Giant Kigelia trees stand proudly up to 20 metres tall all over Northern and Western Africa. When in bloom, the trees spring huge red flowers with heavy meaty scent, pollinated by birds and bats. Kigelia fruit look like giant brown-grey sausages, so it is really no wonder that British sailors nicknamed Kigelia Africana sausage tree. The fruit can grow 1 metre long and weigh up to 10 kilograms!
Name notwithstanding, the ‘sausages’ are inedible — in fact, Kigelia fruit and seed are very toxic for humans. Local people never ate Kigelia fruit, but they used them to treat disease. In very small doses, Kigelia fruit pulp can serve as a laxative, and it was also applied topically to treat skin disease, including cancer, leprosy and syphilis. The infusion of fruit and seeds was applied to rheumatic joints, snake bites, infected wounds, skin sores and fungal infections. But it was the Tonga people living in the Zambezi valley, who brought Kigelia extract into cosmetic manufacture. Tonga women applied Kigelia pulp to their skin to lighten and even out the complexion. When Tonga boys and girls entered adulthood, they took up rubbing it into their breasts and genitals. It was supposed to work as an aphrodisiac, and maybe it did, but what Kigelia became famous for was its supposed effect on Tonga women’s large and beautiful breasts.
Was There Any Truth to It?
Kigelia’s primary reactant is kigelin, an extraordinary protein, enhancing the activity of the cells that produce collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid in the skin. Kigelin does help the skin restore its resilience, elasticity, thickness and smooth surface. The fruit pulp also contains steroid compounds, predominantly stigmasterol, sitosterol and estrone, which are very similar in their structure and effect to female sex hormone, oestrogen. It is because of the sterols, that kigelia extract can have a beneficial effect on women’s breasts, and this is why it is most commonly used in the cosmetic solutions for bust care, restoring the breasts’ shape and size after child birth or weight loss.
Among other things, kigelia extract contains anti-oxidants, including a bioflavonoid called quercetin. It activates the skin’s oxygenation and blood circulation while protecting all skin layers from free radicals. Other flavonoids, luteolin, irridoid and coumarin, strengthen blood vessels, have an anti-inflammatory and even a mild anaesthetic effect.
Excerpt from “The Science of Beauty” by Dr Tiina Meder
© Dr Tiina Meder
All rights reserved
Any unauthorised copying, reproduction and distribution is strictly prohibited.