What is Ximenia Oil?
Ximenia is a genus of small trees and shrubs widespread across Southern Africa and especially abundant in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Generally, the shrubs grow at high altitudes in woodland areas and Savannah landscapes. The fruit, which is commonly known as the wild plum or monkey plum, varies in color from dark red-brown to bright orange and scarlet. The fruit contains a single seed and ripens a couple of months after the flowers have bloomed.
Namibia is presently the main commercial producer and exporter of Ximenia Americana Oil. Ximenia fruits are usually harvested from the ground under trees after they ripen and fall, which generally takes place from December to February. Harvesters carry the fruit to their homesteads, where they are left to dry and are then stored. Decortication typically takes place later in the year, from June-July, after cultivated crops have been harvested and people have more time. Dried fruits are coarsely de-pulped before the nuts are cracked. They are commonly placed on a stone or hard surface and cracked carefully with a stick, to ensure that the kernel can be taken out in one piece.
The work is performed mostly by women because trees and tree products are traditionally the domain of women. The income generated for the work may rightly look modest in absolute terms, but is is quite substantial to those rural producers, who are mainly women and single heads of households, especially for a seasonal part-time activity in an area where remunerated work opportunities are scarce.
The export market for Ximenia Oil is still undeveloped but has great potential for expansion, providing that supply and production can be scaled up. The potential for growth is based on the unique qualities of Ximenia Oil, which are appreciated by the cosmetic industry, as well as the ethical sourcing of the raw material, the history of the oil's traditional use rooted in Africa, and the efficacy of the ingredient, which is backed by strong scientific evidence.
The Ximenia seed kernel is mechanically pressed to yield a an oil that is rich, high quality, edible, relatively stable to oxidation, and non-drying. It is characterized by a high content of long-chain mono-unsaturated fatty acids known for their anti-aging effects and their cell regeneration, nourishing, and moisturizing properties.
Patents and published literature refer to Ximenia Oil's anti-inflammatory properties as well as its ability to improve cutaneous blood micro-circulation, regenerate dry skin prone to senescence (anti-aging), and improve hair growth (improving the functioning of sebaceous tissues). Besides being used in skin and hair-care preparations, Ximenia Oil also has been historically used in various medicinal applications, such as the treatment of sores and cuts.
The oil has been shown to be an effective treatment for dry skin prone to aging, since it increases moisture levels, improves the function of sebaceous tissues, and improves skin elasticity. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and its active fatty acids have been shown to improve blood flow in the skin.
The end market for Ximenia Oil and products that contain it is relatively niche, so the products typically come at a higher cost. The products are mostly targeted to consumers who seek natural, organic, and efficacious products, as well as those who are interested in ethical trade. The oil is found both in formulations with other ingredients and as pure oil for use on skin and hair. The number of available products that contain the oil has increased over the past few years, reflecting an overall increasing demand for specialty natural oils.