What Are Jojoba Plants?

Jennifer Mackin
Jennifer Mackin
Cold cream containing jojoba oil.
Cold cream containing jojoba oil.

Jojoba plants are shrubs that are mostly grown commercially for their wax ester. This substance, also called jojoba oil, is a type of rare oil that can be squeezed from the seeds. The plant is native to deserts in the southwest U.S. and in Mexico. Goat nut, wild hazel, and gray box bush are other names for this the plant. The oil is used in cosmetics and biodegradable lubricants. It is also a food source for many animals native to the desert.

In arid regions food can be scarce. Jojoba plants provide a year-round food supply for the animals living in these areas. Deer, bighorn sheep, and other livestock often feast on the leaves and flowers, while rabbits and squirrels eat the acorn-shaped nuts. The oil inside the mature nuts is hard for most animals to digest and can be toxic to some if eaten in large quantities. For this reason, animals typically avoid the ripe nuts.

While the seeds are not poisonous to humans, the oil can act as a laxative, making the idea of ingesting the seed unappetizing. In its history, it is said that even local tribes known for eating anything that was safe to eat would avoid consuming jojoba plants. These peoples would only eat it out of dire necessity, and even then in very small quantities.

In commercial use, jojoba plants are grown for their oil. Once it is extracted from the seeds and refined, it becomes clear and odorless and can be included in a variety of products. Jojoba oil also has a long shelf-life. Many companies like to include it in cosmetics as an extra moisturizer. The plant’s oil can also be found in cold creams, perfumes, and lotions.

In addition to oil's use for cosmetic purposes, the industrial sector has many uses for it. The oil from jojoba plants can be refined and used as biodiesel fuel, and in lubricants, esters, and alcohols. It can also be used as an active ingredient in fungicides used to protect crops.

While native to North America, the benefits of jojoba oil have caused many countries, including Australia and the Middle East, to cultivate jojoba plants in their arid regions. The dry climate in some of these countries can make it difficult to grow other crops, but can be the perfect environment to grow jojoba plants. Jojoba oil has become a substitute for whale sperm in many products as whale sperm has become increasingly difficult to obtain. The high demand for the oil can make it a profitable crop for many countries.

Discussion Comments


How expensive is it to buy jojoba oil? I have a recipe for lip balm that calls for jojoba oil and have never bought it before. If it is too expensive, I wonder if I could just substitute olive oil instead.


I like to buy hair care products that have jojoba oil in them because I know it is very moisturizing. It seems crazy that something that is so beneficial in health and beauty products is also used in fungicides and biodiesel fuel.

I know that different parts of plants are used for different purposes, and this is really a wide range of uses from one plant. The next time I buy some perfume with jojoba oil in it I will be wondering what other products this oil is being used in.


I am familiar with jojoba oil used in beauty products but didn't realize this plant was a source of food for the desert animals. It sounds like they like to eat almost anything except for the oil in the nuts, which is the only thing I am familiar with when it comes to the jojoba plant.


I like to make some of my own skin care products and buy jojoba oil at the health food store to use in a face serum. I mix this with other natural and essential oils which include sweet almond oil, evening primrose oil, lavender and patchouli.

This makes a very moisturizing product that I like to put on my face in the evening. My dry skin really soaks up the oil and it feels soft and smooth in the morning. It really doesn't have a scent to it, so I like to add essential oils for fragrance and for healing properties.

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    • Cold cream containing jojoba oil.
      By: picsfive
      Cold cream containing jojoba oil.