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Scientific Name(s): Simmondsia californica Nutall., Simmondsia chinensis (Link) Schneider.
Common Name(s): Jojoba, K-20W Jojoba

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 16, 2022.

Clinical Overview


The toxicity of the constituent simmondsin in jojoba seed meal and some oil components limits the likelihood of clinical applications. Jojoba oil is commonly used in dermatological preparations.


There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of jojoba or its oil; it is primarily used as a vehicle for oxidation-sensitive substances in ointments.


Although absolute contraindications have not been identified, jojoba should not be ingested by humans due to potential toxicity.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Adverse toxicological studies in rodents and birds exist.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Case reports of contact dermatitis, confirmed by skin patch tests, exist for jojoba oil.


Constituents of jojoba are toxic. Studies demonstrate hematological toxicity, histological abnormalities, and other adverse effects.

Scientific Family

  • Simmondsiaceae


S. chinensis is a desert shrub indigenous to Arizona, California, and northern Mexico that grows in a number of deserts worldwide. It is a woody, evergreen shrub with thick, leathery, bluish-green leaves and dark brown nut-like fruit. An equal number of male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The plant can withstand extreme daily fluctuations of temperature and thrives in well-drained, desert soils and coarse mixtures of gravel and clay. The mature plant produces about 5 to 10 pounds of seeds, which range in size between the coffee bean and peanut. It is an important forage plant for desert bighorn sheep and mule deer.Maugh 1977, USDA 2007 A synonym is Simmondsia californica Nutall.


For a long time, American Indians and Mexicans have used jojoba oil as a hair conditioner/restorer and as a medicine, as well as in cooking and rituals. In the United States, jojoba is considered a viable cash crop for the southwestern Indians, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has funded most of the studies in this area. With the banning of the sale of sperm whale oil in the 1970s, the cosmetic industry turned to jojoba oil for use in shampoos, moisturizers, sunscreens, and conditioners. It has further potential as an industrial lubricant because it does not break down under high temperature or pressure. A disadvantage to its use is its relatively high cost.Le Dréau 2009, Maugh 1977, OALS 1979, Scott 1982


Jojoba seeds produce 50% to 55% by weight of a colorless, odorless oil or liquid wax. The wax is almost completely (97%) composed of straight chain monoesters of C-20 and C-22 acids and alcohols with 2 double bonds. The acids have been identified as a mixture of cis-11-eicosenoic (C-20) and cis-13-docosenoic (C-22, erucic) acids. The alcohols have been identified as mixtures of cis-11-eicosenol, cis-13-docosenol, and cis-15-tetracosenol (C-24). Also included are small quantities of sterols (less than 0.5% total of campesterol, stigmasterol, and sitosterol). Jojoba oil is essentially triglyceride free.El-Mallah 2009, Léon 2004, Tada 2005

Seed meal, the fraction left after the wax has been extracted, is protein-rich with albumins and globulins. The group of simmondsin compounds (10% to 20%) in this fraction, recognized as food-intake inhibitors, are removed before the meal can be used as animal feed. Processes for detoxification include chemical inactivation (ammonia), heat treatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and solvent extraction. Analysis by gas chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography have been described.Le Dréau 2009, Lein 2002, Shrestha 2002, Van Boven 2000

Uses and Pharmacology

The toxicity of the constituent simmondsin in jojoba seed meal and of some of the oil components limits the likelihood of clinical trials.


Animal data

Topical administration of the refined wax to guinea pigs for 20 weeks resulted in no systemic effects. A reversible swelling accompanied by reduced skin flexibility and an increased sensitivity to shaving was observed. However, there were no histological changes in skin tissues. These effects were most likely due to an occlusive-like action created by the wax.Yaron 1982

Clinical data

Jojoba is most commonly recognized as an ingredient in cosmetics and other topical preparations at concentrations varying from 1% to 20%.Arndt 1987, Wantke 1996 Limited clinical studies show skin hydrating effects of hydrolyzed jojoba esters similar in magnitude to glycerol.Meyer 2008, Mosovich 1984

