Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis (Link) C K Schneider) is perhaps one of the most popular, and basic, carrier oil bases used in aromatherapy. It has an indefinite shelf life, no aroma, and it easily blends with other carrier oils, essential oils, and bases for aromatic skin care. Jojoba is also a favorite of the botanical perfumer. Here is a quick look at the origins of jojoba, its chemical make-up, and some of its uses for aromatherapy.
Botanical Profile of Jojoba
The jojoba plant is a member of the Buxaceae plant family. It is native to the deserts of Arizona, north-west Mexico, and southern California.
The jojoba plant is a perennial shrub which does not require a lot of moisture or water to survive; it has a deep root system and thick leaves which absorb minimum sunlight due to the angle at which it grows. The waxy leaves of the jojoba plant are typical of a desert plant which primarily aims to cut water loss in order to survive in the desert heat.
The jojoba plant can grow up to six feet in height and lives for a long time; however, it grows slowly and it is slow to reach maturity. The jojoba plant has the ability to be of either sex, male or female; it is only the female jojoba plant which is capable of producing seeds and this does not happen until the fifth year of growth. The seeds of the jojoba plant resemble coffee beans.
Native American Use of Jojoba
Native tribes of the south-western United States and north-west Mexico were familiar with the jojoba plant and used it in several ways:
jojoba seeds produced an oil which was used in skin and hair care to protect against the desert sun.
The oil from the jojoba seeds was also used to treat general aches and pains, skin irritations and burns
The jojoba seeds were chewed as a dietary supplement, too.
Other uses of the jojoba plant may have included use as a medicine and the making of a coffee-like drink; it was also used to treat colds, sore throats and indigestion. Like many native plants of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, jojoba was a useful and versatile plant to native people.
Jojoba as an Oil
The jojoba plant produces a substance which is more reminiscent of wax than oil. Although it is commonly referred to as jojoba oil, some aromatherapists refer to it simply as jojoba or jojoba wax; whatever you call it, it is all the same product. A point to note on pronunciation: Ho-ho-ba.
The seeds of the jojoba plant are crushed to obtain jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is commonly used as a carrier oil in aromatherapy for essential oils, although it does possess therapeutic properties of its own; it maintains a long shelf life and its chemical make-up changes little even in extreme temperatures of hot or cold. If it becomes solid, leave it standing at room temperature, and you will notice it change back to liquid form naturally as it warms up.
Chemical constituents of jojoba include saturated fatty acids (palmitic acid, stearic acid, and arachidic acid), monosaturated fatty acids (oleic acid, palmitoleic acid), polyunsaturated fatty acids (linoleic acid, linolenic acid), and some fatty alcohol (docosanol, elcosanol, tetracosanol, octadecanol).1 It is one of the most stable and easily absorbed oils.2
Aromatherapy Use of Jojoba
Today, jojoba is popular in the hair and skin care industry, particularly in the United States. Therapeutically speaking, jojoba oil is useful in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, sun burn, skin care and in arthritis and rheumatism (due to the anti-inflammatory action of myristic acid in its make-up).1
Jojoba is used as a base oil for skin care and massage oils, as an ingredient in lotions, creams, and balms, as a natural perfume base (either as a roll-on or as part of a solid perfume base), and it is great to use with all age groups.
My motto, as an aromatherapist, is (when deciding which carrier oil to use), “If in doubt, use jojoba!”
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Price, Len 1999 Carrier Oils For Aromatherapy and Massage UK: Riverhead
The International Jojoba Export Council website, accessed February 20, 2017.
Author is a 20 year veteran in the health care and aromatherapy industry, a UK-certified aromatherapist and, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, a consultant, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.
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