Argan Oil

Argan OilArgan oil is an oil which is extracted from the seeds of the fruit from the Argan trees. Argan oil is widely used in beauty products to alleviate certain skin conditions, by softening skin, reducing dry and brittleness and helping the skin repair more readily from scarring. It is used medicinally to improve circulation and boost the immune system, and as an anti-inflammatory which may alleviate common muscle and joint conditions. When prepared for cosmetic purposes, Argan oil is also referred to as Moroccan oil.

What is Argan oil?

The tree from which argan oil is produced in called scientifically Argania spinosa. Fruits, the size of nuts, grow on these trees. The seed from which the oil is extracted is housed inside this fruit which is almost round or oval in shape. On the outer layer of the fruit is a peel and the inner layer is a bulking pulp, which forms the greater part of the fruit. Beneath this layer is the nut, in which the seed is housed. The seed is reached by cracking the outside shell. An Argan nut typically contains between two and three seeds inside.

The argania spinosa is actually a shrub and not a tree. It is found more commonly in the Sous valley area of Morocco. In fact, the oil extracted from the trees is also widely referred to as Moroccan oil, in homage to the native land in which the tree is found. The argania spinosa may also be found in other areas such as the Tindouf region of Algeria.

The oil extracted from the seeds of the fruit from the Argania spinosa shrub is full of fatty acids, phenols and tocopherols (vitamin E). Some of the fatty acids present in Argan oil are alpha-linolenic, linoleic, myristic, oleic, palmitic and stearidonic acids. Argan oil is also one of the richest sources of vitamin E.

Argan oil, as well as the corresponding cosmetic variation, Moroccan oil, is produced by Moroccan women working in cooperatives in the rural areas, using labour-intensive methods.

Other names

Both Argan oil and Moroccan oil are names used interchangeably to refer to the oil extracted from the Aragania Spinosa shrub native to Morocco. Usually the term Argan oil is used in reference to the oil made for consumption while Moroccan oil is given to the oil intended for use in cosmetic products such as skin or facial creams. Because of its importance to the rural Moroccan economy, the oil is also called liquid gold or Moroccan gold.

Production

Argan Oil Surrounded by Argan NutsMost of the extraction of Argan oil takes place in the southwestern regions of Morocco. Natives in this area hold an almost reverent attitude towards the plant. The fruits are usually allowed to ripe independently. Goats climb the steep hills on which these trees are scattered and eat the fruit from the tree, often swallowing the seeds whole. The traditional method of collecting the seeds for extraction involved searching throw the droppings from these goats who would pass out the seeds in tact after consuming the fruit. Some of these practices have changed. The women, who are the ones primarily involved in this industry, have now formed themselves into cooperatives. These cooperatives protect the interest of the Berbers, the term used for the Moroccan natives in this region, as well as negotiate markets for the products.

Production of Argan oil is labor intensive. The women first gather the ripened fruit from the Argan tree. The ripened fruit is laid out in the sun and allowed to dry. Where available, ovens are used to speed up this drying process. This makes the external pulp and skin easier to remove. Afterwards the seed is then extracted. This is perhaps the most difficult and lengthy step as each nut has to be hand-cracked. The Berber women usually crack the nuts between two stones.

To produce Argan oil the seeds are first roasted. With Moroccan oil, the variant that is geared towards cosmetic products, the seeds are not roasted as this results in a nutty undesirable odor. Roasting makes it easier to extract the oil. After roasting the Berbers grind the seeds in a rotating stone grinder. This grind is manually operated. The paste which results is kneaded and pressed repeatedly for a few hours then as much oil as possible squeezed out. The oil is left to settle so that unwanted impurities can be filtered out as they sink to the bottom of the container. The oil is then bottled and exported.


Benefits of Argan Oil

Argan oil, when consumed, offers several health and nutritional advantages. It has antioxidant properties, important in warding off cancer. It is an anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help with joint and muscle pains related to arthritis and rheumatism. Argan oil is felt to help enhance digestion and is therefore recommended for some stomach problems. It has been links with improvements in blood circulation, reductions of bad cholesterols and boosting the immune system. It may also boost energy levels.

Vitamin E is great for skin and hair issues. The presence of this vitamin in Argan oil helps the skin to heal more readily from scars, especially those brought on by chicken pox, acne, eczema, burn abrasions and psoriasis. It contributes to younger looking skin by decreasing evidences of aging skin by making wrinkles and fine lines less pronounced. It helps to retain moisture in the skin while protecting against the dangerous rays of the sun, contributing to overall healthier skin and hair.