In 2013, a 10-week randomized controlled field study in Madagascar documented rapid and significant improvements in tungiasis outcome measures in subjects treated twice daily with a coconut oil-based herbal repellent that includes jojoba oil and aloe vera. Tungiasis is a parasitic sand flea skin disease that can cause significant morbidity in many resource-poor tropical communities. At 2 weeks, the sand flea attack rate was zero and the intensity of infestation as well as the severity scores for acute and chronic tungiasis were significantly decreased. Within 10 weeks, the degree of tungiasis-associated morbidity approached zero.Thielecke 2013

Other uses

Anti-inflammatory effects have been demonstrated in experiments with induced rat paw edema, and in granulation models; these effects have also affected neutrophil activity.Habashy 2005

Jojoba exhibits antioxidant activity, probably related to the content of alpha-tocopherol found in the leaves.Mallet 1994

In a rabbit study, ingestion of jojoba oil as a 2% supplement to an atherogenic diet produced a 40% reduction of blood cholesterol, although the mechanism by which this occurred was not determined.Clarke 1981 Simmondsin is a recognized anorectic, affecting the satiety response, as well as causing a conditioned taste aversion.Bouali 2008, Lievens 2003, Lievens 2009 Jojoba seed meal has been used as animal feed once detoxified. The treated meal is nontoxic to mice, poultry, sheep, and cattle.Pérez-Gil 1989, Verbiscar 1981


There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of jojoba or its oil; it is primarily used as a vehicle for oxidation-sensitive substances in ointments.Le Dréau 2009

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Adverse toxicological studies in rodents and birds have been published.Cokelaere 2001, Vermaut 1998


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Case reports of contact dermatitis confirmed by skin patch tests exist for jojoba oil.Di Berardino 2006, Wantke 1996


The oral median lethal dose of crude jojoba wax is more than 160 g/kg in mice.Taguchi 1977 Subcutaneous injection of 1 mL/kg for 7 weeks in test animals resulted in no systemic effects, although some systemic accumulation was observed.Yaron 1982

In experiments in rats, jojoba meal as a feed showed no changes in liver, kidney, or spleen histology; however, reversible depression of red blood marrow cells was observed.Boozer 2006 Histological changes in the small intestine and increases in serum transaminases have also been reported in rodents.Verschuren 1989

Jojoba oil is 14% erucic acid, a causative factor in myocardial fibrosis. Although no direct relationship has been established between this compound and jojoba toxicity in humans, jojoba should not be ingested in any form.Clarke 1981, EPA 1995

Limited experiments in rodents suggest effects of jojoba meal on the developing fetus related to decreased maternal food intake.Cokelaere 1998, Cokelaere 2001 In female broiler chickens, jojoba meal decreased feed intake and controlled body weight; however, the birds were unable to produce eggs due to small oviducts. No effect on the ovaries or follicle development was observed.Vermaut 1998

Index Terms

  • Simmondsia californica Nutall



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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Arndt GJ. Jojoba. Cosmet Toiletries. 1987;102(6):68.
Boozer CN, Herron AJ. Simmondsin for weight loss in rats. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006;30(7):1143-1148.16462820
Bouali A, Bellirou A, Boukhatem N, Hamal A, Bouammali B. Enzymatic detoxification of jojoba meal and effect of the resulting meal on food intake in rats. Nat Prod Res. 2008;22(7):638-647.18569704
Clarke JA, Yermanos DM. Effects of ingestion of jojoba oil on blood cholesterol levels and lipoprotein patterns in New Zealand white rabbits. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1981;102(4):1409-1415.7317057
Cokelaere M, Daenens P, Decuypere E, et al. Reproductive performance of rats treated with defatted jojoba meal or simmondsin before or during gestation. Food Chem Toxicol. 1998;36(1):13-19.9487360
Cokelaere M, Flo G, Lievens S, Van Boven M, Vermaut S, Decuypere E. Teratological studies in defatted jojoba meal-supplemented rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2001;39(3):247-252.11278056
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