Kalahari Melon Seed

The Kalahari melon (citrullus lanatus) is also known as the Tsamma melon or wild watermelon and is the biological ancestor of the common watermelon now found worldwide. It is a creeping annual herb with hairy stems and bright yellow flowers.

Unlike the common watermelon, whose flesh is sweet and red, the Kalahari melon’s juicy flesh is pale yellow or green, and tastes bitter. Kalahari melon fruits are small and round in the wild, but larger and oval when cultivated. They have smooth pale green skin marked with mottled bands of darker green radiating from the stalk.

The Kalahari melon is highly adapted to surviving drought and the harsh light of the desert environment. Although found all over Southern Africa, it is most closely associated with the Kalahari sands of Namibia, Botswana, south-western Zambia and western Zimbabwe. It belongs to the botanical family of Cucurbitaceae.

Oil  from the seeds of the Kalahari melon is used by a number of cosmetics companies  as in products that moisturise, regenerate and restructure the skin. Kalahari  melon oil is rich in essential fatty acids, especially linoleic, oleic and  palmitic fatty acids, and is cholesterol free. It has high antioxidant  activity, which possibly helps the plant to survive in the harsh Kalahari desert environment.

Product Applications

  • Moisturising, restructuring and regenerating skin care products.
  • Conditioning hair care products.
  • Soaps.

Scientific Literature

Useful studies on Kalahari melon oil include:

Jacks, T. J., Hensarling, T.P. and Yatsu, L.Y. (1972) Cucurbit Seeds: I. Characterizations and Uses of Oils and Proteins. A Review. Economic Botany 26(2): 135-141.

Lazos, E. S. (1986) Nutritional, Fatty acid, and Oil Characteristics of Pumpkin and Melon Seeds. Journal of Food Science 51(5): 1382.

Maggs, G. I. Agricultural potential of indigenous Cucurbitaceae in Namibia, Published by National Botanical Research Institute of Namibia (NBRI).

Ogunsua, A.O. and Badifu, G.I.O. (1989) Stability of purified melon seed oil obtained by solvent extraction. Journal of Food Science 54(1): 71-73.
Rugheimer, S. (1997) Chemical characterisation of the oil extracted from Citrullus lanatus seeds. University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Traditional Uses

The rich yellow oil of Kalahari melon seeds has been used traditionally in Southern Africa as a moisturizer to protect the skin from the sun, to promote hair growth and as an ingredient in soap. The ground seeds also have a history of use as a cosmetic, primarily being used as a face and body scrub which is said to impart a blemish-free complexion to the skin.

The juicy melons, despite their bitterness, have long been a crucial source of water for desert peoples. It is said that the bushmen can survive for six weeks in the desert on Kalahari melons alone.

The seeds are also considered a delicacy and are eaten whole as a protein-rich snackfood or roasted and stone ground into a coarse meal. They contain 35% protein as well as vitamins C, B2 and G, minerals, riboflavin, and carbohydrates. The seeds are as rich in oil as conventional oil crops such as cottonseed, soy and corn.