From Southern Africa comes one of the beauty industry’s most prized and revered natural products, Marula oil. Marula oil, extracted from marula nuts, comes from the marula tree, a plant family relative of Cashew, Pistachio, and Mangoes. It is popular today for its high vitamin E, Omega 9 – fatty acid and antioxidant profile. Its rich nutrient profile provides a long list of benefits to skin and hair including fighting aging and inflammation, providing moisture, supporting healthy hair growth.
The Origins and History of The Marula Nut
The origins of marula use for skin and haircare date as far back as 10,000 years ago. Paintings in caves from Southern and Eastern Africa show women using marula oil for scars, stretch marks, and as a moisturizing agent.
In Southern African cultures, the marula tree itself is considered sacred and a sign of purity and fertility. The nuts were referred to as ‘Food of Kings’ as they were highly prized and also well known for how nutritious they were as food. It is not unusual to find some cultures still use marula for cleansing rites before some ceremonies like marriage. Because of how important the marula tree is as a cultural symbol and how unique it is to their country, some governments have banned the felling of marula trees to preserve them.
Sourcing of Marula Nuts
Marula trees bear fruit once a year, often between February and April. Their nuts are usually hand-picked during their fruiting season and then kept for processing later. After collection, the nuts are dried over a period of months, preparing them for other products, including oil extraction. Its oil has a nice floral and pleasantly nutty fragrance.
Though this natural ‘miracle oil’ is popular for how it makes us look good, there is another, often overlooked reason why it is so much respected…because of the number of livelihoods it supports.
Marula trees grow abundantly in dry, arid areas with poor soil quality, scarce rainfall, and even more scarce vegetation cover. These are places where farming or keeping livestock is a challenge. Thus, for families living in such areas, agriculture may not be a viable means of supporting a livelihood. This is even more critical for women in such communities as they may not be gainfully employed and so can’t contribute to support their households.
How The Marula Nut Supports Livelihoods
This is where marula nuts come to the rescue! The collection and processing of marula nuts in some countries, for example, Zimbabwe, is entirely controlled by local women. This means that whatever revenue is generated from it also stays amongst these women. Many of them are trained on or learn how to collect their kernels sustainably and how to dry them to get the best oil yield.
After drying, each kernel is cracked to extract the marula nut itself after which the nuts are cold-pressed to extract the precious marula oil. Cold-pressing the nuts ensure the rich antioxidant and vitamin profile of the oil is preserved for bottling.
For the women who process marula nuts to make its luxury oil, marula is more than just a trendy beauty treatment. It not only supports their livelihood but helps them stay well above the poverty line. Literally every nut counts towards supporting a woman’s livelihood and family.
Women who work in the collection and processing of marula nuts are able to raise significant additional income for themselves. This income supports them in paying their children’s school fees, clothes, medical bills and some even reinvest in learning other trades.
So next time you purchase a bottle of marula oil, know that you’re not just treating your skin and hair with one of nature’s finest natural oils. But you’re also helping a woman somewhere in Southern Africa give her family a better life. All thanks to the Noble Marula Tree!
Looking to try some Marula oil? Check it out here.
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