A Fall from Paradise: The Myth of the Baobabs
Standing majestically on the arid savannahs of Sub-Saharan African, it is little surprise that the distinct Baobab with its massive truck and branches resembling roots has been the inspiration for many a myth and legend. One tells that the Baobab having been planted by God refused to stop walking leading the annoyed deity to pull it up and replant it - roots-up- lending to its nickname: the Upside-down Tree. Another legend tells that the God Thora, who having the Baobab in his garden, grew a disliking to the tree and chucked it over the wall of heaven, where it landed upside-down on the earth below. Yet another myth tells of a rushed God, in a hurry to finish the creation of the world in seven days, throwing blocks of plant matter of all sizes in every direction, which landed and became the Baobabs. Local legends have held that while water infused with Baobab pips will protect one from crocodiles, anyone who picks the spirit-holding flowers of the tree meet their fate among lions.
In the Sahel, the fruits of the Boabab are often associated with pregnancy and is a symbol for sustaining life in a water-stressed landscape. Animals ranging from monkeys, elephants and baboons rely on the tree for vitamin C. Local communities have used the Baobab fruit to treat a range of health problems for thousands of years and its bark and leaves have further been used in traditional medicines.
Low Hanging Fruit for Our Upside Down Trees
Recently, the cosmetics and health industries have caught on the benefits provided by the Baobab. A strong antioxidant and powerful immune booster and one of the most potent sources of vitamin C in the world, Baobab powder can help ward off colds and flus as well as maintain healthy skin and teeth. It is extraordinarily high in crucial minerals like copper and iron, and has been shown to naturally prevent skin problems like acne, psoriasis and eczema.
But the resilient Baobabs, able to withstand being cast from heaven, an upside-down replanting, or an evolution from little more than an amorphous pulp to crux of an entire ecosystem appear to have met their match in recent years. A research project commenced in 2005 aimed at exploring how Baobabs could reach their impressive size and age revealed something troubling by its conclusion in 2017. Of the Baobabs under study, nine of thirteen of the oldest had died.
While some may call this a coincidence or claim a statistical fluke, it seems unlikely among trees known for a lifespan of up to 2500 years that easily reach the size of a truck. The researchers found no evidence of disease or epidemic, leading them to speculate that the Baobabs have become the next legendary species of the region to succumb to the the pressures of a hotter, drier, climate.
Roots Up to the Future
Trees and plants like the Baobab used by humans for cosmetic and medicinal purposes are often vulnerable species. While some are directly threatened by climate change, others are at risk from human practices. The increasing demand for natural ingredients in cosmetics, puts additional pressure on these precious species, that are often growing in vulnerable or degrading eco-systems. But sourcing of the Baobab fruit, if handled in a sustainable and ethical way, can benefit the trees and communities alike.
Nauki Responsible Sourcing partners with landscape restoration and forest conservation projects to bring their commodities such as wild harvested and certified organic Baobab Oil to the European market.
At Nauki we believe that healthy ingredients come from healthy ecosystems and thriving communities. The sustainable cultivation of plants for health and beauty ingredients should also benefit the health and beauty of our planet.