Foraging Jojoba: How to find it and what to do with it

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Jojoba, Simmondsia chinensis, is something you may have seen as an ingredient in hair and skin products, but not really known that it was a plant that is native to the Sonoran Desert.

Note: Before I go any further, I do need to say that Jojoba is pronounced “ho ho ba”. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I knew this proper pronunciation, so you’re welcome if I have saved you the embarrassment of saying it wrong.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

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One of the most valued plants in the desert

Every plant in the desert is important and has its own characteristics and value, but Jojoba is particularly valuable to not only animals, but humans. Its leaves and seeds are a highly nutritious food source or livestock and wildlife. We need to keep that in mind when foraging (rule of thumb is to only take 10% of any plant you forage).

In the 1970s jojoba became an important replacement for sperm whale oil in cosmetics and manufacturing when sperm whales became endangered. Much research has been done since then on the chemical make-up of jojoba oil, and it is found to be very stable with a long shelf life. It is even used as a preservative for other oils. For these reasons, it is an excellent base oil for salves, balms and herbal infusions.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Jojoba oil isn’t really an oil, however. Like Sperm Whale oil, it is a liquid wax. It is also important to note that Jojoba oil very similar to the liquid wax called sebum created by our own bodies, which is why it is easily absorbed by our skin cells. Smoothing Jojoba into your skin is known to eliminate dryness and create an antibacterial and antioxidant barrier. This “oil” is often used to treat acne, eczema, psoriasis, sunburn and skin wounds. Historically, native people have valued the oil in Jojoba as a healing agent in traditional medicine.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Where to find Jojoba

Jojoba is found growing wild throughout the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, California and Mexico. It is also cultivated and used as a landscape plant in many commercial properties and homes. Pruned plants often don’t have seeds because the flowers were removed before they could set fruit. You can see it growing wildly unpruned in abundance near roads and trails in North Phoenix and Scottsdale, particularly near Bartlett Lake and areas similar to that. Take note of any that you find throughout the year so that you can be ready when it’s harvest time. Be aware that Jojoba is dioecious, meaning they are either male or female. You will only find seeds on the female plants. 

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

When to harvest Jojoba

Jojoba is ready for harvest in July and August. The outer shell will be light brown, dry and wrinkled. Often this outer hull will begin to open and the seed will fall right into your hand when you touch it. Pick the seeds individually or place a sheet under the plant to collect seeds that fall when you shake the stems. Be careful to watch for rattlesnakes when picking. The area around jojoba is usually full of holes from animals. Note that not all Jojoba plants will have seeds. Jojoba is dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants. The female plants are the only ones with seeds.

How to propagate Jojoba

In case you want to have your own supply available without hiking, you can always grow Jojoba. Just remember that only female plants produce seed, but you do need to make sure to have at least one male plant next to the females. Jojoba grows easily from seed, but the only way to ensure the sex of the plant is to take cuttings. You can do this in the late Spring or early Summer. Simply cut 6-8 inch tips from healthy plants and strip the lower leaves off. Dip the stem in rooting hormone and place in moist, well-drained soil. Put several stems in a single pot to ensure you get enough rooted cuttings.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Edible Uses for Jojoba

The seeds of Jojoba can be roasted and eaten in very small quantities. The seeds of Jojoba can be roasted and eaten in very small quantities. Indigenous people have used it internally to heal a variety of ailments. However, eating too many seeds will cause diarrhea due to the high content of liquid wax. Jojoba seeds can also be roasted, ground and made into a coffee-type drink.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Medicinal Uses for Jojoba

Most of the uses of Jojoba are for the skin. It is an excellent treatment for eczema, psoriasis, acne, sunburn, cuts, and other skin wounds. 

Internal uses are being researched, but have been part of indigenous medicine for centuries. 

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

How to Extract Jojoba oil

There are two ways to use Jojoba seeds externally: 

There are two ways to extract the oil from the Jojoba seeds, but only one will give you a beautiful, clear oil product:

  1. Grind raw or toasted Jojoba seeds and apply to the skin directly as you would a salve. This is how the native people used Jojoba and it produces a a lovely paste. You can use this also as a skin-softening exfoliant.
  2. Use an oil press to extract the filtered oil. This is my preferred method. This oil can be used to make salves, balms, and other body products.
Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

Preppers

For those of you who are looking for more ways to live off the land for fun or in case of disaster, this is an excellent way to get oil for mechanical lubrication along with medicinal purposes when other oils are not available. Get to know this plant.

Referrences

  1. USDA
  2. Forbes
  3. Pubmed
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