Argan oil Health Benefits, Uses, Quality & Best Products Compared

Author: Dr. Michael Tyler
Date: 01.10.2020
Reading time: 14:38 min

The renowned argan tree is native to Morocco. The oil obtained from its fruits is incredibly popular worldwide due to its high nutritional value, and its numerous medical and cosmetic applications.

Name Argan
Lat. Name Argania spinosa
Synonyms Ironwood tree, Moroccan Gold
Origin Morocco
Price per 10ml 7,50

Argan oil offers a pronounced, positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Studies are now scientifically examining the medical potential of the oil, due to its high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids. However, its renowned effects were initially made famous though personal experience and tribal knowledge.

Internal impact | Consumption

Initial research suggests that Argan oil can improve a range of cardiovascular risk factors. Regular intake lowers blood pressure and counteracts obesity and insulin resistance. These effects notably reduce the risk of infarction or stroke, promote overall healthier blood flow to the entire body and counteract the development of type 2 diabetes.

Some secondary phytochemicals of the oil also reduce the absorption of cholesterol from food by competing with it in the intestine for the same binding site. Cholesterol is displaced and there are no negative effects on the body. Instead of entering the bloodstream, the cholesterol is actually excreted. This further strengthens the overall positive effect of the fatty acids in Argan oil.

Several ingredients also provide strong antioxidant effects. These so-called antioxidants capture free radicals once they have been absorbed into the body. Free radicals are highly reactive and aggressive oxygen particles which, due to their reactivity, can cause great damage if they suddenly oxidize various substrates.

They occur naturally through the workings of a normal metabolism and damage surrounding molecules, sometimes even genes. Scientists now understand that this is a central part of the natural ageing process. It is related to the cumulative damage caused by the normal oxidation of cells throughout one’s life.

This includes not only wrinkles - the visible ageing of the skin - but also the slow and steady loss of the organ functionality. With the use of a health-promoting oil, such as argan oil, all of these processes are understood to be slowed down. Ultimately, the body looks younger, is healthier and fitter.

External effect

Skin care

Argan oil is very well tolerated and exceptionally gentle on skin. It provides both vitamin E and moisture. Due to the unique compatibility of the oil with skin, it is also suitable for the symptomatic treatment of psoriasis or neurodermatitis. Itchiness is reduced and the regenerative capacity of the skin is stimulated. Additionally, argan oil is also well suited for the protective care of healthy skin, or as a targeted care product for more mature skin.

Due to the many antioxidative ingredients, it also protects the skin directly from oxidative stress by trapping free oxygen radicals before they can damage skin cells. As a result, argan oil effectively counteracts signs of aging by reducing the formation of wrinkles and the development of pigment spots. The skin gains elasticity and resilience, which means that it not only looks younger, but is also inherently healthier. Because of this effect on the skin, argan oil is an additive in a variety of anti-ageing products.

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In addition, Argan oil contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory secondary plant substances that can be used for disinfection and cleaning. These properties make the oil well suited for treating small wounds or skin problems such as pimples or blemishes. It can also have have a stabilizing and regulating effect on the complexion, especially during hormonal changes in adolescence and during menopause.

Hair treatment

Argan oil cares for damaged and brittle hair. It smoothes breakages without causing the hair to stick the hair or weighing it down too much. This effectively gives the hair a healthy shine and allows for easy combing and general care. Simultaneously, the ingredients penetrate deep into the hair roots and give it elasticity and body. In particular, the linoleic acid contained in argan oil protects against further hair breakage by promoting hair elasticity. Argan oil also has a positive effect on the scalp, which ultimately has a direct effect on the hair.

There, the oil promotes blood circulation, which means that the hair can grow in a nutrient-rich environment and is strengthened from the root. Hairs are less likely to fall and their longevity is improved, again due to the antioxidant properties of argan oil. The oil also has a calming and regulating effect on the scalp: dandruff is mitigated, itching is alleviated and sebum production is better regulated.

Side effects

Argan oil is very compatible with skin and therefore well tolerated. When used externally, there are rarely any complications. A healthy dosage should be maintained for oral use. Up to 3 teaspoons per day should not be exceeded in order to achieve a healthy, balanced effect.

Application

Consumption - Internal application

Argan oil is traditionally used as an edible oil. Outside of its place of origin in a certain region of Morocco, it is considered an exquisite oil for fine cuisine due to its high price, and is primarily used to refine dishes. Due to its nutty taste, argan oil is particularly suitable for salads or vegetables, but is also suitable in more frugal proportions for meat or fish dishes.

