The little pump dispenser sat on the sink in my bathroom for more than a month before I noticed the label. I hadn't read it at the store; just pulled the liquid hand soap off the shelf and threw it into my cart without paying much attention. Hand soap is hand soap, right?
It turns out I hit the jackpot with my random choice of product. Like I said, I didn't notice right away. But when I did the words on the label became impossible to ignore: Miracle Marula oil.
Wow! I was in possession of Marula oil (of the miraculous kind). How could a person get so lucky? I did a little happy skip right there in the bathroom. But then my brain went to a place that sort of changed everything.
I thought, "What the heck is Marula oil?"
I'd never heard of it. To think I lived my entire life without ever crossing paths with Marula oil. I wasn't sure whether I should be embarrassed or glad I was finally discovering this miraculous substance.
I had to know more. I thought maybe the rest of the label might provide a clue as to the secrets and benefits of this magical Marula oil. The mystery took an unexpected turn when I checked the ingredients and discovered that despite its prominent placement on the front of the bottle, Marula wasn't even listed.
Despite a lack of Marula, the ingredient list contained 21 items. Four were dyes. One was water. That left me 16 to investigate. Most of them had long chemical compound-type names but a quick Google search showed me their true purposes. They were substances like detergent, foam booster, surfactant, anti-microbial, thickener and skin conditioner. All logical and expected ingredients for hand soap. But no Marula.
Then I found it — right between a pH balancer and preservative: sclerocarya birrea seed oil, otherwise known on the Google as Marula.
But what was it, really?
Back to my research.
The sclerocarya birrea, a.k.a. Marula, is a medium-sized tree that grows in the woodlands of Southern Africa, West Africa and Madagascar. It produces small yellow fruit that has eight times more vitamin C than oranges and is considered a delicacy by elephants, giraffes and rhinos — to name a few. Now I understand why elephants never catch colds.
They may, however, catch a buzz. When the fruit becomes overripe, the animals continue eating it and experience a Marula drunkenness that one has to see to believe. Imagine an intoxicated elephant stumbling across your path. Gives a whole new level of excitement to the idea of an African safari.
The oil of the Marula comes from the seeds of the fruit. It's used in cooking, cosmetics, as a meat preservative and to treat leather so putting it in hand soap could fulfill double duty — depending on how leathery your hands are. Then again, if it has preservative qualities perhaps your skin benefits trifold.
Marula oil is touted as having powerful antioxidants, nutrients, omegas, essential fatty acids and the vitamin C referenced above. It's an anti-aging, hydrating, skin repairing powerhouse — according to one website that's selling the stuff for a hundred bucks an ounce. Ouch.
It isn't always that pricey. You can find it online for a fraction of that cost. Or you can simply buy some liquid hand soap for a couple of bucks.
Either way, it beats going all the way to Africa and getting trampled by a stampede of inebriated elephants.