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Jojoba oil


The Sonora desert gets its name from the Sonora state in Mexico. It covers a considerable extension of land, as well as in parts of southeastern California, southern Arizona and a big part of Baja California.

Sonora desert has an extension of more than 100,000 square miles and as in other deserts, the arid climate makes almost impossible to have plants growing there.

Except for some of them, some species that are considered to be suitable for desert climates as Simmondsia Chinensis, the plant from which Jojoba oil is extracted. Image: Simmondsia Chinensis by Bri Weldon under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0). 


Family: Simmondsiaceae

Genus: Simmondsia

Common name: Jojoba, Goatnut, deer nut, pignut, wild hazel, quinine nut, coffeeberry, and gray box bush [3,13]



As a mirage in the middle of Sonora desert, one of these rare plants, a shrub known by the local O'dham people as Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinensis), pronounced "ho-ho-ba", raised as a new hope for locals that benefited from the commercialization of the oil extracted from the seeds of Jojoba, used in:

  • cosmetic,
  • pharmaceutical,
  • dietetic food
  • animal feeding,
  • lubrication,
  • polishing and
  • bio-diesel fields [8] as well as in
  • toiletry as the base for soaps,
  • skin moisturising oils against skin dryness and dandruff that can be used both, as a base oil for massages and directly into the hair and scalp.

But these are not the only health benefits of Jojoba and Jojoba oil, many more health benefits and some of the scientific research in which those ones have been based are explained in this article about the health benefits of Jojoba. 

Jojoba is an arid perennial shrub grown in several American and African countries [2] and the only plant species are known to use liquid wax esters as a primary seed storage reserve [4], esters that have been found to exert many properties and health benefits as you will see.



The name Chinensis was given to plant species that were found in China, therefore, the botanical name given to Jojoba, Simmondsia Chinensis, would make you think this plant is native to China but, in fact, it isn't.

The word Chinensis corresponds to a mistake caused by Johann Heinrich Fredrich Link, the German botanist that chose Chinensis as plant species for Jojoba after mixing Jojoba seeds with the seeds of plants that he collected in China, leading to this unfortunate but curious mistake [13].



In spite Jojoba wax is commonly commercialized as Jojoba oil it is in fact not an oil but a wax. But in order to understand why Jojoba is a wax and not an oil let us, first of all, explain you the difference between both, oil and wax.

Oils and fats are composed of...:

  1. Glycerol, a colourless, odourless, viscous liquid that is widely used in pharmaceutical formulations as suppositories [5], and in skin care products, where it acts primarily as an emollient, softening the skin through robust humectant hydration action [9] and
  2. Three fatty acids, commonly known as triglyceride, a type of lipid that in our bodies is formed in the liver from the calories that your body didn't immediately used and that can also be found in your blood together with cholesterol, where they store unused calories to provide energy when needed.

Naturally occurring waxes are composed of...:

  1. Naturally occurring mixtures of unesterified hydrocarbons that are softer and melt at lower temperatures than the pure components [6].
  2. Naturally occurring waxes are preferred to oils by the cosmetic industry because waxes are not subject to rancidification, the chemical decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids by which oils get undesirable odours and flavours [7], one of the reasons why Jojoba wax is odourless.



In order to understand the commercial importance of wax esters we can mention how much of these esters of long-chain fatty acids and long-chain fatty alcohols are produced per year, a rough estimate of over 3 million tons per year!!! [10].

But in spite Jojoba is native to North America and the Sonora dessert, it is not only grown there, at least not now.

Other countries looking for the commercial possibilities that Jojoba oil could bring to their economies and have an adequate climate for its cultivation decided to start investing on this new crop. Israel has planted about 700 ha between the years 1990 to 1993 [14].

Jojoba Israel is a good example of this. The company is the leading Jojoba Company in Israel. It was established in 1988 at "Kibbutz Hatzerim" in the Negev, who also own the "Netafim" irrigation Plant [15], producing and exporting high-quality oil for other countries.



Until the 1970's almost none knew about Jojoba, it was in fact only known to the locals living in Sonora desert, where it was already known as a source of antioxidant emulsions. But what happened then in the 70's that made Jojoba oil so popular?

