Table of Contents
Arquette, J.G. and J.H. Brown. 1993. Development of a
cosmetic grade oil from Lesquerella fendleri seed. p. 367-371. In: J.
Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.
Development of a Cosmetic Grade Oil from Lesquerella fendleri Seed
James G. Arquette and James H. Brown
- OIL EXTRACTION
- LABORATORY REFINING PROCEDURE
- LESQUERELLA MEAL
- PHYSICAL PROPERTIES
- Acute Oral Toxicity (Single Dose)
- Eye Irritation Test (Draize)
- Primary Dermal Irritants
- FUTURE PROSPECTS
- Table 1
- Table 2
- Table 3
- Table 4
- Fig. 1
Lesquerella fendleri L., Brassicaceae, is an annual native to the arid
southwestern United States and has been under study by the USDA Agricultural
Research Service since the 1960s. The fatty acid composition of the oil is a
blend of lesquerolic acid, a C-20 monounsaturated hydroxy acid, and highly
unsaturated C-18 fatty acids. As such, lesquerella oil represents an
alternative to castor oil as a source of hydroxy fatty acids. Both the
similarities and differences with castor provide a stimulus for application
trials involving lesquerella. Initial testing of lesquerella oil indicate
extremely low levels of toxicity or irritation (oral, dermal, and ocular). The
lesquerella meal resulting from oil extraction is rich in protein and is being
evaluated as a source of natural antioxidants, gums, colorants as well as
animal feed. A low volume specialty oil market, such as cosmetics, has been
identified for product development and is the subject of this paper.
Lesquerella is a New World genus of over 70 species (Gentry and Barclay 1962).
Producing abundant nonshattering seed, the species, L. fendleri, has
been found to have superior agronomic potential. The species is native to the
states of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas and found in regions of poor
soil and low rainfall (25 cm/yr). Its low water demand may make it an
attractive potential substitute for certain heavily irrigated crops in these
regions. Current seed yields of 950 to 1,120 kg/ha and the 21% seed oil
content must still be improved through breeding and agricultural practices.
The cosmetics industry desires a solvent free product and often stipulates that
the processing be solvent free. For this reason, the lesquerella seed is being
cold press extracted. The seed is preconditioned in a steam tube drier
modified to allow contact with live steam. The oil is then mechanically
extracted from the seed. This system of crushing lesquerella seed produced
favorable results with a crude yield of 85% of available oil. The crude oil
contained an excessive amount of gums that were unfilterable and did not decant
upon washing. Centrifugal degumming is required. Gum contamination of the oil
can be minimized by controlled conditioning of the seed prior to extraction.
As more seed becomes available, cold press extraction followed by solvent
extraction of the meal will provide maximum yields and deliver both a solvent
free oil for cosmetic applications and a solvent extracted oil for other
Crude lesquerella oil is the color of molasses, often too dark to measure with
a Lovibond Tintometer 1" cell. The oil also posses a distinct odor. Both the
color and odor must be reduced for cosmetic applications.
Refining of lesquerella has been limited to laboratory studies until now.
Crude oil decanted from the gums was filtered. Free fatty acid content was
reduced by spraying 0.7% excess 16°. Bé sodium hydroxide over the top
of the oil at room temperature. After 1 h the temperature was raised to
65°C for 5 min. Heat was then turned off, allowing the soap stock to break
and settle. The oil was decanted, water washed, and dried under vacuum.
Bleaching consisted of addition of 10% Filtrol 160 at 90°C for 20 to 30 min
with good agitation and under vacuum. Activated carbon and Trisyl have been
used as bleaching agents without significant improvements. Laboratory
deodorization consisted of steam sparging at 220° to 230°C for 2 h at 5
mm Hg pressure.
The procedure described above followed conventional oil refining procedures and
did not result in any significant reduction in hydroxyl content. As more oil
becomes available, investigations will continue to determine the effects of
using neutral bleaching clays and physical refining to remove free fatty acids
and odor simultaneously.
This process produced a superior quality oil of good color but with a slight
residual odor. Large scale continuous deodorization equipment must be examined
in an effort to further reduce odor levels.
The meal resulting from oil extraction has an excellent distribution of amino
acids being particularly high in lysine (Carlson et al. 1990). Preconditioning
the seed is necessary for deactivation of the thioglucosidase enzyme system so
that the meal can be used for animal feed. Meal feeding studies are in
progress for a variety of livestock. Unlike castor, lesquerella does not
contain toxic moieties like the very lethal protein, ricin; the poisonous
alkaloid, ricinine; or the very potent allergen, CB-1A. There is significant
interest in the lesquerella meal as a source of natural antioxidants, pigments,
gums, and protein extracts as well as for animal feed.
