FWD 2 Healthy Ingredients: Jojoba


Simmondsia chinenesis
Family: Simmondsiaceae
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Photo © Steven Foster


Jojoba is native to desert areas of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.1,2  It is currently grown in many different parts of the world with the largest production occurring in Catamarca, Argentina.1  The small evergreen tree or shrub grows to about 13 feet high with leathery, bluish-green leaves and small, yellowish wind-pollinated flowers.3  Jojoba is cultivated extensively for its oil, which is obtained by expressing the seed or by solvent extraction.1  Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax.1,3  

History and Cultural Significance

Jojoba was used externally by Native Americans to treat skin disorders3  and sores4  and internally to induce bowel movement.4  It was used internally as a folk remedy in Mexico for asthma.2  Mexicans continue to use it today externally for hair growth and conditioning.5  Jojoba oil is currently found in skin and hair products such as cleansers, conditioners, creams, lotions, makeup, and shampoo.1,3  Facial scrubs, body polishes, and shower gels employ jojoba wax beads as exfoliating agents to remove dead skin.1  The oil is also used as a substitute for sperm whale oil in the lubrication of machinery.3  

Modern Research

In a study investigating the use of aromatherapy for patients with hair loss, patients whose scalps were massaged daily with essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) showed more improvement than patients treated with the carrier oil alone.6  

Future Outlook

In the year 2000, the cosmetics industry used about 90% of the global production of jojoba oil which was approximately 1,500 tons. The remaining 10% was used in industrial lubrication.7  The International Jojoba Export Council estimated that world production of jojoba oil would increase by 15% over the next 5 years.8  Information is not currently available to determine if their prediction was correct.


1  Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.; 1996.

2  Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press; 1989.

3  van Wyk B, Wink M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 1st ed. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc.; 2004.

4  Moerman D. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 1998.

5  Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. 1st ed. Dorset, UK: Grace Publishers; 1995.

6  Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata[abstract]. Arch-Dermatol. 1998;134(11):1349-1352. Available at: http://grande.nal.usda.gov/ibids/index.php. Accessed September 22, 2004.

7  Hyde K, ed. Thirty Australian Champions: Shaping the future for rural Australia. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. Available at: http://www.rirdc.gov.au/champions/JojobaScience.html. Accessed March 23, 2005.

8  Plant Fact Sheet: Simmondsiaceae, Jojoba, Simmondsia chinensis. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Available at: http://www.livingdesert.org/plants/jojoba.asp. Accessed March 23, 2005.