What is Simmondsia Chinensis?

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  • Written By: Alyssa Simon
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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Simmondsia chinensis is the scientific name of the jojoba plant. It is a woody shrub that grows mainly in California and Arizona. It is especially plentiful in the Californian Sonoran desert. Jojoba seed oil is commonly used in cosmetics and cleansers. It is also a popular ingredient in commercial products like waxes and varnishes.

The jojoba plant is also called goatnut, deernut and and pignut, among other names. Forage animals like domestic sheep, goats and cattle eat wild simmondsia chinensis leaves. Smaller desert wildlife such as squirrels, gophers and mice feast on the seed of the plant known as jojoba nuts. Only one species of mouse is able to digest the raw wax found in the jojoba nut. The wax has been used in traditional herbal remedies as a laxative for humans.

The seed oil's properties are very similar in chemical composition to sperm whale oil. Whale oil was banned in 1971 when the animals were put on the endangered species list. Simmondsia chinensis was found to be an acceptable substitute for most sperm whale oil uses, and commercial cultivation started in 1982. Native Americans in the Southwestern United States have used the jojoba seed and essential oil for cooking, personal care and medicine for centuries.


Some Native American traditional medicinal uses for simmondsia chinensis include using the seed oil for wound care and skin conditions like rashes from poison ivy or insect bites. Simmondsia chinensis seed oil is now known to be very high in vitamin E, considered essential for maintaining healthy skin. It was additionally thought to be a hair restorative and useful tonic against kidney stones. The jojoba nuts were also roasted and eaten whole or ground into powder and mixed with hot water before straining, much like coffee.

Simmondsia chinensis seed oil does not have a strong odor. That makes it useful as a carrier oil, or a neutral oil that dilutes concentrated fragrances. The oil is often the base oil for scented products like body lotion or massage oil. It is also used as a moisturizer. Its emollient properties are thought to create a barrier against water loss in the skin.

Simmondsia chinensis is an evergreen plant and is resistant to drought. The lifespan of one simmondsia chinensis plant can be over 100 years. The seed oil is resistant to heat and does not grow rancid. It can be stored in any container and kept at any temperature.


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