With the enactment of the Endangered Species Act whaling and other non-respectful practices that endangered some species at risk of extinction became less and less popular.

In June 1972, a few years before the 1986 International ban on Whaling enter into force, the first International Conference on Jojoba and Its Uses was held at the University of Arizona, Tucson, aimed to document the state of knowledge of Jojoba and appraise its future potential for utilization [12].

The ban on whaling of 1986 increased the commercial value of Jojoba as the only natural replacement of whale sperm waxes, contributing to the amazing figures mentioned above.

Almost until 1986 the cosmetic industry used exclusively animal waxes obtained from Whale sperm, also composed of wax esters as Jojoba wax, they were the so-called spermaceti oils, which later on became rare and very expensive, disappearing later on.

These animal origin waxes were very valued for the same reason that made Jojoba oil very popular, they were extremely good and didn't exert any of the inconvenient properties that oils and fats do, as the already mentioned rancidification.



Among the many health benefits of Jojoba oil we will mention those on which enough supportive scientific evidence is available. Let's see some of them.



Several studies has shown the health benefits of Jojoba oil for skin. Some of them have shown how hydrolysed Jojoba Esters increase skin hydration and improve sensory skin "feel" when included in a variety of skin, hair, and nail care cosmetic/personal care formulations, providing a substantial long-acting 24 h (moisturising) skin hydration effect for topical products [9].

In a small pilot study, preliminary data supported the position that glycerol and hydrolyzed jojoba esters work in tandem to enhance skin moisturising for at least 24 hrs. [9].



Jojoba wax has also been used in Japan as a natural gum base used as a food additive [11], however, its quality has to be still evaluated.



At lease one study performed in rats on the anti-inflammatory properties of Jojoba liquid wax showed some potential anti-inflammatory properties of this wax [2].

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.



[2] Anti-inflammatory effects of jojoba liquid wax in experimental models. Habashy RR, Abdel-Naim AB, Khalifa AE, Al-Azizi MM. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt.
[3] Steven J. Phillips, Patricia Wentworth Comus (eds.) (2000). A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. University of California Press. pp. 256–257. ISBN 0-520-21980-5. [4] Molecular characterization of the fatty alcohol oxidation pathway for wax-ester mobilization in germinated jojoba seeds. Rajangam AS, Gidda SK, Craddock C, Mullen RT, Dyer JM, Eastmond PJ. School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, Warwickshire CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.
[5] Wikipedia article on Glycerol under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
[6] Wikipedia article on Wax under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
[7] Wikipedia article on Rancidification under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
[8] Study of jojoba oil aging by FTIR. Le Dréau Y, Dupuy N, Gaydou V, Joachim J, Kister J. CNRS UMR6263, ISM(2), équipe AD(2)EM, groupe Systèmes Chimiques Complexes, Case 451, Université Paul Cézanne, Avenue Escadrille Normandie Niemen, 13397 Marseille Cedex 20, France.
[9] Evaluation of additive effects of hydrolyzed jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) esters and glycerol: a preliminary study. Meyer J, Marshall B, Gacula M Jr, Rheins L. Floratech, Chandler, AZ 85225, USA.
[10] Neutral lipid biosynthesis in engineered Escherichia coli: jojoba oil-like wax esters and fatty acid butyl esters. Kalscheuer R, Stöveken T, Luftmann H, Malkus U, Reichelt R, Steinbüchel A. Institut für Molekulare Mikrobiologie und Biotechnologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Corrensstrasse 3, D-48149 Münster, Germany.
[11] Analysis of the constituents in jojoba wax used as a food additive by LC/MS/MS. Tada A, Jin ZL, Sugimoto N, Sato K, Yamazaki T, Tanamoto K. National Institute of Health Sciences, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
[12] University of Arizona study Jojoba, a wax-producing shrub of the Sonoran dessert.
[13] Union County College Faculty Website Article Jojoba and the sperm whale by Dr. T. Ombrello - UCC Biology Department.
[14] Purdue Agriculture Jojoba fact sheet.
[15] Jojoba Israel website.