Nourishing Skin And Hair With The Baobab Advantage

  • Olajide OtuyemiMSc. Drug Discovery Development and Delivery, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Irenosen AddehMaster of Science (MSc), Public Health, University of Debrecen, Hungary

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The African Baobab has a long history among many tribes for its many beneficial and economic uses. It has an enduring history, and some are as old as one thousand years. They have swollen trunks, staminal tubes, and compound leaves. The famous associated species are of the family Bombacaceae (genus: Adansonia).

Many species, such as Ceiba pentandra, are popular in Asia and West Africa. For thousands of years, baobab tree products were traded in Cairo, especially throughout the sixteenth century. The range of species is numerous, as many as two hundred and fifty species, which are used not only for their immediate benefits, such as their use as fruits, gums and wood, but even further for their economic importance.1

Baobab is famous for its multiple uses. Its use ranges from food as a medicinal product in folk medicine to many other purposes. This is further confirmed by bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF). In recent times, the Baobab has remained relevant in modern civilisations.

A couple of Baobab trees in Barbados have long been documented as one of the seven wonders of Barbados- they were brought in from Guinea. Similarly, in India and South Africa, Baobab is well sought after and documented in Pharmacopoeia.1

In many African communities, wild plants are abundant and have massive potential for economic and agronomic benefits. These still need to be researched and used more. Unfortunately, the impact of globalisation and encroachment on ecosystems poses the risk of these plants going extinct or lost. More attention and research need to be channelled towards the baobab tree, especially its benefits.2

Baobab: botanical description

The Baobab is a huge and majestic tree that grows as high as 25 meters. These have been known to live as long as hundreds of years. It has characteristic appearances make it prominent and distinct from many other trees in arid areas. They are deeply fluted and the branches are very wide with multi-shaped trunks that are more than 14 meters in circumference. The trunk shape varies with the tree's age and may be bottle-shaped, cone-shaped, or tapered with branches close to the base.

The bark is particularly smooth (sometimes wrinkled) and has a reddish brown, grey or purplish appearance. The leaves appear to be in the shape of a hand and alternate. The fruits, which have and oval-shaped shaped-capsule hang from a long stalk. It is greenish brown and covered by a hairy texture.

The shell houses seeds, each up to 15 mm long and enclosed in a pulp. Its massive size and intimidating presence are why it is commonly referred to as ‘arbre a palabre’, which can be loosely interpreted as a place in the village where elders converge to resolve difficult situations.2,3

Benefits for the skin

There is a worldwide increased demand for Baobab oil across Asia, North American, and European markets. As much as $100,000 is generated annually for approximately 20,000 litres. Large-scale Baobab seed oil trading is believed to have started in Vhembe Municipal District, South Africa in 2005, where they were sold in local markets from where they were then sold to the cosmetic markets. InternItsl export of the oil has generated as much as local populations have long used Baobab seed oil for cosmetic purposes for centuries am,ong other purposes such as food, medicines (in wounds, muscular spasms, dandruff and varicose vein management).

The oil extracted from the seeds of baobab has long been used in the beauty and cosmetic industry. This has made the seed oil industries in some parts of Africa, such as South Africa, where baobab and Marula oil are popular for high-income generation. Oil in seeds makes up as much as 33%, it is mainly made up of linoleic and oleic acids, which are essential for desired moisturising and skin-softening effects. Additionally, there is a percentage composition of palmitic and alpha-linolenic acids. Baobab seed oil has found use in soaps, tubes of toothpaste, lubricants and moisturisers for skin.3

Apart from its cosmetic benefits, many skin conditions are traditionally treated with baobab seed oil. They have been found to have an anti-histamine effect and have found use in easing the discomfort of insect bites, inflammations and guinea worms. It is also used to manage excess sweating in India and in wound dressing in many parts of Africa. The root extracts are popularly used in bathing babies in Zimbabwe to promote the smoothness of their skin.4

