Schinziophyton rautanenii, commonly known as mongongo or manketti, is a large spreading tree that resides in the woody hills and sandy dunes of subtropical southern Africa. The mongongo produces an egg-shaped fruit comprised of a thin layer of flesh around a hard shell; within the shell is a nutrient-dense nut.
The mongongo nut is a staple food for the area and has been consumed by the San bushmen for more than 7,000 years. When rendered into an oil, mongongo has been traditionally used to soften and moisten the skin.
Mongongo oil is unlike other botanical oils because of its unique composition of polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals, and proteins.
Let’s take a look at what makes mongongo oil such an excellent tonic for the skin and hair…
1. Linoleic Acid
Mongongo oil is composed of between 36% to 49% linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid. Like other essential fatty acids, linoleic acid must be consumed from external sources since it cannot be synthesized in the body.
A deficiency in essential fatty acids leads to a decline in the skin barrier function. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis and serves to protect the body from the elements while trapping moisture within. It acts as a natural defense against UV light, bacteria, dehydration, and infection. When the skin barrier is compromised, it causes a dramatic loss of moisture in the skin. It is considered the primary physiological factor in the development of eczema, psoriasis, and other skin diseases.
Shown to correct deficiencies in skin barrier function, linoleic acid completely restored moisture levels in essential fatty acid deprived mice. The study, published in 1980, compared topical applications of linoleic acid and oleic acid and found that, while both fatty acids worked to restore skin barrier function, linoleic acid worked much faster and had noticeable skin softening results after just one day of treatment.