Common Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii) is also called poached egg plant. This California and Oregon native plant only grows in wet grassy areas. The seed oil has different uses in cosmetic and potentially food industries as well as industrial uses.
Where Meadowfoam Grows
Limnanthes Meadowfoam loves the climate found in cool, wet, windy Northern California and Oregon spring meadows and temporary wetlands (vernal pools).
The meadowfoam flower has a distinctive cup-shaped white flower with a brilliant yellow center that earned it the nickname poached egg. Blooming fields are said to look like a field of sea foam. While the meadowfoam flower is used for a variety of ornamental purposes, its true claim to fame is its seed oil.
Meadowfoam Oil Use in Cosmetics
Reputed for its excellent benefits for skin and hair, the most common use of meadowfoam seed oil is in the cosmetic industry for hair care and skin products.
Meadowfoam Oil Replaced Sperm Whale Oil
In the 1970s, Meadowfoam oilseed was first harvested for cosmetics. It was conceived as a good replacement for the sperm whale oil being used at the time. This new use for the herb served to further protect the sperm whale.
Study Shows Anti-Aging Properties
In a study conducted by Oregon State University, the scientists concluded that meadowfoam oilseed protects the skin from the sun and also contains anti-aging compounds.
Some benefits made about meadowfoam oil cosmetics include:
- Skin care products advertise meadowfoam oil as a moisturizer.
- Some products state that the oil promotes silky hair.
- The oil is a great carrier for essential oils and other scents.
- Cosmetic products and those selling pure meadowfoam oil advertise that the oil locks moisture in the skin.
- Some promotions tout the oil as having anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to cosmetics, you can find meadowfoam honey that some say tastes like toasted marshmallows.
Industrial Use for Meadowfoam Oilseed
The oil from meadowfoam seeds is similar to the oil extracted from rapeseeds and used in industrial applications calling for high-volume oilseed. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, the USDA-AR (United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development) is researching the possible use of meadowfoam oil for industrial and other applications.
How to Grow Limnanthes Meadowfoam
Limnanthes Meadowfoam prefers cool wet climates. The herb blooms in the spring and summer. However, the necessary pollination for setting seeds is often hampered by its very environment of wind and cool temperatures.
Some things to consider before planting include:
- This self-seeding annual herb can reach 10" to 18" in height with a spread of six inches.
- As a self-seeding herb, you may prefer to harvest the seeds and distribute them in the designated garden space.
- Fortunately, Meadowfoam attracts the necessary pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.
Best Type of Soil
Grow in Containers
You can try to grow this herb in containers, but you'll need to have the right type of loam soil and climate conditions found in its natural habitat. There are many similar environments within the United States.
- Full sunlight is needed for this herb to thrive.
- If the temperatures climb above 60°F the seeds can go into a secondary dormancy (seeds won't germinate).
- The main challenge besides the cooler temperatures will be to provide regular and adequate water.
Seed Meal Possible Bioherbicide
The National Institutes of Health cites a study conducted on the use of seed meal leftover when the oil is extracted from the seeds. The results were favorable for the possible refinement of the byproduct glucosinolate found in the seed meal to be used as a bioherbicide for organic farmers.
The Future of Limnanthes Meadowfoam Oilseed
The cosmetic industry is the main customer for meadowfoam growers. This base could expand in the future to include industrial oils and bioherbicides. Until then, the poached egg flowers provide valuable oil to the cosmetic industry.