Black palm kernel oil (BPKO), obtained from the edible seed (nut) inside the palm fruit from the palm tree (Elaies Guineensis), has been in existence for a long time without its benefits being appreciated. It is common in West African countries, especially Nigeria, where it is known locally as “ude aki” among the Igbos, “adi dudu” among the Yorubas, “mmayanya” in Efik and “manlade” among the Hausas. It is mostly seen in the rural areas and is very affordable.
Black palm kernel oil is a highly saturated vegetable oil; it does not contain cholesterol which might be harmful to health. BPKO is loaded with antioxidants, unsaturated fats, vitamin K, zero trans-fat and vitamin A. It has a long shelf life.
There are several methods of extracting palm kernel oil, but the traditional method is to heat the kernel (after removing the hard mesocarp) in a dry pot till the oil shows up. The oil extracted in this way is not normally used in cooking but for traditional medicine and lubrication. It is dark in colour, with a distinctively strong, nutty, roasted smell – resulting from of its method of extraction (roasting). Palm kernel oil can also be extracted by the cold press method to give a light yellow to clear oil.
Pharmacology and medicinal uses
Black PKO is one medicinal oil that is gradually disappearing from our shelves. It used to be an important home remedy for most life-threatening ailments in earlier years.
In children, BPKO is used to manage epilepsy, cold, and to strengthen the fontanel at 0-12 months old or even more. When a child is constipated, this “wonder oil” is applied to the anal region. It relaxes the muscles and results in easy bowel movement. BPKO is also used to treat children with high fever and convulsion, abdominal pain, as well as skin rashes.
The palm kernel oil is also reputed for helping the healing process of wounds and bruises. It prevents stretch marks when applied generously daily on the stomach during pregnancy. As the pregnancy advances, the palm kernel oil aids in the elasticity of the skin and prevents the cracks that usually lead to stretch marks.
As a good skin moisturizer, BPKO restores skin elasticity, thereby preventing wrinkles and protect the skin from harsh weather conditions. BPKO maximally accelerates hair growth, prevents excessive shedding, strengthens the roots of the hair, increases the softness and sheen of the hair, prevents hair breakages and treats the scalp.
BPKO is also applied on the surface of metal objects to prevent rust.
Economic value and prospects
Locally made BPKO in Eastern part of Nigeria costs about 1,000 naira per bottle. Indeed, the wonders of black palm kernel oil cannot be overemphasised. It is a raw material for the manufacture of soaps, washing powders, hair creams and other personal care products.
Increased use of PKO for domestic, medicinal and commercial purposes will go a long way to benefit Nigeria at individual, local and national levels.
By Ngozika Okoye, FPCPharm, MSc, MPH (Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency)