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6 Health Benefits Of Marula Oil, Uses And Side Effects

Botanically termed as Sclerocarya birrea, the marula tree is indigenous to the miombo woodlands of Southern Africa, the Sudano-Sahelian range of West Africa, and Madagascar. The marula fruit tree and its parts have been used for various medicinal purposes, since ages.

In ancient times, the tree was linked to fertility and happy marriage. Various parts of the marula tree are used as ingredients in food and traditional medicine. Apart from being used for making the infamous Amarula, the marula fruit is widely known for its use in the manufacturing of the essential oil - marula oil [1] .

Marula oil is extracted from the white kernels of the marula fruit's seed. The fruit has a secondary extraction point of the oil as well, where it is obtained from the nut's outer husk [2] . Used as a base in various cosmetic products and as a medicine, marula oil is rich in protein and possess various health benefits, which will be covered in the current article.

Organic Compounds Present In Marula Oil

The essential oil consists of various components which attribute towards its health benefits. The beneficial components in marula oil are amino acids such as L-arginine and glutamic acid, which have hydrating, anti-ageing properties [3] .

Marula oil also has fatty acids such as palmitic, stearic, oleic, and myristic acids, which have emollient and moisturizing benefits [4] . Apart from these, the essential is packed with antioxidants such as phenolic compounds and vitamins E and C, which fight free radicals.

Health Benefits Of Marula Oil

1. Prevents heart diseases

Using marula oil for cooking purposes can help improve your heart health. The unsaturated fats in the oil are the 'good' kinds of cholesterol which can help balance your 'bad' cholesterol levels. Replacing your usual cooking oil with marula oil can help prevent the onset of heart attack and stroke, atherosclerosis and reduce the strain on your cardiovascular system [5] .

2. Improves healing

The antioxidants and tocopherol present in marula oil have antibacterial properties which help in speeding up healing. The essential oil can be applied to wounds, scrapes, scratches, and cuts as the compounds will help in preventing pathogens and foreign substances from entering your body [6] .

3. Restores hormonal balance

The active ingredients in marula oil such as oleic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid help in managing the hormonal fluctuations in one's body [7] . Marula oil can aid in restoring the hormonal balance and promote better functioning of your body.

4. Reduces inflammation

The anti-inflammatory property of marula oil aids in soothing inflamed tissues. It also helps in lubricating joints in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, thereby reducing inflammation and providing relief [8] .

5. Protects against environmental damage

One of the major health benefits of marula oil is that it protects your body from environmental pollutants, harsh sun rays and so on. The oil fortifies the skin from the inside and improves your skin quality [9] .

6. Prevents chronic diseases

The antioxidants present in marula oil can help destroy the free radicals in the body. Controlled consumption of the oil can give your body a protective boost and lower levels of oxidative stress [10] .

Apart from the aforementioned health benefits, marula oil has the following benefits as well [9] [11] :

  • Eliminates dandruff
  • Reduces signs of premature ageing
  • Moisturises the skin
  • Prevents acne
  • Heals chapped lips
  • Treats brittle nails
  • Keeps your hair and scalp healthy
  • Prevents stretch marks
  • Improves skin quality

Uses Of Marula Oil

The oil can be used in several ways and they are as follows [12] :

  • Can be added to a regular cleanser to enhance its potency and increase the skin's absorption of moisture.
  • Used in shampoos and conditioners to protect against sun damage, and prevents frizz by sealing the cuticles.
  • Used as a hair mask.
  • Used to facilitate the healing process and promote tissue regeneration.

Side Effects Of Marula Oil

The oil has very few side effects associated with it and some of the most common ones are as follows [12] :

  • Irritation
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hypotension


  • Individuals taking blood pressure-lowering medications should avoid the consumption of marula oil because the unsaturated fats found in the oil can cause one to develop dangerously low blood pressure levels [13] .
  • People who are normally allergic to an essential oil should not use it as it can cause inflammation, redness, and itching.
  • Avoid excessive use of oil on highly sensitive skin.
  • In some people, consumption of marula oil can cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting or indigestion.
View Article References
  1. [1] Komane, B., Viljoen, A., Vermaak, I., Kamatou, G., & Summers, B. (2017). Cosmetic application of Marula seed oil (Sclerocarya birrea): Clinical outcomes. Planta Medica International Open, 4(S 01), We-SL.
  2. [2] Komane, B., Vermaak, I., Summers, B., & Viljoen, A. (2015). Safety and efficacy of Sclerocarya Birrea (a. Rich.) Hochst (Marula) oil: a clinical perspective. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 176, 327-335.
  3. [3] Enweremadu, C. C., & Rutto, H. L. (2016). Performance Characteristics of Green Diesel from Marula (Sclerocarya birrea) Oil in Diesel Engine. Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy, 10(3), 159-167.
  4. [4] Ahmed, A. I., Babeker, A. M., Elamin, A. M. A., & Ibrahim, E. A. (2015). Physicochemical Evaluation of Seeds and Oil of Nontraditional Oil Seeds. Turkish Journal of Agriculture-Food Science and Technology, 3(8), 687-691.
  5. [5] Malebana, I. M., Nkosi, B. D., Erlwanger, K. H., & Chivandi, E. (2018). A comparison of the proximate, fibre, mineral content, amino acid and the fatty acid profile of Marula (Sclerocarya birrea caffra) nut and soyabean (Glycine max) meals. Journal of the science of food and agriculture, 98(4), 1381-1387.
  6. [6] Ejilah, I. R., Dahuwa, K., & Gambo, B. A. (2017). Influence of Marula Oil Methyl Ester–Diesel Fuel Mixtures on the Performance of a Variable Load Compression Ignition Engine. European Journal of Advances in Engineering and Technology, 4(6), 457-465.
  7. [7] Mthiyane, D. M. N., & Hugo, A. (2019). Comparative Health-Related Fatty Acid Profiles, Atherogenicity and Desaturase Indices of Marula Seed Cake Products from South Africa and Eswatini.
  8. [8] Attiogbe, F. K., & Abdul-Razak, T. (2016). Evaluation of the physicochemical properties of Northern Ghana Sclerocarya birrea seed oil and proximate analysis of the process waste. African Journal of Food Science, 10(4), 48-53.
  9. [9] Mazizi, B. E., Moyo, D., Erlwanger, K. H., & Chivandi, E. (2019). Effects of Dietary Sclerocarya Birrea Caffra (Marula) Nut Meal on the Growth Performance and Viscera Macromorphometry of Broiler Japanese Quail. The Journal of Applied Poultry Research, 28(4), 1028-1038.
  10. [10] Mthiyane, D. M. N., & Mhlanga, B. S. (2017). The nutritive value of marula (Sclerocarya birrea) seed cake for broiler chickens: nutritional composition, performance, carcass characteristics and oxidative and mycotoxin status. Tropical animal health and production, 49(4), 835-842.
  11. [11] Komane, B., Vermaak, I., Summers, B., & Viljoen, A. (2015). Safety and efficacy of Sclerocarya Birrea (a. Rich.) Hochst (Marula) oil: a clinical perspective. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 176, 327-335.
  12. [12] Shoko, T., Maharaj, V. J., Naidoo, D., Tselanyane, M., Nthambeleni, R., Khorombi, E., & Apostolides, Z. (2018). Anti-aging potential of extracts from Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst and its chemical profiling by UPLC-Q-TOF-MS. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 18(1), 54.
  13. [13] Bahorun, T., Aruoma, O. I., & Neergheen-Bhujun, V. S. (2019). Phytomedicines, nutraceuticals, and functional foods regulatory framework: the African context. In Nutraceutical and Functional Food Regulations in the United States and around the World (pp. 509-521). Academic Press.
Story first published: Thursday, November 21, 2019, 18:00 [IST]
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