Trichilia emetica - family: Meliaceae
The tree is also known as ‘forest mahogany’,'Natal-mahogany', ‘Cape mahogany’, 'thunder tree', ‘Christmas bells’, 'red ash' (Eng.).
Trichilia is a relatively large genus of trees and shrubs occurring in Africa, America and Asia. The two tree species in South Africa belonging to the genus are T. dregeana and T. emetica. Characteristics of the genus include leaves that are imparipinnate and spirally arranged, unisexual flowers produced on the same tree in cymes or cymose panicles, the flowers being pentamerous (floral parts in 5's), and fruits that are 3-valved capsules.
The forest mahogany is a large tree that thrives in evergreen forests in high rainfall areas. It can grow to a height of 35 m and is characterised by a large rounded crown, a dark evergreen foliage and a smooth grey bark that can become rough and segmented around the base of older specimens.
The compound leaves reach a length of 70 cms, they are glossy and dark green in colour.
The tree bears creamy-white flowers from October to December. They are small flowers, 1.5 to 2.5 cm, and appear in dense, branched axillary inflorescences with velvety petals on both surfaces.
The fruits are pear-shaped, velvety capsules, 3cm in diameter, that split usually into 3 valves - hence the name Trichilia. On splitting, the capsules reveal 6 very black seeds with a bright red to scarlet aril, a striking and distinctive feature of the tree. Fruiting occurs mainly between January and May.
USES AND CULTURAL ASPECTS
The wood is evenly grained and easily worked, therefore suitable for carving. Used for furniture and households implements and even to repair ships.
The seeds are edible and cooked as vegetable or crushed to yield a milky juice used a drink. The seeds are rich in fat which is expressed and used in soaps, body or hair oil.
The bark, seeds, leaves, roots are used medicinally by the Zulu to treat many ailments: stomach complaints, backacke, kidney problems ...
It has the colour of a coffee latte with a very smooth texture and feel. Like coconut, it is solid at room temperature and melts at about 65C. It is light and sinks easily into the skin. The aroma is nutty, earthy, for some it is reminiscent of dried pineapple.
The oil is rich in palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic fatty acids. Research has shown that it contains liminoids that are know to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. A traditional use by the South Africans was to apply the oil on cuts and wounds, to heal bones and soothe the pain caused by rheumatism.
Cosmetically, it softens and smoothes the skin and nourishes the hair and gives it shine and restores softness.
Due to the high oleic content, the oil is quite stable and like olive oil enjoys a shelf life of 2 to 3 years.
The butter can be used neat although it will need to be melted first. It has a strong nutty aroma and it would probably be best to blend it with other butters or base oils. This will also allow to play with the consistency and create a balm of a lighter and softer texture.
The following recipes can be used for a body oil or a hair oil. Scoop a small amount with a finger tip and spread over the body or the hair. To treat the hair and scalp, leave for a couple of hours or overnight and wash the hair.
TIP: Especially good for dry hair. Scoop a small amount and melt over the palm of the hands so they are lightly covered with oil. Pass over the hair, dry ends and through the hair to restore a natural shine without making the hair noticeably greasy.
Body Oil/Hair Oil Recipe No.1
- 60 g mafura butter
- 30 g shea butter (nilotica)
- 10 gr jojoba or argan
Weigh and melt ingredients over a bain-marie
Pour into a container and add essential oils up to 1% or (30 drop / 100 gr)
This makes a very soft balm and will take a day or two to solidify. It will be susceptible to changes in temperatures and the consistency will harden or soften accordingly.
Body Oil/Hair Oil Recipe No.2
This makes a more solid balm than 1. but its texture is so creamy and smooth that the skin will soak it all happily
- 20 gr cocoa butter
- 40 gr mafura butter
- 20 gr shea butter
- 10 gr coconut
- 10 gr jojoba or argan
The cocoa and coconut will give this mixture a distinctive aroma. Use Essential oils that will combine well with the smell of cocoa and coconut such as ylang ylang, jasmine, benzoin, rose, vanilla, geranium, mandarin, orange ...
A blend that works well (for 100g of base oils)
- 4 drops Vanilla
- 4 drops Jasmin
- 4 drops ylang ylang
- 20 drops orange or mandarin
To bring the natural smell of the base oils down, use deodorised cocoa butter and coconut.
Use same technique as above. It will take a couple of days to solidify.