Marula Oil

While Marula may be a ‘new’ ingredient to hair and skincare formulators and natural health bloggers, it was harvested by San hunter gatherers at least 12 000 years ago! Not only was it a staple food item, for many months of the year, but it had unexpected consequences for us modern humans. How?

Marula fruits have this unique scent cause by a chemical called ‘ethyl isovalerate’ that acts like a magnet to certain forest flies. By bringing marula fruits into their elaborately painted caves, the San inadvertently lured in the forest flies, who then co-evolved into today’s common house fly!

Archeologists found the remains of at least 24 million marula seeds in a single cave. The San evidently spent considerable time collecting and processing marula!

marula and the san

The first time I heard of Marula, was through the creamy Liquor, called Amarula.  As students in the 80’s we poured it over ice cream to make a fancy dessert. Now you’ll find Pinterest recipes using it in cookies, cakes, tiramisu, gluten-free Madelaine’s and much more. It’s delicious.

At some stage pressed Marula seed oil made its way into the UK, so of course I had to try it out. It became one of my favourites and earned its place in one of my luscious natural night creams. Back in 2012 it was a definitely an unusual ingredient, that had not yet reached cult status.

marula argan moisturuser

Marula Oil – divine on skin that feels dried out, exhausted and in need of intense TLC

Marula is an interesting product- there is no waste:

  • The fruits can be eaten fresh or fermented into an alcoholic liquor. The ascorbic acid in Marula juice is 15x more stable than the ascorbic acid in mango and guava pulp. But regarding drunk elephants, keep reading ;)
  • The nuts/seeds can be pressed to release a pale yellow oil rich in skin loving nutrients (it has 1000 ppm tocopherols)
  • The leftover nut meal, after the oil is extracted, makes an excellent soya alternative for feeding poultry.
  • The husks make a low cost biosorbent to remove lead and copper from industrial wastewater
  • The bark has anti-biofilm properties, that make it effective against bacterial infections such as dysentery and diarrhoea.

Marula oil skin benefits

Why did I pick it? Because it’s packed with natural antioxidants, omega 9’s, procyanidin, L-arginine and glutamic acids that hydrate, catechins and bioflavonoids.   It’s called Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, and helps keep mature skin hydrated and soft.  There are claims that it  protects against environmental damage and photodamage. Marula also contains the skin-nourishing vitamins E and C and the minerals iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and copper. personal experience has shown me that Marula oil reduces itching and dryness.

Marula is useful in the quest to keeping our skin looking it’s best, no matter our age.  Why? It stimulates collagen synthesis to enhance skin’s ‘plumpness’ and maintain its density, while high levels of Oleic Acid(80%), palmitic and stearic fatty acids are critical for rapid penetration – meaning this oil sinks in quickly to promote intense repair and seal in precious moisture.

It forms a natural lipid barrier to lock in moisture and protect against dryness, pollution and heat from the environment. The anti-oxidative benefits help protect against wrinkles that emerge from free radicals and daily environmental stressors.

Marula oil for hair

You can use Marula oil directly on your hair and scalp. Only use a few drops though, less is more. Use it before you shampoo as a =n oil treatment, or use it before your blow dry your hair to protect your hair from heat damage. Add a few drops to your regular shampoo and conditioner if you’re in peri-menopause or menopause and noticing your hair is getting thinner or breaking easily.

Marula oil for nails

Yes, you can use Marula oil to perk up your cuticles and reduces dry and cracked nails. Massage a drop in before bedtime and let it sink in. Marula is excellent at reducing cracks in skin – that’s why I use it in my night cream!

Drunk elephant

Marula fruit is similar to citrus fruit in that it has a thick outer rind with a juicy inner packed with vitamin c that is easy to ferment. It’s ripe and ready to pick between March and May, so you would expect a lot of drunk elephants lolling about in the game reserves.  Except, marula does NOT, make elephants drunk! That is a myth perpetuated in the 1960’s movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’.  (They had to drug that poor elephant,  who then died from the drugs)

Read a simple explanation here:

https://www.krugerpark.co.za/krugerpark-times-3-8-elephant-myth-22760.html

Africa can stir wild and fanciful notions in the casual visitor; one of these is the tale of inebriated wild elephants. The suggestion that the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) becomes intoxicated from eating the fruit of the marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) is an attractive, established, and persistent tale. This idea now permeates the African tourist industry, historical travelogues, the popular press, and even scholastic works. Accounts of ethanol inebriation in animals under natural conditions appear mired in folklore. Elephants are attracted to alcohol, but there is no clear evidence of inebriation in the field. Extrapolating from human physiology, a 3,000-kg elephant would require the ingestion of between 10 and 27 L of 7% ethanol in a short period to overtly affect behavior, which is unlikely in the wild. Interpolating from ecological circumstances and assuming rather unrealistically that marula fruit contain 3% ethanol, an elephant feeding normally might attain an ethanol dose of 0.3 g kg(-1), about half that required. Physiological issues to resolve include alcohol dehydrogenase activity and ethanol clearance rates in elephants, as well as values for marula fruit alcohol content. These models were highly biased in favor of inebriation but even so failed to show that elephants can ordinarily become drunk. Such tales, it seems, may result from “humanizing” elephant behavior. (STEVE MORRIS)

Healthline error on marula

There’s an error on Healthline, one of the world’s top ranked websites.  Here’s a screenshot. (Last medically reviewed on February 13, 2017. )

marula oil error on healthline

The error is in blue: purchased as an essential oil.    Nope. Marula is cold pressed from the nuts/seeds. No steam, no distillation required.  I think the writer confused omegas (EFA’s) with aromatherapy EO’s, but what’s most distressing is that the online ‘report an incorrect fact box’ form didn’t work.

My crystal ball says that some #copypaster will perpetuate the error. Never mind, Marula rocks, as Amarula and in skincare products! And if you are not on the newsletter, you might like to sign up if you are at ‘that time of life’. .

References:

Myth, Marula, and Elephant: An Assessment of Voluntary Ethanol Intoxication of the African Elephant ( Loxodonta africana ) Following Feeding on the Fruit of the Marula Tree ( Sclerocarya birrea ) (researchgate.net)