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Jojoba (Simmodsia chinensis [Latin]) is a perennial woody shrub grown primarily in the desert regions of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Native Americans have long used jojoba oil to help heal sores and wounds. Today, jojoba oil is still most commonly used for cosmetic purposes, particularly for the maintenance of healthy skin.
Jojoba oil helps promote healing of the skin in many ways. It has antimicrobial properties, which means it actually discourages the growth of some bacterial and fungal microbes that attack the skin. In addition, the chemical composition of jojoba closely resembles that of the skin’s natural sebum, so it is easily absorbed and rarely causes allergic reactions, even in the most sensitive individuals.
Jojoba oil is actually composed of liquid wax esters rather than oil. The body’s natural sebum also contains wax esters, which act as a sort of natural moisturizer and environmental barrier for the skin. However, wax ester production steadily decreases with age, causing the skin to appear dull and emphasizing wrinkles; a reduced ester content in the skin can also lead to the development of conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff, and rosacea.
Jojoba oil can prevent the skin from becoming too oily. Because the structure of jojoba oil so closely resembles natural sebum, it can actually trick the skin into producing less natural sebum, which, unlike jojoba, can clog pores. Jojoba oil may help treat acne, both by reducing sebum production and by protecting the skin from harmful bacteria.
Jojoba oil contains many important nutrients, such as vitamin E, B complex vitamins, and the minerals silicon, chromium, copper, and zinc. It also contains a lot of iodine, which may be where jojoba gets its ability to fight against bacterial and fungal infection. In addition to acne, jojoba has traditionally been used to treat canker sores, cold sores, athlete’s foot, and warts.
Jojoba is commonly added to soaps, shampoos, and cosmetics—jojoba oil became very important to the cosmetic industry in the 1970s, when whaling was banned and sperm whale oil was no longer available. Today thousands of tons of jojoba oil are produced each year in the United States alone, and the majority of it is sold at a high price for cosmetic use. However, researchers are beginning to look for other uses for jojoba. Jojoba oil is very stable, and has demonstrated an ability to withstand both high pressure and temperature.
Jojoba has also shown some promise as an alternative fuel source, and may actually be superior in many ways to traditional diesel fuel. In fact, researchers at the United Arab Emirates University reported that fuel derived from jojoba oil actually gives off fewer emissions and causes less engine corrosion than petroleum-based diesel fuel. One hundred percent pure jojoba oil is available in health food stores and from online distributorships. For topical use, place a few drops of pure jojoba oil in your palms, rub your hands together, and gently massage the oil into the affected area. Discontinue use if a skin reaction should develop.
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