INP tab Commiphora Essential oils from other commiphora species

Most of the commiphora species in Kunene Region are strongly aromatic. Three species of commiphora are considered to have an unpleasant smell and are known as omumbungu, tree of the hyaena. These are C. kraeuseliana, C. dinteri and C. oblanceolata. The resin from C. kraeuseliana is similar in colour and consistency to that of C. wildii and it is possible to extract an essential oil from this resin.

C. virgata exudes a thick, golden-coloured resin when an incision is made a few centimeters deep into the bark of the trees. C. virgata resin is said to have been used in the past by ‘the old people’ for perfume. This species does not exude resin unless it is damaged or tapped. While it has a pleasant smell similar to that of traditional myrrh, harvesting this species and the production of essential oils has not been promoted because of potential issues of the sustainability of use of the resource.

The gum from omumgorwa (C. tenuipetiolata) is used traditionally for soap. The trees exude a gum (not a resin), which is water soluble. The gum is collected and can be used as soap in two ways. It can be ground into a powder, which is then rubbed into the item (a blanket or a cloth) that needs to be washed. Once the powder is rubbed in, the item is then placed into water and rubbed until clean. Alternatively, the gum is collected and heated so that it forms a big lump. This lump is then rubbed against the item to be cleaned in a similar way as to using a cake of soap.

An aromatic extract can be obtained from this gum through the process of solvent extraction. Currently, the possibility of commercialising this indigenous natural product is being investigated. C. tenuipetiolata has a much wider distribution than that of C. wildii and the amount of resin produced by each tree is also greater. Resource inventories have been done in nine conservancies to determine the extent of the resource. A trial harvest was done during the 2012/2013 harvest season in four conservancies. The quotas allocated to each were reached, with harvesters reporting that there was still a lot of gum available for harvesting. Work on developing C. tenuipetiolata as a commercial product is underway.