The L. fendleri seed contains approximately 21% triglyceride oil with
nine fatty acids (Table 1). Moisture content at harvest was 5 to 6%.
Current breeding programs need to increase both the oil content of the seed and
the lesquerolic acid content of the oil. The highly unsaturated fatty acid
portion resembles linseed oil and contributes significantly to the
characteristics of the oil and unique derivative potential. The structure of
lesquerolic acid, 14-hydroxy, cis-11-eicosenoic acid bears a close
relationship to ricinoleic acid found in castor oil (Fig. 1). Table 2 presents
physical properties of the cold pressed and refined oils currently being
Lesquerella oil contains an almost equal blend of highly unsaturated fatty
acids and hydroxy unsaturated fatty acids. As oxidative stability of an oil
tends to be inversely proportional to the degree of unsaturation, tests were
conducted to determine the relative stability of lesquerella oil (Table 3).
The AOCS Method Cd 12-57 was used to determine the stability of the oil under
prescribed conditions. In this case, active oxygen method (AOM) hours to an
endpoint of 100 meq/kg are reported. The oils selected for examination were
provided by Jojoba Growers and Processors Inc. The tests were conducted by
Henkel Corp., supplier of the mixed tocopherol antioxidant, Covi-Ox. Covi-Ox
is a registered trademark of the Henkel Corp.
Cashew and Brazil nut oil were included in the study as they have comparable
Iodine Values. The results indicate that Lesquerella oil is stable beyond what
might be expected given the Iodine Value of 106. Whether lesquerella might be
a source for new potent natural antioxidants warrants further study.
The acute single dose oral toxicity was determined on Sprague-Dawley rats.
Lesquerella oil was found to have an apparent LD50 Single Oral Dose of greater
than 15 g/kg of body weight. No larger dosages are administered in this test.
Lesquerella, according to this test, achieved the lowest rating of "Practically
Non-Toxic" (Gleason et al. 1969). Of the ten animals tested, three females
exhibited a slight weight loss during the first week, but all animals went on
to show positive weight gain by the end of the test period with no other signs
of toxicity. The observation criteria is extensive. Noteworthy was the lack
of diarrhea at these high dosages indicating that lesquerella is no substitute
for castor oil in the purgative market.
The extent of eye irritation was determined in New Zealand rabbits. The
highest mean score was 0.0. No positive reactions were exhibited in any of the
six animals. Lesquerella oil was rated as Non-Irritating and passed the eye
irritation test. For all seven potential ocular reactions monitored, the
results were consistently zero (lowest possible) for the entire 72 h test
The degree of irritation (erythema-eschar and edema) elicited by the
lesquerella oil was determined on the abraded and non-abraded skin of six New
Zealand white rabbits over a 72 h observation period. The Primary Dermal
Irritation Score was 1.67 (mild irritant) and is not considered to be a Primary
Dermal Irritant. At the 24 h observation, three animals exhibited well defined
erythema and three animals exhibited very slight erythema. At the 48 h
observation, five animals exhibited well defined erythema and one very slight
erythema. All six animals exhibited no edema.
This test (Morris and Kwan 1983) is designed as a screen for any material which
may be a potential acnegen. The test is conducted on the ear canals of four
New Zealand white rabbits which are inspected for comedomes (acne) whose size
is proportional to the potency of the test substance. Lesquerella oil's
Comedogenic Grade is 0.0, noncomedogenic. This test is critical for cosmetic
ingredients. Since the 1980s formulators have carefully selected ingredients
to reduce the possibility of "acne cosmetics," the technical name for acne
attributed to makeup, skin, and hair care products. The unequivocal low result
will promote applications' studies within the cosmetics industry.
This test (Magnusson and Kligman 1969) is designed to determine if a given
material causes allergenic responses. Albino guinea pigs are used with
positive and negative controls. Intradermal injections and topical
applications were used. No allergenic responses were observed in the ten test
animals (or in the two unsensitized and two negative controls, the two positive
controls exhibited positive allergenic response). The test showed 0%
sensitization. A 0 to 8% sensitization is considered Grade I, Non-sensitizing
or at most a weak agent. The summary of toxicological testing conducted to
date is presented in Table 4.
