Canarium Schweinfurthii (African Elemi) Benefits

Canarium schweinfurthii is the botanical name of African Elemi. It is a large, evergreen forest tall tree with many benefits. In English, it is commonly known as a purple canary tree, bush candle among others.

African Elemi is called ‘ube okpoko/ube osa/ube Igwe’ in Ibo and Atili/Atile in Hausa tribes in Nigeria.

It looks like smaller species of Ube fruit (African pear), usually eaten with roasted or boiled corn but it’s not Ube.

In Nigeria (West Africa), this medicinal tree is most common in the Northern and Eastern region.

My last search for African Elemi reminds me so much of treasure hunt in Gulder Ultimate Search. I had combed the whole of Lagos in search of it.

I stumbled upon it at Oyinbo market in Lagos when I have forgotten about it. So, you can imagine my pleasant surprise.

Canarium Schweinfurth
Canarium Schweinfurth

Canarium schweinfurthii is greenish at the initial stage, before changing to an ashen color as it is getting older, and finally turning oily-black, at the harvest and consumption stage.

It produces its fruits during the rainy season, between April to September.

Canarium tree produces an edible fruit that can be eaten raw but it is more consumed when softened in warm water to enhance the taste.

Elemi fruit can be cooked or processed into Canarium oil popularly called Atili / Atile oil.

Method of Extracting Canarium Schweinfurthii Oil From Its Fruits At Home

  1. Firstly, sort the fresh and ripe fruits out to remove any dirt or foreign material present in them. Then wash in cold water to remove more dirt adhering to the surface of the fruits
  2. Then, pour warm water over the fruits and leave overnight to soften.
  3. Thirdly, drain with a sieve and pound the fruits in a mortar and pestle or you can use your hands to mash it in a bowl.
  4. Fourth and most importantly, take out the seed (it’s easier to extract the oil without the seeds) and pound the flesh with the pestle so the juices flow out of it
  5. After that, pour hot water and Use a spoon to “scrape” the oil off the surface of the water. As you boil the fruit juice, the oil will separate and float on the surface.
  6. Finally, transfer to a container when it cools and use it in line with the benefits written below.

Health Benefits of Canarium Schweinfurthii

1. The unseen health benefits of African elemi fruit/ ube mgba that is yet to be discovered by consumers are many.

The usefulness of African elemi can be compared to that of the Moringa and Palm Fruit because almost all parts of this fruit are useful in the following ways:

  • The fruit is good for consumption.
  • The strong brown seed inside is used for local draught’s game.
  • The resin contains 8-20 % of essential oil. The main constituent of which is limonene; essential oils are important in the production of fragrant candles.
  • This essential oil popularly called Atili oil is rich in vitamin E and useful for skin and hair care.

Benefits of Canarium Oil (Black African Olive)

In northern Nigeria, Canarium schweinfurthii oil (black African Olive) is used to perform some marital rites.

The oil is usually poured on the bride from head to toe serving as a purifier. This act shows that she will be well cared for by the husband.

Benefits of Atili oil also called Canarium oil are many, apart from being highly medicinal; it can be applied on the hair to make it luxuriant.

However, the health benefits of Atile are still to be fully utilized by consumers.

  1. Canarium schweinfurthii plant can be used as firewood for cooking and it catches fire very easily since it has lots of oil in it.
  2. Elemi tree resins can be used for preparing herbal medicines that treat and fight against intestinal worms such as roundworm.
  3. Canarium schweinfurthii tree bark can be decocted and used as a laxative agent for the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. This includes-food poisoning, stomach upset, ulcer, constipation, dysentery, and other gastrointestinal diseases.
  4. African elemi tree is one of the many sources of the cost-effectively useful oleoresin known as Elemi (Canarium luzonicum-Burseraceae).
  5. Oleoresin is an important resin used for fumigating. Elemi can also be used commercially in the manufacture of plasters, ointments, varnishes, and inks
  6. The elemi essential oil distilled from the resin has a long record of medicinal use. They are well-thought-out to be antifungal, anti rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, and rubefacient.

How to Plant Atili – Cultivation

Although not usually cultivated, the tree grows on hot tropical rain forest regions in symmetrical branches that make it an attractive avenue and shade tree


Picture of African Elemi
Picture of African Elemi

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