Benefits of baobab for hair

Baobab seed oil is used alone or sometimes as an adjuvant with other oils in hair care. It has been known to provide benefits for dry and brittle hair and hair with split ends.[5] The oil is a rich source of unsaturated fatty acids, and its linoleic acid content is popular for its use in hot oil bathtubs. Similarly, in eyelash hydrating, softening and soothing effects, The pulp of the African Baobab tree is also used in hair rinse.6,7

Many indigenous African populations have been known to use oil extracts from Baobab for the treatment of scalp conditions like hair dandruff and hair loss because of its high linoleic acid content. It has been added to many patented compositions in the cosmetic industry. It impacts a desirable quality on dry and fragile hair by revitalising, softening, and detangling the hair on application.8


The African Baobab has been a part of human history for centuries. The oil extracted from the seeds holds huge economic and cultural benefits and significance. There is a wide range of species within the Bombacaceae family. The Baobab tree has a massive and majestic presence with its towering height of 25 metres and distinctive blown trunks. Their benefits range from food to medicinal purposes.

There is a steady rise in international demand for Baobab oil seed extracts because of their beneficial effects on skin, hair, and nails. The cosmetic industry is maximising its skin-enhancing properties because of its high concentration of fatty acids such as Oleic, Linoleic, alpha-linolenic acids. These are key ingredients in soaps, moisturisers, and hair care products. Moreover, Baobab seed oil has historically been used in the treatment of skin conditions and in promoting hair health, which shows its wide range of traditional and contemporary benefits.


The African Baobab is a symbol of cultural heritage and economic significance and provides multiple benefits across many domains. It has grown significantly in recognition of skin and hair care. Due to its cultural and economic significance, it is recommended that more research and attention need to be channelled into its benefits and to fortify conservation efforts of the African baobab tree.


  1. Sidibe M, Williams JT, Hughes A, Haq N, Smith RW, International Centre for Underutilized Crops. Baobab, Adansonia digitata L. Southampton: International Centre for Underutilised Crops, 2002;
  2. Gebauer J, El-Siddig K, Ebert G. Baobab (Adansonia digitata L.): a Review on a Multipurpose Tree with Promising Future in the Sudan. Gartenbauwissenschaft 2002;67(4):155–160.
  3. Komane B M, Vermaak I, Kamatou G PP, Summers B, Vljoen A M. Beauty in Baobab: a pilot study of the safety and efficacy of Adansonia digitata seed oil. Brazilian Journal of Pharmacognosy 2017;27:1–8.
  4. Donatien Kaboré. A review of baobab (Adansonia digitata) products: Effect of processing techniques, medicinal properties and uses. Afr J Food Sci [homepage on the Internet] 2011 [cited 2024 Jan 11];5(16).
  5. Kamatou GPP, Vermaak I, Viljoen AM. An updated review of Adansonia digitata: A commercially important African tree. South African Journal of Botany [homepage on the Internet] 2011 [cited 2024 Jan 12];77(4):908–919. Available from:
  6. Babiker S, Mirghani MES, Matar SalehM, Kabbashi NA, Alam MdZ, Marikkar JMN. Evaluation of antioxidant capacity and physicochemical properties of Sudanese baobab (Adansonia digitata) seed oil. International Food Research Journal 2017;24:441–445.
  7. Asogwa IS, Ibrahim AN, Agbaka JI. African baobab: Its role in enhancing nutrition, health, and the environment. Trees, Forests and People [homepage on the Internet] 2021 [cited 2024 Jan 12];3:100043. Available from:
  8. Vermaak I, Kamatou GPP, Komane-Mofokeng B, Viljoen AM, Beckett K. African seed oils of commercial importance — Cosmetic applications. South African Journal of Botany [homepage on the Internet] 2011 [cited 2024 Jan 12];77(4):920–933. Available from:

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Olajide Otuyemi

BPharm, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria; MPH University of Ilorin, Nigeria; MSc. Drug discovery, development, and delivery, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

Olajide Otuyemi is an experienced pharmacist and public health specialist with years of experience and a proven track record in the pharmaceutical industry and global health. His knowledge and experience spans across research, pharmaceuticals, patient education, and public health initiatives. He is passionate about health education and empowering others to make informed decisions to support positive health outcomes. He hopes to continue making high-quality medical information accessible and available to all.

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