Trichilia emetica – also known as the Cape Mahogany – is a beautiful slow-growing hardwood tree that grows up to 30m in height. It is evergreen with dark glossy leaves, red-brown bark and fragrant creamy yellow flowers. The trichilia tree is found across Southern Africa in low altitude, frost-free areas, mainly along rivers and the coast.
The pear-shaped fruits dry out and split into three segments, hence the name trichilia which means ‘in three parts’. Inside the fruits are bright red seeds that are rich in oil. A single tree yields on average around 20 litres of oil.
Oil from the seeds of the trichilia tree forms a solid butter at room temperature and melts at 30˚C. The butter is rich in essential fatty acids (palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic) and has been shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity due to the presence of limonids such as Trichilin A. It has also been shown to scavenge free radicals more effectively than many other oils on the market.
Trichilia emetica seeds yield a solid butter as room temperature and which melts to an oil at 30 deg C. The oil content of the kernels is higher than many other oilseeds with a content of between 55-65%. Due to the high proportion of mono-unsaturated Oleic acid, the oil has good stability. The high content of palmitic and oleic acids has also been found to have good skin permeation enhancing properties, along with anti-oxidant properties. The oil is rich is essential fatty acids providing revitalising and nourishing properties for the skin and hair. The presence of limonoids, in particular Trichilin A, also suggests presence of anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activities.
T. emetica is widely and naturally distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa in the South through, Swaziland, Mozambique north of Zimbabwe. The tree is often found on well-drained rich alluvial soil along rivers and the coast, and where there is high rainfall.
The seeds are collected and processed by PhytoTrade Africa members under fair trade arrangements with harvesters and are cold-pressed to maintain the beneficial chemical compounds found in the oil.
Mafura butter is a central part of Southern African domestic life and is renowned for its cosmetic and healing properties. It is used on the skin to nourish and revitalise as well as to condition the hair. The butter is also used medicinally to treat rheumatism and heal wounds.