Argan Oil Usage – What is it? Argan Oil comes from the seedpod kernels of a thorny tree native to Morocco called Argania spinosa. The oil is rich in polyphenols, Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids, vitamin E and various other antioxidants that make it a valuable addition to skincare and hair products. Amongst its traditional uses is the treatment of skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, and dryness as well as reducing stretch marks and wrinkles.
Most Argan Oil today comes from the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO protected area in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Both the trees themselves and the livelihoods of the Berbers, who are the traditional producers of Argan Oil, are protected by law.
Argan Oil is considered one of the world’s rarest oils and one reason for this is that many parts of the process of making it are still done manually. The annual fruit crop is collected by hand, either by picking it from the trees or by gathering up the fallen fruit. The fruit is then either sun dried in the traditional way and the seedpods extracted from the dried flesh, or they’re put through machines that can extract the seedpods without the need to dry the flesh out first. The seedpods are then manually cracked open between 2 stones and the oil-rich kernels extracted, also by hand.
Kernels destined for Argan cooking oil are lightly roasted before being ground into a paste. Kernels for cosmetic grade Argan Oil are ground raw. This process is typically also done by hand but some producers have grinding machines. The paste can either be kneaded by hand in the traditional way to extract the oil, which is then separated and decanted, or put through a cold press. The cold press process does produce more oil, and better quality oil. It also reduces the time frame of this part of the process from several days to a few hours.
Argan Oil is noted for its high content of Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E, squalene oil, polyphenols and other compounds. These nutrients make it valuable for both cosmetic and culinary uses.
Antioxidants are proven to be able to help slow down the aging process, which is after all largely caused by free radicals in the first place. Argan Oil is particularly high in antioxidants. Likewise, vitamin E is known to be able to help protect the skin from UV damage and Argan Oil contains more of this valuable vitamin than olive oil. Argan Oil has fatty acids, notably omega 6 and omega 9, with a small quantity of omega 3 as well. Fatty acids can provide some significant benefits when applied to skin. They
The Berber women commonly used Argan Oil in their hair and for good reason. The same nutrients that help skin also help improve the health and quality of hair and hair follicles. It’s particularly beneficial for helping with scalp irritation and dandruff, and for reducing frizz and breakages. Men with beards may also find that using a few drops will help condition and improve the quality of their beard hair.
Argan Oil is reputed to be good for helping to strengthen nails and condition cuticles. It can be mixed with equal parts lemon juice and applied directly to the nails.
Argan Oil can help repair the skin on cracked heels. Just apply directly to the skin in generous amounts.
Add a few drops to your normal moisturizer for a glossier look.
Mix some with sugar and use to exfoliate. If there are any breaks in the skin, the oil will help heal them.
One of the main traditional uses for Argan Oil is as a cooking oil. Its excellent nutrient profile and creamy nutty flavor make it a nutritious addition to many dishes. In Morocco it’s used as a condiment for pasta, couscous and bread as well as for low heat cooking. As the majority of its fatty acids are monounsaturated (45.8%) Argan Oil is classed as a monounsaturated oil, which makes it relatively stable for frying but only at low temperatures. It’s also 35% polyunsaturated fatty acids and 19.2% saturated fatty acids so is a nice balance. Argan Oil is also high in the omega 9 fatty acid oleic acid, proven to be good for heart health.
There are currently no known adverse side effects associated with the use of Argan Oil BUT use it with caution if you have nut allergies because the oil does come from the kernel of the fruit. Apart from this, it is ideal for people who have sensitive skin or can’t use other skincare products. It has a comedogenic rating of 0, which in layperson’s terms means it doesn’t clog pores so it’s become popular as a carrier oil for other compounds used to treat skin conditions like acne. However, it’s always best to speak to a medical professional if you have any concerns about using Argan Oil products, particularly if you do have a nut allergy.
If you’re using culinary Argan Oil for cooking, be aware that it can’t be used for high temperature applications ie frying. Its high levels of unsaturated fatty acids will burn and burning fatty acids are proven to be carcinogenic.
The tree that produces the kernels used to make Argan Oil is on the endangered species list. Its once wide-ranging habitat across northern Africa has been reduced over the centuries to a small pocket in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. This area is now a UNESCO protected biosphere (Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve) and the trees’ use in Argan Oil production is carefully monitored to protect the trees.
When Argan Oil first attracted the attention of the western cosmetics industry at the end of last century, there was a rush to build (foreign owned) factories in Casablanca for mass production of the oil. However, the move pushed the traditional producers of the oil, the Berber people, out of the way. This caused significant problems and hardship for those communities, who had relied on the income from the oil for centuries.
In the mid 1990’s several German governmental agencies stepped in and, in conjunction with the Moroccan government, developed Fair Trade co-opts that restored most of the production process back to its traditional ‘owners’. At the same time, the co-ops protected the rights of those doing the work with better working conditions, better pay, and provided opportunities for better health and education.
Pure Argan Oil in its natural state is always the best way to buy it as most of its valuable nutrients are still there. This is true of both the cosmetic and culinary oil. Argan Oil that has been heavily processed and diluted will contain additives that may not agree with your skin or hair. Furthermore, the pure products are more likely to have been produced by the Fair Trade co-ops that both look after the people who produce it and comply with UNESCO regulations regarding the sustainable use of the trees.
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