To protect the potentially sensitive ingredients, argan oil should not be heated too much. It is so valuable however that it is probably not suitable for searing on a pan at all. It is not only an ingredient in the culinary world; the oil can also be taken in the form of a capsule . There are special requirements for this, however, and it should be taken according to the recommendations of the package insert.

Application on skin

Argan oil can be applied directly and undiluted to inflamed or infected skin. It is considered to be very skin-friendly and usually does not cause irritation - even on damaged skin. It is also suitable for the symptomatic treatment of neurodermatitis or psoriasis. Use a cotton pad to apply and use the valuable oil sparingly. A thin coating of oil is enough to produce antibacterial effectiveness.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the affected skin areas can be treated up to 4 times a day for skin diseases. For regular pimples, the skin can be cleaned and dabbed with a little argan oil twice a day. This will care for facial skin. The ingredients of argan oil penetrate deep into the dermis and can thus effectively prevent underlying problems such as stretch marks.

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For proper application, massage the undiluted argan oil onto the targeted area of skin. The skin should gain moisture and, above all, elasticity. The massage also increases blood circulation, which also reinforces and revitalises the skin. Mature skin is very well cared for with argan oil. Apply the undiluted oil to the skin daily for an effective anti-ageing effect.

Many personal care products contain argan oil. These include in particular creams and lotions, but also soaps and cleaning oils. Always use these according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Application for hair

Argan oil can either be used in larger quantities as an independent treatment or in a small amount as a finish to the hair. In the latter case, a few drops should be spread evenly but sparingly until the hair tip, after already washing and drying the hair. The results are significant:, the hair appears visually smoother, is easier to comb and has a healthy shine.

For an entire hair treatment, massage a few milliliters of argan oil into the scalp and through the entire hair. Depending on the length of the hair, these measurements may vary slightly. Wrap a towel around your hair after that and leave the oil in for at least an hour - or overnight. Thereafter, a gentle shampoo rinse adds the final touches. Important nutrients were absorbed during the process, which have helped to strengthen both the hair and the scalp.

While a quick finish mainly improves the hair’s visual appearance, regular hair treatment with argan oil can lead to healthier and thicker hair. Similarly, eyebrows and eyelashes can be made thicker and fuller with argan oil. Put some oil onto a cotton pad and apply for between 30 and 60 minutes. Do not wash the oil off immediately afterwards: allow it to continue applying its effect.

Because of its marked effectiveness, cosmetic argan oil can be found in a whole range of hair and eyelash care products. Their applications are diverse and should be carried out according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Manufacturing

The extraction of the oil from the dried seeds of the argan tree is an elaborate traditional craft in South-Western Morocco. After the seeds have been dried in the sun or gently roasted, the peel needs to be removed and the bitter skin surrounding the seeds removed. A second drying or roasting, which gives the oil a slight nutty taste, can be performed before the seeds are ground to a pulp by hand. This is how oil is obtained. The oily porridge produced is mixed with lukewarm water in small portions, and floating oil is decanted. The argan oil is traditionally made by hand by Berber women.

It is divided into three classes: virgin cooking oil, virgin argan oil for body care and the so-called cosmetic argan oil. The first two are obtained by hand through the elaborate process and their only difference is that the native cooking oil is obtained from previously roasted kernels, which gives it a nutty aroma. Argan oil for body care, on the other hand, is made from unroasted kernels. To obtain the cosmetic argan oil, which is mainly produced as a raw material for the cosmetics industry, most of the fruit is exported to Europe and the oil is produced there by industrial pressing.

An oil obtained in this way is usually not suitable for consumption, since the bitter skin is often only partially removed. Due to the quicker production process however, this oil is, despite the long delivery route, significantly cheaper than the other two types. Ultimately this only benefits the cosmetics industry. This type of production is essential for the durability of the oil. The argan oil obtained by hand, which represents the majority for private customers, has a shelf life of two years, while that obtained by pressing only has a shelf life of three to four months.

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The elaborate production by hand and the low crop yield make argan oil one the most expensive oils in the world. The prerequisite mass for a litre of oil is around 30 kg of fruit, which corresponds to the annual harvest of 5 trees. For this reason, it is also known as "Moroccan gold".

Ingredients

Argan oil consists of 99% fatty acids and 1% unsaponifiable components. The fatty acid composition is derived from oleic acid (43-49%), a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, and linoleic acid (29-36%), a polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid dominates. The saturated fatty acids palmitic acid (11-15%) and stearic acid (4-7%), as well as the unsaturated fats palmitoleic acid (0.1%), linolenic acid (0.2%), arachidonic acid (0.3%) and gadolenic acid (0.4%) ). Overall, this results in a share of about 20% saturated and 80% unsaturated fatty acids. This ratio places argan oil somewhere in the middle, relative to comparable vegetable oils.

