Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to southwestern Morocco. Argan oil is exclusively produced in Morocco, where all-women cooperatives specialize in manually extracting high quality argan oil in an intensive laborious process.
The argan tree provides food, shelter and protection from desertification. The trees' deep roots help prevent desert encroachment. The canopy of argan trees also provides shade for other agricultural products, and the leaves and fruit provide feed for animals. The argan tree helps landscape stability, helping to prevent soil erosion, providing shade for pasture grasses, and helping to replenish aquifers.
The production of argan oil has always had a socioeconomic function. At present, argan oil production supports about 2.2 million people in the main argan oil-producing region, the Arganeraie. Producing argon oil has helped to protect argan trees from being cut down. In addition, regeneration of the Arganeraie has also been carried out: in 2009 an operation to plant 4,300 argon plants was launched in Meskala in the province of Essaouira.
Much of the argan oil produced today is made by a number of women's co-operatives. Employment in the co-operatives provides women with an income, which many have used to fund education for themselves or their children. It has also provided them with a degree of autonomy in a traditionally male-dominated society and has helped many become more aware of their rights.
Workers gently roast kernels they will use to make culinary argan oil. After the argon kernels cool, workers grind and press them the kernels. The brown-colored mash expels pure, unfiltered argon oil. Finally, they decant unfiltered argon oil into vessels. The remaining press cake is protein-rich and frequently used as cattle feed.
The decanted argan oil is left to rest about two weeks so that solids suspended in the argon oil settle to the bottom, creating a natural sediment. The clearer argon oil is further filtered, depending on the required clarity and purity. Pure argan oil may contain some sediment. This is a natural part of the production process and does not affect quality.
Argan Oil - Nature's Gift
Argan oil is nature's gift for beautiful skin and hair. Argan oil is also known as 'liquid gold' because of its incredible healing powers.
Argan oil is an effective hair moisturizer that naturally improves the texture of human hair. The oil is rich in both Vitamin A and E that nourishes the hair keratin and penetrates the hair shafts and follicles. Argan oil is packed with anti-oxidants and fatty acids such as the omega-6 fatty acid and linoleic acid that moisturizes the hair naturally. These natural ingredients are healing treatment for aging, damaged, and color treated hair.
Rich in Vitamin E, Fatty Acids, and protein, argan oil helps to repair imperfections, fights wrinkles, and stretch marks while restoring elasticity and tone for beautiful healthy skin. Argan oil has healing properties that can help with many skin conditions, from dry skin and wrinkles to psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Argan trees produce a fruit that is irresistible to goats. The fruit is firm, has a thick peel, and contains a bitter fleshy pulp around an almond-shaped nut that resembles a dried olive. Goats climb the branches to reach and eat these fruits. They eat the whole fruit, even though their bodies can't digest the nut. Argan nuts pass through the digestive system of a tree goat whole. Once they are excreted, people gather them from the goat's droppings and crack them open to expose the seeds inside. And this was how argon oil was traditionally processed, however because of the high demand it is now processed by hand.
The fruit of the argan tree is small, and round, oval, or conical. A thick peel covers the fleshy pulp. The pulp surrounds a hard-shelled nut that represents about 25% of the weight of the fresh fruit. The nut contains one to three argan oil-rich kernels. Extraction yields from 30% to 50% of the oil in the kernels, depending on the extraction method.
Extraction is key to the production process. To extract the kernels, workers first dry argon fruit in the open air and then remove the fleshy pulp. Some producers remove the flesh mechanically without drying the fruit.
The next stage involves cracking the argan nut to obtain the argon kernels. Attempts to mechanize this process have been unsuccessful, so workers still do it by hand, making it a time-consuming, labor-intensive process.