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An oil used in antiquity finds a new role in modernday cosmetics
Because of its excellent stability and good perfume-fixation properties, behen (or ben) oil was the most desired oil used by the ancient formulators of ointments for cosmetic and religious purposes. All the great cultures of the Near East, including the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, were very fond of this oil, which they called myrobalanum or balanos oil. It was very suited for macerating or the enfleurage of plant and flower fragrances. In ancient Egypt, it was customary to use behen oil to protect the fetus in a pregnant woman by rubbing her belly to symbolically transfer the protection of the gods.
Sesame, olive, castor, radish, safflower and almond oils were also commonly used for cosmetic and religious purposes, but behen oil was by far the dearest.[5,10]
The only area where behen oil is still being produced in a very primitive way is in remote places on the Arabian peninsula. Arabian tribesmen call it "Al Yasser" and still use it for cosmetic and magical purposes (such as curing certain diseases).
Actually, behen oil had been used by cosmetic formulators up to the last century. Greshoff wrote a hundred years ago in a book about useful plants in Indie (now Indonesia):
"For a long time the liquid part of the oil has been very famous, being very suitable for the preparation of fragrant hair oils and perfumes (by enfleurage), as well as for the lubrication of watches and other fine mechanics, but it has now largely disappeared from the European trading and as lubricant oil for mechanics it has been replaced by olive oil, which specially prepared, either by partial saponification or by separating the liquid phase (triolein) of olive oil through cooling."
Fatty Acid Content
Surprisingly, the oils of four Moringa species (see "Moringa species") are very similar in fatty acid composition (Table 1-1). All have a very high content of oleic acid and saturated fatty acids. Behenic acid ([C.sub.22]:0) is the saturated fatty acid typical for …