Karanja oil, also called pongamia oil, is highly moisturising and an emollient thanks to its high levels of oleic acid, among others. It has also traditionally been used in the soap industry for its anti-microbial properties.
The Pongam tree, native to South Asia, is very appreciated for the shadow provided by its dense and vibrant green canopy. The tree grows flowers that range from white to purple with black pods, each of them containing one seed. The seeds themselves have such a bitter taste they are not suitable for consumption, however, the oil extracted from it, called pongamia or karanja, is appreciated for its many benefits.
The oil is very versatile: in agriculture, it can be used as an insect repellent because, just like humans, insects don’t like the extremely bitter taste. The oil has been studied and is also used as a biofuel, especially in India. In cosmetics, it is used for its moisturising and anti-bacterial properties, and is thought to be a natural UV filter by some, thanks to pongamol and karanjine it contains, protecting the skin from sun damage.