What is argan oil?
Argan oil is a natural plant oil that is extracted from the kernels in the fruit of the argan tree (Argania Spinosa L.) which is endemic to Morocco. The argan tree is so valuable and beneficial to its environment that Morocco’s argan forest was declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in 1998.
Moroccan argan nuts
The argan tree - Argania Spinosa L.
Moroccan goats devouring the fruit of the argan tree
The argan tree fruit which contains the oil rich kernels
Highest grade cosmetic argan oil. Golden coloured and odourless
Extracting the precious argan oil from the kernels is a labour intensive and costly process. It takes up to 35kg of argan fruit to make just one litre of argan oil. Once the fruit has been harvested it is sun-dried before its fleshy pulp is broken apart by hand to reveal the argan nuts which contain one to three oil rich kernels. In order to make cosmetic grade argan oil - the kernels are then mechanically cold-pressed to extract the oil. The oil is then multi-filtered to remove dead vegetable fibres and nut sediment (which rots quickly). This leaves the argan oil a beautiful light golden colour with no sediment and virtually odourless.
The two main types of argan oil are culinary argan oil (which should only be used as a foodstuff) and cosmetic grade argan oil, which although it is intended for external application, is perfectly safe to eat also. The main difference between the two types of oil is that culinary grade is made by roasting the kernels before pressing them. This makes it unsuitable for cosmetic application because the heat destroys many of the vitamins that are responsible for the beauty benefits of argan oil. Even sunlight will degrade the oil's best properties which is why any argan oil container (other than small amounts not expected to last more than a few weeks) should be housed in aluminium or another opaque material.
Pure argan oil contains many active natural ingredients including tocopherols, squalene, carotenes, sterols and phenolic antioxidants. It is rich in vitamin A and contains twice as much vitamin E as pure coconut oil. It is packed with anti-oxidants and rich in omega-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid.
Although the health benefits of eating culinary grade argan oil have been known for centuries, it is only relatively recently that the beauty benefits of pure, cosmetic grade argan oil have been fully explored.