For more than 10 years I have studied ethnobotany, the science of human interaction with plants, in Micronesia. Here, on the edge of the earth, on the islands in the western part of the Pacific Ocean, local residents still actively use plants in their daily lives, continuing the traditions of their ancestors.
According to ethnographers who visited the region a hundred years ago, coconut oil was widely used by members of the royal family that ruled this state, and therefore was called “royal oil”. Traditionally, it has been used to moisturize the skin and protect it from the sun. Coconut oil helps maintain the elasticity and beauty of the skin. Ordinary people also used coconut oil, enriching it with essential oils of local fragrant plants and flowers, although they cared for their bodies much less frequently. With the advent of European clothing on the islands, the need to protect the skin from the scorching rays of the equatorial sun significantly decreased, and over time, the daily ritual of applying coconut oil after bathing to the body and hair was lost. Today, tourists can buy freshly made coconut oil at grocery stores and souvenir shops in Micronesia.
When I lived on the island of Pohnpei, I was fortunate enough to learn how to make fragrant coconut oil. The secret recipe was shared with me by Maria Raza, a wonderful woman from the island of Kusaie, known as the creator of the best fragrant coconut oil in the entire region. Raza uses the flowers of the ylang-ylang tree, here referred to as asseir en wai, to impart a divine aroma to the oil. It is the only aromatic ingredient used to make the traditional oil in Pohnpei and Kusai, and is also one of the key floral notes in the famous Chanel No. fragrance. 5. Carefully gathering the yellow-green ylang-ylang flowers, Raza separates the fragrant petals and lays them carefully on a clean cloth. She then takes a few large handfuls of petals, dips them into heated coconut oil, and stirs until the petals are completely immersed in the oil. After a few hours, the essential oils contained in the flower petals will transfer their fragrance to the coconut oil. In the evening, Raza removes the pot from the fire and strains the oil through a wire mesh to remove small particles of petals from it. A few days later, she repeats the whole process again. And now coconut oil with a delicious delicate aroma is ready. How to make royal butter You can also prepare royal butter according to a traditional recipe at home. It’s quite simple and will cost you very little. 1. Select the flowers or leaves that you would like the scent of the oil to be. You may find it difficult to find tropical ylang-ylang, so choose other flowers, such as roses. The most fragrant variety of rose is the Damask rose, which is traditionally used in perfumery. To create an invigorating aroma, you can use mint leaves or lavender flowers. Experiment with different plants and flowers until you find a scent you like. 2. In a saucepan over low heat, heat a few cups of pure coconut oil (available from health food stores or pharmacies). It is very important that the temperature is low, otherwise the oil will burn. If this still happens, wash the pan and start the process again. 3. Remove the pan from the stove, add a glass of coarsely chopped petals or leaves and leave for 4-6 hours. If the oil starts to thicken, warm it up a bit. Then strain through a sieve. Repeat the process a few more times until you get the flavor you want. 4. Carefully pour the finished oil into a glass or plastic bottle. Tip: Add one or two vitamin E capsules (only without the gelatin shell) to each bottle – this will help prevent rancidity due to the oxidation reaction. Note: If the oil is stored below 25°C, it will turn into a solid white fat. Store fragrant coconut oil in a glass or plastic bottle, and if it has thickened a little, run the bottle under hot water. Busy Tip: If you don’t have time to make fragrant coconut oil the traditional way, use essential oil instead of petals. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a glass of warmed coconut oil, stir gently, apply to skin and sniff to determine if you like the resulting concentration.
Source: Translation: Lakshmi