The History of Marula
The Marula Tree
The Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) strives in hot, dry climatic conditions. Native to southern Africa, it belongs to the cashew family of flowering plants. The Marula tree usually grows to 10-17 meters tall, bearing fruits from January to March starting at the age of 7-10 years. Fruiting continues well after the tree reaches 100 years of age. Some other members of this family include mango and pistachio.
The Marula tree is considered one of southern Africa’s botanical treasures because all parts of the tree including the fruit, bark, roots, seeds and leaves can be used. For example, bark and leaf extracts are used for anti-diarrheal, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammatory medicines as well as to make dyes and rope. The fruits are used to make juices, jams, and jellies; and the nuts are eaten raw. The oil is used in cosmetics as well as to reduce the appearance of scars, stretch marks, cellulites, fine lines and wrinkles. For thousands of years Africans have enjoyed these and a host of other benefits (medicinal, botanical, commercial and nutritional) from the Marula tree. For these reasons, the Marula tree has become a protected species in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
Marula juice surpasses lemon, orange and mango juices in Vitamin C content. In fact, Marula juice contains approximately four times as much Vitamin C as orange juice. In addition to making juices, jams and jellies, the fruits are also used to make alcoholic beverages that are exported around the world. Elephants, antelopes, monkeys, warthogs and zebras enjoy the succulent fruits after they fall to the ground.
A Marula seed usually contains 2-4 edible kernels, with approximately 28%-31% of its composition being protein and the rest being minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper. The seeds are tasty and sometimes eaten raw or roasted and served with wild spinach and other foods. Marula oil has a light yellow color and nutty smell and is similar in composition to olive oil. Its natural antioxidants allow the oil to have an extended shelf life of approximately 2 years making it superior to both sunflower and maize oil. It also has great oxidative stability making it highly desirable for meat preservation.
Marula oil contains large proportions of monounsaturated fatty acids (70%-78%) essential for the maintenance of healthy-looking skin; as a result, it is revered for its use as a cosmetic application. In addition, Marula oil contains Vitamin E and flavonoids with antioxidant benefits such as the ability to stabilize free radicals. It absorbs readily while it sooths, smoothens and moisturizes the skin. The rich Vitamin C composition combined with high protein levels are effective in fighting collagen degradation.
Evidence shows that Marula trees have been in existence dating as far back as 10000-9000 BC. Southern African women have used Marula oil for thousands of years to heal dry, cracked skin and to reduce stretch marks. This amazing oil moisturizes without leaving an oily residue. Not only that, but its high proportions of oleic and linoleic acids work synergistically to strengthens the skin’s barrier. It locks moisture in thereby improving skin hydration. Southern African women have also used it to even skin tone, reduce redness as well as for anti-aging and therapeutic massages.
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Marula Oil in Cosmetics
The Marula tree with all its valuable parts has been providing southern and other African communities with a plethora of benefits for centuries. However, its oil possesses superior beneficial properties making it ideal for use in cosmetic formulations. Some of these benefits include:
- Stabilizes collagen and heals wounds with its high levels of Vitamin C–as much as four times as that of an orange
- Reduces the appearance of scars, stretch marks, cellulite, fine lines and wrinkles with its antioxidant, anti-aging and therapeutic properties
- Promotes healthy, glowing skin and even skin tone with its high concentration of oleic and linoleic acids as well as other skin-friendly nutrients
- Absorbs like a sponge without leaving a greasy feel
- Readily absorbs deep into the skin—well past the outer layer where it works to provide long-lasting and intense hydration
- Supports and promotes skin elasticity with its high concentrations of protein