Palm Kernel Oil is a useful and versatile oil that is pressed from the nut of the African Oil Palm, Elaeis guineensis. It is used in a variety of products, from lotions and cosmetics to delicious (and calorie-rich) desserts. While called an “oil”, unrefined virgin palm kernel oil is actually the consistency of butter at room temperature, making it an ideal base for body butters, soaps, and salves. In its purest form, it is a beautiful light brown color and has a unique, rich, nutty caramel fragrance. It is a wonderful moisturizer for skin, lips, hair and nails, and provides cooling relief for itchy skin and ragged cuticles.
Recently, this oil has received much negative media attention, and for good reason. Due to high demands worldwide, some companies have started using environmentally irresponsible planting and harvesting practices, destroying thousands of acres of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia to make room for oil palms. Unfortunately, this practice not only devastates precious virgin forests but also further threatens the already-endangered orangutans that live there.
These days, many are calling for a ban on palm kernel oil in response to these ecological abuses, but I suggest that being an informed consumer and carefully selecting your supplier can make a big difference. Not all palm kernel oil is produced unsustainably. There are many growers who make their living honestly and rely on discerning buyers for their livelihood in the face of unscrupulous competition.
We use an environmentally conscientious supplier for palm kernel oil in Togo, West Africa. The group we deal with follows fair trade and organic guidelines in the production of their oils. The forests are not destroyed when harvesting nuts and fruit for the oil and no orangutans are harmed since orangutans are not endemic to the region. We are happy to have a relationship with this supplier and continue to enjoy the benefits of palm kernel oil without hurting the environment.