Many health-related ingredients are in the one percent of the unsaponifiable components, i.e. the secondary plant substances. About 37% of these compounds are carotenoids. They are not only responsible for the golden yellow colour of the oil, they are also very effective antioxidants. Phytosterols make up about 20%. These are medically active phytochemicals, some of which have a cholesterol-lowering effect, by competing with cholesterol for absorption in the intestine and thereby displacing it. The phytosterols Schottenol and Spinasterol are uniquely found in argan oil, which both also have positive impacts on cholesterol metabolism.

A further 20% is accounted for by the essential oils, mostly terpenes, which have an antioxidant and antimicrobial effect. Up to 8% of the unsaponifiable portion consists of tocopherols, i.e. vitamin E, which has a strong antioxidant effect and has a very positive effect on the skin. Gamma tocopherol is found in argan oil, and is rare in others. This is the most efficient radical scavenger among tocopherols. The rest are phenolic compounds, which mostly produce an antimicrobial effect. These include vanillic, ferulic and syringic acids.

History

The argan tree has always grown in the south-west of Morocco and was discussed in the writings of Ibn en Beithas in 1219 and was first mentioned in the records of Captain James Riley in 1817 as the 'arga tree'. Even then, he described a worship of argan oil by the local population. In 1911 the Latin name Argania spinosa was given by Homer Collar Skeels and is still in use today. Due to the destruction of the argan forests in the Essaouria region during the Second World War, many people migrated to the Souss valleys, where the fauna was still untouched.

Records show that the Argan region, including the Amazigh, the indigenous population of the argan forests, has migrated 200 km south within approximately 160 years. After 1940, Moroccan farmers were instructed to devote a tenth of their land to growing oil-producing plants, such as soybean or oil thistle, and more oils were now entering the kitchens of the population, but the rural population held on to argan oil. Since then, the argan forests of Morocco have not only been a popular excursion destination for holidaymakers and a permanent job for Moroccan women, but also a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1998.

Argan oil has been used by Berbers as an edible oil and for cosmetic purposes for hundreds of years, but has long been a purely local product. Only a few decades ago did it come onto the international markets in force. It is often marketed as a superfood, which embodies the exquisite and exotic nature of the oil, while hinting to high manufacturing costs and certainly also exudes a certain charm.

The Swiss Society for Nutrition (SBU) criticized the unchecked promotion of argan oil years ago. They describe the composition as beneficial to health, but not as significantly more valuable than other high-quality, but much cheaper vegetable oils, such as rapeseed oil or olive oil. Argan oil ultimately has many positive health-promoting properties, but it is not a miracle cure .

Botany

The argan tree or argania (Argania spinosa) is the only species in the genus Argania and belongs to the Sapot family. The tree reaches an average height of 8 to 12 meters, and with its widely protruding crown can reach a diameter of up to 14 meters. The trunk and older branches have a rough, pitted appearance and often display rough cracks. The leaves of the thorny branches growing individually or in clusters and are small and leathery.

Depending on their age, their colour changes from light to dark green. In spring, the leaf axes display greenish flowers of around five millimeters in size, from which olive-sized and oval fruits are formed into late summer. The colour of the fruit is green at the beginning and changes to yellow when it is ripe. It contains one to three dark brown to black seeds, which are surrounded by slightly sweet but inedible pulp and a bitter outer fruit skin.

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In the 25 million years of its existence, the argan tree has developed into a survivor in dry desert regions. Over severe periods of drought, the tree departs with its leaves in order to avoid excessive evaporation and remains in a state of rest until rains once again begin.

Cultivation

The argan tree grows endemically in southwest Morocco. The area on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains is therefore also known as Arganeraie and forms an approximately 8000 sq km UNESCO biosphere reserve. It seems to be the only region where the plant, which originally probably populated the entire Mediterranean region, was able to survive the ice age. Since then, the tree has adapted to these local conditions.

So much so that any attempts to cultivate the argan tree in other dry areas outside of its home, such as Australia, Cyprus and Kenya, have been unsuccessful. For this reason too, the argan tree is now considered endangered. There are currently around 20 million trees, all of which are state owned by Morocco.

From around the age of five, the argan tree bears fruit every two years, which can be harvested in summer. However, the harvest is not performed by shaking the tree, otherwise the valuable trees could be damaged. Therefore, one must wait until the fruits have fallen to the ground and then collect them. A second method of acquiring these coveted seeds is to wait until goats or camels have eaten the fruits because the seeds are then excreted undigested, and after cleaning are also used for oil production.

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