Marula Oil is extraordinary plant oil, indigenous to regions in Africa including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, and Zambia, Mozambique, and Swaziland. Its origin dates as far back as 10,000 – 9,000 BC on the African continent where the Marula Fruit was first discovered. Archaeological evidence shows that the Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) has been in existence since then. Stones of the fruit from this period were found in the Pomongwe Caves in Zimbabwe. Since ancient times, the African women have cracked the nut of the Marula fruit to extract the precious kernels from which the oil is made. The fruit, bark, kernels, roots and even the leaves were used in indigenous medicines, as preservatives and for food.
The Marula Tree is considered one of Southern Africa’s most revered botanical treasures. It thrives in hot, dry climatic conditions and grows 10-17 meters tall (up to about 65 feet) and is found in low altitudes and open woodland areas. It is an extraordinary “wild” tree that is uncultivated by man and is protected under the Forest Act and other Laws that prohibit the cutting down of trees. The Marula tree bears fruit from January to March starting at the age of 7-10 years. Fruiting continues well after the tree reaches 100 years of age.
The ripened fruit of the Marula tree is yellow to light orange in color with a very thick skin and possesses about 8 times the amount of Vitamin C found in an orange. Marula fruit may be eaten fresh or used to make jellies, juices, and alcoholic beverages. Inside the fruit are hard-shelled seeds which contain two to three kernels. Marula oil is extracted from these kernels. The kernels are so full of oil that a squeeze with the hand can release a rich yield. The oil has numerous skin benefits and is used as a cosmetic by Southern African women by massaging it onto the skin of their face, feet, and hands. They knew that the Marula kernel yielded oil that could both moisturize and protect their skin. The oil is so effective that it is also used to treat leather and preserve meat.
The bark of the Marula tree is of value also. It is brewed to create a tonic which is used as part of a cleansing ritual prior to marriage ceremonies by many cultures, thus calling it the “Marriage Tree”. Southern African women use the bark to treat fever, malaria, scorpion stings and snake bites. The leaves are commonly used to treat heartburn and indigestion while other parts of the tree may be harvested for use in certain tribal ink preparations, for creating dyes for craft wares, and for making rope.
Today, Marula Oil is a precious source of income for those involved in collecting the fallen fruit, cracking the nuts and producing the pure oil. Men and women alike, have a chance of guaranteed work in rural areas where there is massive unemployment. The income earned from Marula Oil helps to pay for household needs and the education of their children. To understand its rich history, its cultural uses, and healing properties…is to appreciate the unique heritage of Marula oil. It truly is the “Miracle Oil” of Africa.