The Argan (Argania spinosa) is a species of tree native to the Sous Valley of South-western Morocco and the sole species of the Argania species. Growing 8-10 metres in height with a lifespan of up to 150-200 years – the fruit and oil that the Argan produces has been cultivated by the indigenous women of Morocco for hundreds of years. Below we take a look at the history and benefits of this super-skin food.
What is it?
Flowering once a year in April, the Argan tree produces small fruits 2-4cm long and 1.5-3cm in width comprised of five pale yellow-green petals. Enveloped within a thick, bitter peel that surrounds a sweet-smelling layer of pulp is the nut containing the almond shaped, oil rich seeds. Taking over a year to mature, once the fruits have ripened the nuts fall from the tree. At this point they are ready for harvesting.
Originating in Argana, a small village north east of the Moroccan city Agadir, the Argan tree has been cultivated by the indigenous Berber women of Morocco for hundreds of years. Whilst many parts of the nut have been used as a food source and for building material – the most notable usage is the oil itself which the Berber women have used for centuries to protect their skin from harsh desert conditions and for the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema, acne, scare and psoriasis.
How it’s extracted
After gathering, the nuts are sundried for seven days. After this process is complete they are de-pulped and cracked by hand using ancient techniques the Berber women have utilised in Morocco's Argan region for hundreds of years - a technique still used for Argan oil extraction today. This hands-on approach ensures that only the highest quality nuts go into its oil and many organic brands work with co-operatives to ensure a fair wage is paid to the women.
What to look out for
Not all Argan Oil is created equal. There are three important factors to keep in mind when determining the quality -
- The “goat factor”: The nuts that are gathered for oil must have the exterior pulp intact. If there is no pulp, it means that the nut has been eaten and digested by a goat (goats love to eat the nuts) imparting a less than pleasant smell to the oil.
- The location: There are five regions in the South of Morocco home to the Argan tree and each of these areas differ based on their soil, weather conditions and exposure to environmental elements and pesticides use which can counter-acts the benefits otherwise present within the oil. Choosing a certified organic brand is important in ensuring the highest quality.
- The harvesting, extraction and storage: Nuts must always be collected from the ground to ensure they are sufficiently ripe for harvesting. This also helps to protect the tree from damage.
Comprised of more than twice the Vitamin E of Olive oil, Argan Oil is made up of 80% fatty acids including both Omega 6 and Omega 9, two key constituents of optimal skin health. Shown to assist in the restoration of skin tone and elasticity, to reduce fine lines and neutralize free radicals and protect the skin from harsh environmental agents –the therapeutic benefits of Argan Oil have been propogated by natives of Morocco for over eight centuries.
Traditionally known for its ability to treat skin infections thanks to the high levels of mono-unsaturated (up to 80%) and saturated (up to 20%) fatty acids, Argan's minor components include polyphenols, tocopherols, sterols, squalene, and triterpene alcohols. Together with the mono-unsaturated fatty acids, these minor components are likely to be responsible for its beneficial effects in relation to skin health. Additionally, the anti-proliferative, anti-diabetic, and cardiovascular-protective effects of Argan Oil have been recently evaluated in order to build on phyto-chemical studies that indicate the presence of large amounts of possibly pharmacologically active compounds within the oil.
How to use
What we love about Argan Oil is its versatility and range of use. Apply daily after cleansing to restore moisture and replenish the skin, use as an intensely moisturising serum for dry and chapped hands or sparingly in hair for a natural shine promoter and de-frizzer. Whilst Argan is a key ingredient in many of our organic skincare ranges - right now we're enjoy it in the Kahina Giving Beauty, John Masters, Lina Hanson and Live Native Skincare ranges.
References: Monfalouti HE, Guillaume D, Denhez C, Charrouf Z. "Therapeutic potential of argan oil: a review." J Pharm Pharmacol. 2010 Dec;62(12):1669-75. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-7158.2010.01190.x.