Cashew Shell | Cashew Shells | Outer Shell of Cashews

Cashew shells are the outer coverings of cashew nuts, which are a popular snack and ingredient in various cuisines across the world. These shells are discarded by most people after consuming the nut inside, but they have several interesting properties that make them worthy of attention.

For instance, cashew shells contain a toxic substance called anacardic acid, which can be used to produce drugs and insecticides. Additionally, the shells are rich in phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

The Benefits of Cashew in Shell

Industrial Applications of Cashew Shells

The toxic nature of anacardic acid makes cashew shells unsuitable for consumption, but it also makes them useful in certain industrial applications. For example, anacardic acid can be used to produce resins and varnishes, as well as drugs for treating cancer and other diseases.

In addition to anacardic acid, cashew shells also contain cardol and cardanol, which are used to produce friction materials, such as brake linings and clutch facings. These materials have excellent heat resistance and durability, making them ideal for high-performance applications.

Environmental Benefits of Cashew Shells

Cashew shells are often discarded as waste, which can create environmental problems if they are not disposed of properly. However, these shells can also be used to produce biofuels, which can help reduce dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change.

In addition to biofuels, cashew shells can also be used as a source of renewable energy through the process of gasification. This involves heating the shells in a low-oxygen environment to produce a gas that can be used to generate electricity or heat. By using cashew shells instead of fossil fuels, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable development.

cashew shell
cashew shell

Challenges in Using Cashew Shells

Despite their many benefits, there are some challenges associated with using cashew shells. For one, the shells are difficult to process due to their hard and brittle nature, which makes them prone to breakage and dust formation. This can make handling and transportation more challenging.

Another challenge is the variability in the quality and composition of cashew shells, which can affect their suitability for different applications. For instance, shells from different regions may have different levels of anacardic acid or phenolic compounds, which can impact their effectiveness in producing drugs or biofuels.

Cashews are rarely sold in their shells because the shell includes urushiol, a toxic substance found in poison ivy and poison oak. In some individuals, urushiol can cause skin rashes and other allergic reactions. Before being sold, cashews are roasted or steamed to eliminate the toxic skin. This procedure eliminates the toxic shell and renders the nut inside edible.

Aside from the safety issues, harvesting cashews in the shell is also more difficult. The cashew kernel is attached to the cashew apple’s bottom, and the shell is exceedingly hard and difficult to crack open. The removal of the shell is time-consuming and requires special equipment, making cashews in the shell more expensive to produce and market.

For these reasons, cashews are typically sold shelled and processed, making them easier to handle and eat.

Cashew Shell Uses

Here are some of their uses and how to dispose of them:


  1. Fuel: Cashew shells are a good source of energy and can be used as fuel in industrial boilers, furnaces, and stoves.
  2. Animal feed: Cashew shells can be used as an ingredient in animal feed for cattle, poultry, and pigs. They contain a high amount of fiber, which is beneficial for animal digestion.
  3. Fertilizer: Cashew shells are rich in nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and can be used as a natural fertilizer for crops.

In some countries, cashew shells are also used as fuel for boilers and furnaces, which can affect their price. The price of cashew shells as fuel can vary depending on the region and the availability of other fuel sources.

Disposal of Cashew Shells

  1. Composting: Cashew shells can be composted along with other organic waste to create nutrient-rich soil. The compost can be used in gardening and farming.
  2. Landfill: If composting is not an option, cashew shells can be disposed of in a landfill. However, this is not an environmentally friendly option and can contribute to pollution.
  3. Recycling: Cashew shells can be recycled to create materials such as particleboard and paper.

It is important to note that cashew shells should not be burned in open fires as they contain oils that can cause respiratory problems. Additionally, if cashew shells are used for animal feed, it is important to ensure that they are free of any toxins or contaminants that could be harmful to the animals.

Cultural Significance of Cashew Shells

Cashew nuts and shells have a long history of cultural significance in many parts of the world. In India, for instance, cashew nuts and shells are used in various traditional dishes and sweets, and are also associated with religious ceremonies and festivals.

Similarly, in Brazil, cashew nuts and shells are a popular snack and ingredient in regional cuisine, and are also used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. The cultural significance of cashew shells underscores the importance of preserving and utilizing this natural resource in a sustainable and respectful manner.

Unlocking the Potential of Cashew Shells

Cashew shells are a versatile and valuable resource that offer a range of benefits for industry, agriculture, and the environment. By harnessing the unique properties of anacardic acid, phenolic compounds, and other components, we can develop new products and technologies that contribute to a more sustainable and equitable future.

However, realizing the full potential of cashew shells will require continued research and innovation, as well as collaboration between different sectors and stakeholders. By working together, we can unlock the hidden value of this humble yet remarkable natural resource, and build a more resilient and prosperous world for all.


No, cashew shells are not edible. In fact, they are toxic and can cause severe skin irritation if they come into contact with your skin. The cashew nut that we eat is actually the seed of the cashew fruit, which is attached to the bottom of the cashew apple. The cashew nut is enclosed in a hard, outer shell, which is removed during processing. It is important to handle cashew shells with care and dispose of them properly to avoid any harm to humans or animals.

Cashew shells have several uses, but they are primarily used to produce cashew shell oil. Cashew shell oil is extracted from the shells by a process called solvent extraction, which involves using a solvent to dissolve the oil from the shells. The oil is then refined and used in the manufacture of brake linings, paints, varnishes, and other industrial products.

Cashews are not typically sold in the shell because the shell contains a toxic substance called urushiol, which is also found in poison ivy and poison oak. Urushiol can cause skin rashes and other allergic reactions in some people. To remove the toxic shell, cashews are roasted or steamed before being sold. This process removes the toxic shell and makes the nut inside safe to eat.

The cost of cashew shells can vary depending on several factors, such as the quantity and quality of the shells, the demand for them in the market, and the region where they are sold.

In India, they are sold at price between Rs. 10-15 at factory gate.

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