Argan oil, often referred to as ‘liquid gold’, is a precious oil extracted from the kernels of the Argan tree, Argania spinosa. This tree is native to Morocco, where it thrives in the arid climate of the southwestern region. The oil is celebrated for its rich nutritional profile and its diverse array of applications.
The history of Argan oil is deeply rooted in the Berber culture of Morocco. The Berbers, an indigenous people of North Africa, have been using Argan oil for centuries for culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes. The oil is so integral to their culture that Argan trees are often referred to as “The Tree of Life”.
An interesting cultural tale surrounding Argan oil involves the traditional method of extraction, which has been passed down through generations. In earlier times, the extraction process began by collecting the fruits of the Argan tree, often aided by goats. Goats are known to climb Argan trees to feed on their fruit. After consuming the fruit, the hard seeds would be left behind, which the local women would collect. These seeds were then cracked open to retrieve the kernels, from which the oil was extracted.
The traditional method of extracting Argan oil was incredibly labor-intensive and involved roasting the kernels and grinding them into a paste, which was then hand-pressed to extract the oil.
In recognition of the unique importance of the Argan tree and traditional practices associated with Argan oil, UNESCO designated the Argan tree area in Morocco as a Biosphere Reserve in 1998.
Applications and Benefits
Argan oil’s rich composition of fatty acids, vitamin E, and antioxidants makes it highly coveted in skincare and haircare. It is renowned for its moisturizing properties and is often found in shampoos, conditioners, and skin creams. The oil is known to nourish the skin, reduce signs of aging, and impart a radiant complexion.
In hair care, Argan oil is used for its ability to restore shine and softness to hair. It helps in taming frizz and protecting the hair from damage.
Besides its cosmetic applications, Argan oil is also used in traditional Moroccan cuisine. It is often drizzled over couscous or used to make amlou, a traditional Moroccan dip made with almonds, honey, and Argan oil.
Modern Production of Argan Oil
Modern methods of Argan oil production have evolved to make the process more efficient, but the essence of traditional practices remains. Women cooperatives play a significant role in Argan oil production in Morocco, and the industry is crucial in empowering local communities and supporting the economy.
As with other oils, when purchasing Argan oil, it’s important to look for high-quality, pure Argan oil, preferably with certification of its origin and organic production methods.
Argan oil, with its rich cultural heritage, diverse applications, and abundant benefits, remains a precious gem in the world of natural oils. Its storied past and the transformative effect it has on skin and hair make it a cherished treasure from the heart of Morocco.