Argan oil is a type of medicinal and cosmetic oil that is got from the Argania spinosa (Argan tree).
This tree grows well in semi-arid conditions and is grown and cultivated extensively in Morocco. It is popularly known as Moroccan Oil and is growing in demand as a beauty aid especially among the elite in the West.
Argan trees once grew widely in North Africa but have slowly died out making it an endangered species in this region. Hence, argan oil is a rare oil and therefore expensive.
Argan oil is a powerful antioxidant. It contains vitamin E, linoleic and oleic acids, squalene, polyphenols all of which are natural antioxidants. It is also rich in unsaturated fatty acids.
How Is Argan Oil Produced
With the growing interest and demand for argan oil, North Africa, especially Morocco has seen a spurt in its cultivation. Argan oil was first extracted by the indigenous Berber tribes who inhabited North Africa. Here are some of the steps that were originally involved in extraction of this oil.
- Goats: Goats were made to climb argan trees and eat the fruits. The Berbers would then collect goat dung and remove the hard argan shells from it.
- Pulp: The shells were then removed from the core by cracking them open with stones. Each nut could have 2-3 kernels.
- Crush: The kernels were then crushed to a thick paste. Since there were no machines during those days, crushing was very difficult.
- Grind: The argan paste was fed into a stone mill and ground to a specific texture and consistency.
- Mix: Using their hands, the Berbers next mixed the paste and made a loaf called ‘tazquemout’.
- Press: The loaf was then pressed to extract argan oil.
- Filter: To get pure oil, the argan oil thus extracted had to be filtered several times.
Mechanization: Since the invention of machines to help with the extraction of argan oil, the process has become quicker. Once the fruits are harvested, both the peel and pulp are first removed. The hard shell is cracked and the kernels removed. The extracted kernels are then ground and pressed using machines. The final product is left for 2-3 weeks to allow the sediment to settle down. The clear oil is then removed and filtered depending on the end requirements.
Key Benefits of Argan Oil
- Food: Argan oil is used for both cosmetic and cooking purposes. Moroccans use it like olive oil to drizzle on salads, as a dip for bread combined with honey and almonds or to add flavor to pasta and couscous. Many people prefer argan oil to olive oil for its nutritional benefits.
- Skin: Argan oil is very popular for its ability to hydrate and revive dry, dull and flaky skin. Antioxidant properties of argan oil means that it offers anti-aging benefits by reducing appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Squalene and unsaturated fatty acids are said to fight signs of skin aging. Acne marks, stretch marks, scars caused by psoriasis and chicken pox and other skin blemishes can improve when argan oil is used on affected areas.
- Hair: For the hair, argan oil is said to act as a protective agent and improve the strength and vitality of hair. It can nourish our hair and improve its smoothness and luster. It can also help detangle hair.
- Health Benefits: There is some positive research that indicates that argan oil offers benefits for the heart by lowering cholesterol levels. Small research studies have shown that presence of antioxidants like Vitamin E in argan oil could reduce oxidative damage and lower cholesterol therefore preventing heart disease. However, further research is required.
How to use Argan Oil
Pure argan oil can be used on the body, nails face and hair. When used on the face, it can be applied in a gentle circulatory motion. It gets quickly absorbed and does not leave any greasy residue.
It is a natural treatment for acne and wrinkles on the face. On the body, you can simply apply argan oil on stretch marks or marks caused by psoriasis, eczema, chicken pox or other skin conditions.
Mix equal parts of lemon juice and argan oil and brush on your nails to soften cuticles and add a glow to dull nails.
Applying argan oil on your hair, wrap in a warm towel for 30 minutes and wash thoroughly. You can even leave it on your hair overnight. Argan oil nourishes hair and treats various hair problems like dry scalp, dandruff, split ends etc.