These toxicological test results indicate an extremely low potential for
irritation. For use as a cosmetic material, this is extremely important.
Lesquerella has potential for broad based application (e.g. stick deodorant,
lip and eye care products, soaps, etc.) including pharmaceutical applications.
While optimum genetic material and agronomic practices are still a few years
from realization, the immediate potential for lesquerella oil and its
derivatives as raw materials for the cosmetic industry appears very promising.
Studies are underway to improve oil processing technology for optimum quality
and yields. Initial examinations of partially and selective hydrogenated
lesquerella oil have produced derivatives with very distinct properties.
Formulation work has begun incorporating lesquerella oil into lip care
products. Lipstick, which may contain as much as 80% castor oil, provides an
initial focus for lesquerella. Lipstick has been successfully manufactured
using lesquerella oil instead of castor oil. Product evaluation will begin in
- Carlson, K.D., M. Bagby, and A. Chaudry. 1990. Analysis of oil and meal from
Lesquerella fendleri seed. J. Amer. Oil Chem. Soc. 67:438-442.
- Gentry, H.S. and A. Barclay. 1962. The search for new industrial crops II:
Lesquerella (Cruciferae) as a source of new oilseeds. Econ. Bot. 16:95-100.
- Gleason, M.N., R.E. Gosselin, H.C. Hodge, and R.P. Smith. 1969. Clinical
toxicology of commercial products. 3rd ed. Williams and Wilkens, Baltimore,
- Morris, W.E. and S.C. Kwan. 1983. Use of the rabbit ear model in evaluating
the comedogenic potential of cosmetic ingredients. J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem.
- Magnusson, B. and A. Kligman. 1969. The identification of contact allergens
by animal assay. The guinea pig maximization test. J. Invest. Dermatol.
Table 1. Fatty acid composition of Lesquerella fendleri seed
|Fatty acid ||Concentration (%)|
|Palmitic ||C 16:0 ||1.3|
|Palmitoleic ||C 16:1 ||0.7|
|Stearic ||C 18:0 ||2.1|
|Oleic ||C 18:1 ||18.1|
|Linoleic ||C 18:2 ||9.3|
|Linolenic ||C 18:3 ||14.0|
|Arachidic ||C 20:0 ||0.2|
|Gadoleic ||C 20:1 ||1.2|
|Lesquerolic ||C 20:1(OH) ||51.4|
Table 2. Physical properties of crude and refined lesquerella oil.
|Property ||AOCS Method ||Crude ||Refined|
|Iodine value ||Cd 1-25 ||107 ||104|
|Hydroxyl value ||Cd 4-40 ||102|
|Free fatty acid ||Ae 4-52 ||1.5 ||0.7|
|Color (5.25" Lovibond ||Cc 136-45 ||too dark ||4.1R; 37Y|
|Gardner) || ||14 ||5|
|Saponification number ||Cd 3-25 ||168|
|Peroxide values ||Cd 8-53 ||1.6 ||0.40|
|Refractive index 40°C ||1.4719 ||1.4710|
|Phosphorous (ppm) ||Ca 12b-87 ||0.41|
|Metals (ppm): ||Ca 15-75|
|Fe || ||0.1|
|Mg || ||0.16|
|Cu || ||1.1|
|Ni || ||0.08|
|Ca || ||1.9|
Table 3. Relative stability of triglyceride oils with added
zActive oxygen method, AOCS Method Cd 12-57.
|Oil ||Iodine |
|AOM (h)z ||Increased|
|Cashew ||87 ||0 ||13 ||---|
| ||365 ||20 ||54|
| ||1050 ||27 ||108|
|Brazil Nut ||101 ||0 ||10 ||---|
| ||360 ||13 ||30|
| ||930 ||16 ||60|
|Lesquerella ||106 ||0 ||35 ||---|
| ||375 ||40 ||14|
| ||915 ||46 ||31|
Table 4. Toxicological test results for cold pressed lesquerella oil.
|Acute oral toxicity ||LD50 Single Dose > 15 g/kg body wt.|
|Eye irritation (Draize) ||0.0, Non-Irritating|
|Primary dermal irritation ||1.67, Mild irritant, not considered a primary
|Comedogenicity ||0.0, Non-comedogenic|
|Allergenicity ||Grade I, Non-sensitizing|
||Fig. 1. Structure of ricinoleic and lesquerolic acid (n = 7, ricinoleic
acid; n = 9, lesquerolic acid).
Last update September 12, 1997