Summary of jojoba and its traditional use

Kumeyaay name: kushu

Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)


The jojoba is a mid-size, shrubby tree that is native to the southwestern states in North America. The plant is recognizable by the large jojoba nuts that emerge on its extended branches. These nuts are exceptionally high in oil content. In fact, this jojoba oil is a valuable liquid wax ester that has commercial value. This wax ester is used as an industrial oil. Birds and animals have a tough time digesting these nuts, due to the high oil content. However, the Bailey’s pocket mouse can eat these nuts and readily digests the wax.

Kumeyaay people grind up the seeds and use the ground material when struggling with indigestion. This powder is used like coffee grinds to percolate a warm beverage when stomach aches arise. The jojoba seeds were also roasted and rubbed into an open sore to assist healing. Other Native American groups used the waxy salve to soften and preserve animal hides.



Jojoba seeds ready for harvest.

Photo credit: Kenneth Bosma CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons