The marula tree, also called elephant tree, can grow up to 20 m tall. It has an expansive crown of alternate, pinnate leaves that grow tufted at the branches. The unisexual, white to pink flowers grow in numbers of four to five. They flower from January when the tree is still bare before its leaves appear. Between April and June, the tree forms stone fruits, which are yellow when ripe and about 3-4 cm in size. A single tree can bear up to two thousand fruits. The round-edged stone core of the fruit contains chambers where the oily seeds are located. The tree is used very versatilely. The bark, roots, and leaves are used in Africa to produce medicine for diseases such as diarrhea or malaria prophylaxis. Drinks are made from the pulp and vegetable oil is extracted from the seeds.
Marula oil is obtained from the seeds of the Marula tree and has a neutral aroma. The seeds must first be laboriously removed from the flesh by hand and are then cold-pressed and filtered. In Namibia, the inhabitants crush the seeds to extract the oil, pour them into boiling water, and skim the oil off the surface.
Marula oil is often used as a base oil for cosmetic preparations due to its special heat insensitivity and stability. With its high oleic acid content, the oil is particularly suitable for dry, stressed, and sensitive skin. It has a lipogenic effect and protects the lipid layer of the skin so that the skin remains moisturized and does not dry out. It penetrates well into the skin and leaves it feeling soft and pleasant. Its protective and nourishing properties soothe and smooth the skin. The neutral odor of the oil also makes it a suitable carrier oil for essential oil mixtures.
Marula oil is mainly used cosmetically, but can also be used for cooking.
Since the elephant tree grows only in the south of Africa, marula oil must be imported and is not a mass product. This and the costly extraction of the oil leads to a correspondingly higher price. The average price is therefore about 15 € per 100 milliliters. This price should not be undercut, since otherwise you have to doubt the quality of the oil.
Marula oil was discovered rather late by our cosmetics industry, but you can find the oil at many dealers nowadays. When buying it you should pay attention to the list of ingredients, because at best it should be pure marula oil without any further additives. You want to avoid above all that the oil was stretched with less precious ingredients. Another proof of origin is the indication “from wild growing trees”. This reference means that the oil is obtained from fallen fruit and not from fruit from special farms. This also guarantees that no pesticides or other undesirable additives are contained in the oil.
An organic certificate also confirms that the origin and processing of the wild fruit has been checked. Thus, you can be sure that after cold pressing no other additives have been added. The gentle cold pressing process ensures that no important nutrients and vitamins are lost due to the effects of high temperatures.
As with the purchase of all vegetable oils, you should prefer marula oil products in a dark glass bottle.