.0 - 27.0
C18:0 stearic acidmaximum 1.0
C18:1 oleic acid40.0 - 55.0
C18:2 linoleic acid6.0 - 15.0
C18:3 α-linolenic acidmaximum 2.0

*Most manufacturers have very incorrect terminology for expressing fatty acid isomers- C18:1, C18:2, C20:1 and C22:1. A typical iso-fatty acid composition is shown according to reference [1].

Fatty acid%
C16 :1 ω-5 Δ11  isopalmitoleic acid22.7
C18 :1 ω-9 Δ9 oleic acid39.4
C18 :1 ω-6 Δ12 iso-oleic acid6.2
C18:2 ω-9 Δ9,12 iso-linolenic acid5.6
C20:1 ω-7 Δ11 eicosaenoic acid3.1
C20:1 ω-5 Δ15 eicosaenoic acid6.6
C22:1 ω-5 Δ17 docosaic acid7.9
C22:1 ω-3 Δ19 docosaic acid1.6
Useful references
  • Characterization of Chilean Hazelnut ( Gevuina avellanamol) Seed Oil C., Bertoli; L., Fay; M., Stancanelli; D., Gumy; P., Lambelet  Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society , Volume 75 (8) – Aug 1, 1998
  • Seed oil bodies from Gevuina avellana and Madia sativa.Acevedo F, Rubilar M, Shene C, Navarrete P, Romero F, Rabert C, Jolivet P, Valot B, Chardot T. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Jul 18;60(28):6994-7004.
  • Gevuina nut (Gevuina avellana, Proteaceae), a cool climate alternative to macadamia S. Halloy, A. Grau, B. McKenzie Economic Botany April–June 1996, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 224-235
  • Chilean hazelnut ( Gevuina avellana ) seed oil K., Aitzetmuller Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society , Volume 81 (7) – Jul 1, 2004
  • Unsaponifiable Matter in Plant Seed Oils. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013 Edible Oil Processing, 2nd Edition Wolf Hamm (Editor), Richard J. Hamilton (Editor), Gijs Calliauw (Editor)  July 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
  • Bailey’s Industrial Oil and Fat Products (6 Volume Set) By Fereidoon Shahidi: Wiley-Interscience; 6 edition 2005

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