Jojoba History

Jojoba History

Jojoba History

Jojoba oil is a natural plant oil which is extracted by pressing jojoba seeds (nuts) from the jojoba tree Simmondsia chinensis and this oil (or rather the liquid wax) is used mainly in cosmetics without any refining either mixed with other substances or just as-is.  Its use spread world-wide as a replacement for the sperm whale oil known as spermaceti.

Jojoba plants, which exist in the wild as bushes and may be grown as well-pruned trees as has been successfully done in Palestine, is found growing naturally in the Sonora Desert stretching between Mexico and Arizona in the USA.  Up to its discovery in 1970 and its cultivation in 1980, its nuts (seeds) have been used by the Red Indians by isolation of its oil for food and medicinal uses.

Its real commercial use started in the USA at the beginning of 1980 as a substitute for sperm whale oil whose capture (and the oil isolation from it and then refining of that oil for various uses) was prohibited by the industrial countries as a measure of environmental protection to the sperm whale, whose existence in the world’s oceans  was about to be eliminated.

The whale oil – spermacetti – was used in the cosmetic industry and the improvement of car oils as an oil additive in addition to various other industrial uses.The industry initially depended on the oil of the jojoba seeds which were collected from the jojoba bushes of the North American Sonora Desert (the original habitat of wild jojoba plants) as the Red Indians of North America were previously using whatever they could isolate of the jojoba oil by primitive methods in their food and the treatment of various burns and ulcerations from the hot sun of the desert which stretches from Mexico to the USA states of Arizona and California.

American investors began in early 1980 planting jojoba under irrigation in Arizona’s and California’s desert lands to obtain commercial quantities of jojoba seeds.  But the yields were small because 50% of what has been planted from seeds gave- as would be expected – unproductive male plants.   Also there is the long period of six years until there is an economic production from female jojoba plants.  Additionally, the cost of collecting jojoba seeds was high which made the price of jojoba oil high and thus the quantities available for the world market were small and remain below potential demands.

In addition to the wild bushes of jojoba in the USA and Mexico, the American entrepreneurs who succeeded in setting-up large jojoba plantations under irrigation in the USA producing from 1100 to 1900 tons of jojoba oil in 2003 spread their influence and promotion of jojoba to that of  an intensive type of cultivation to Israel (which produces 300 to 600 tons), Mexico, Argentina, and somewhat to Peru and Paraguay, and other Latin American countries, producing 200 to 800 tons.  Australia has lately also began planting jojoba in its arid areas under irrigation especially in 2002 on a large scale producing 9-12 tons in 2003, although increasing lately at a rapid rate, forecasts are still much less than that in Arizona and California in the USA.

Egypt also is considering expanding their experimental areas of jojoba under irrigation in the Toshka Desert areas of Sinai, although Sudan was the first Arab country to introduce planting of jojoba and that was in the late 1970’s.

The neglected un-irrigated desert plantations all failed to produce any significant yield of jojoba seeds.  We at ASIR, the Arab Scientific Institute for Research and Transfer of Technology) started planting jojoba in hilly and sloppy marginal lands between 1980 and 1985 under only rainfall in Palestine and Jordan, especially in the arid Jenin District, and have in 2004 about 12,000 jojoba trees in Palestine and 6,000 in Jordan.

Our ASIR institute also has conducted large demonstration plots for the various Arab governments between 1980 and 1990 in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq using jojoba seeds and seedlings prepared by the institute.  Financial and logistic limitations are still an obstacle facing the needed follow-up on these demonstrations.  Although ASIR’s experiments demonstrated relatively good jojoba seed production, especially in Jordan, no jojoba press was ever established by these countries and thus jojoba oil is still not produced in these countries.  The UNDP project to introduce jojoba on a large scale by Arab governments prior to ASIR’s experiments also met with total failure.