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Marula oil

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Marula oil on sale at Ongwediva Trade Fair 2016

Marula oil is extracted from the kernels (nuts) of the fruits of the Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea), from the family Anacardiaceae. There are two types of marula oil, the oil extracted from the seeds and the oil extracted from the nut's hard shell. Marula oil is traditionally used in cosmetics, in food as a cooking oil and meat preservative and to treat leather. Marula oil can also be used as body lotion. In Namibia Marula fruit is processed into a range of juices, jellies and jams.[1]

Chemical composition[edit]

Marula oil contains a large proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids which make the oil very stable. The fatty acid composition of marula oil includes:[2]

Monounsaturated fatty acids:

Polyunsaturated fatty acids:

Saturated fatty acids:

Tocopherols, sterols, flavonoids, procyanidin, gallotannin and catechins are also found in marula oil.[3]

Physical properties[edit]

Marula oil has a clear, light yellow colour and a nutty aroma. It has a saponification value of approximately 188–199 and a specific gravity of 0.91–0.92 (at 15 °C).[4]

Traditional uses[edit]

The Tsonga people of South Africa and Mozambique have used the oil as a moisturising body lotion for women and also as a massage oil for babies. In the past, Namibian women used marula oil rather than water to clean themselves.[5]

Marula oil is used in diets, especially for people of the Inhambane Province in Mozambique, Owamboland in north central Namibia, Northern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and the Zvishavane district of Zimbabwe. Furthermore, marula plays an important role in the diet of Bushmen and Bantus.[6][7] The Venda use the oil from the kernels to preserve meat, which enables it to last up to a year. Marula oil is considered a delicacy by local people, and is added to many traditional and modern recipes.[5]


  1. ^ Toit, Magda du (2022-10-25). "Rediscovering the importance of marula fruit in Namibia". Farmer's Weekly. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  2. ^ Hore, D. (2004). Formulation of cosmetic skin lotions using Adansonia digitata and Sclerocarya birrea oil from Zimbabwe. University of Zimbabwe, Harare.
  3. ^ Mariod; Matthaus, Bertrand; Eichner, K.; et al. (2004). "Fatty acid, tocopherol and sterol composition as well as oxidative stability of three unusual Sudanese oils". Journal of Food Lipids. 11 (3): 179–189. doi:10.1111/j.1745-4522.2004.01131.x.
  4. ^ Hall, J.; et al. (2002). Sclerocarya birrea: a monograph. School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ a b Botelle, A (2001). A History of Marula Use in North-central Namibia. Windhoek, Namibia: Eudofano Women’s Co-operative Ltd and CRIAA SA-DC.
  6. ^ Engelter & Wehmeyer; Wehmeyer, A.S. (1970). "Fatty acid composition of oils of some edible seeds of wild plants". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 18 (1): 25–26. doi:10.1021/jf60167a025. PMID 5524461.
  7. ^ Shackleton, S.E.; et al. (2002). A summary of knowledge on Sclerocarya birrea with emphasis on its importance as a NTFP in South and Southern Africa. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)