What is Argan Oil?
Where Does Argan Oil & the Argan Trees Come From?
The Argan tree grows naturally in only one country – Morocco is now possibly one of the rarest species of tree on Earth.
The scientific name Argania Spinosa is derived from the word Argan which is the name of the tree in my language Tashlahait Berber. There are actually 3 different Berber dialects in Morocco and “Cheuh” or “Tashlahait” spoken in the same regions as the Argan tree grows.
Map: Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology: Project Turner
The Argan tree is an ancient tree. It is a relic of the Earth’s Tertiary Period which ended about 1.6 million years ago. It is a slow growing tree that has many strong, sharp spines that protect the fruit. An Argan tree may grow up to ten meters tall and can live for over 200 years. The leaves are small 2–4 cm long and silver-green in colour. In April it produces small small flowers with five pale yellow-green petals. The Argan fruit that it produces is 2 to 4 cm long and 1.5 to 3 cm in diameter. Each fruit has a thick, fleshy, bright green peel surrounding the hard nut held inside.
The Argan tree grows most prolifically in the arid, salty soil. This is found near to the coast and in the low mountains within a narrow band of the country between Essaouira and Agadir.
Argan trees will grow on mountain slopes in very arid regions. They protect soil against water loss as well as rain or wind-induced erosion. This helps to maintain soil fertility and slows down desertification.
Argan trees and the Argan forests are owned by communities or individual families. The Berber people have in fact produced Argan Oil in this way for thousands of years and there are even mentions of this oil in ancient Phoenicia.
The size of the forest had been in decline after decades of misuse leaving the tree’s survival endangered. Villagers used wood from the trees for heating and making charcoal. They grazed their livestock – goats and camels – on the Argan tree leaves and fruits. This has continued for many years resulting in a deterioration in the quality of the forests.
Now the income generated for the communities by the Argan tree has brought a new respect for the forests. With the increased demand for Argan Oil new trees and being planted and the Argan forests expanded. To protect the tree, UNESCO declared the area in which the Argan tree grows a “biosphere reserve”.
The reserve covers more than 2,560,000 hectares and is bordered by the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and open to the Atlantic in the west.
Programs have also been put in place to help protect the trees from being used for grazing by goats and camels. International support and modernisation of Argan Oil production has become a model for Agro-Forestry and the cooperative system of working.
Berber Women’s Cooperatives
Argan Oil is made by the Berber women’s cooperatives. The cooperative movement was started by Professor Zoubida Charrouf to help Berber communities compete with the foreign owned pressing plants.
Argan Oil expert Professor Zoubida Charrouf worked with the Argan Oil Cooperatives for many years. As a professor at Mohamed V. University in Morocco, she developed an interest in the Argan tree. Not only the use of its precious oil for skin care and for health but also with a passion for conservation of this natural resource.
This work lead to NGOs from Europe supporting the development of cooperatives with funding for new mechanical presses and dedicated buildings where farmers could bring their Argan produce for processing. Government and foreign agencies also paid the considerable costs of getting internationally recognised organic certification for the Argan forest and the oil produced.
This has brought income to the cooperatives and families of the region. This increase in fair trade has emancipated women by paying a fair, sustainable living wage.
Cooperative members now earn around 75 Dirhams/$8.60 a day( 2013), an increase of more than ten times from when the projects started in 1997 and this is a real living wage. Literacy and numeracy programs as well as better access to health care have brought a new freedom, a higher standard of living.
As a cooperative member explains: “. “Being part of the women’s cooperative freed me from tedious domestic work in people’s homes,” said one co-operative member.
“Now I’m learning to read and write and I’ve learned how to ensure the quality of the Argan kernels. The cooperative has made me more independent. I’ve been able to visit other cooperatives in other provinces. I’ve seen how girls and women like me have been able to shape their own destiny and move ahead to develop their cooperatives.”
How is Argan Oil Made?
In the early days of Argan Oil production investors built factories in cities like Casablanca far away from the Berber Argan forests. They used modern cold-pressing machines that enabled them to produce more oil from the nuts, to speed up production process and produce a higher quality oil with a lower water content. A lower water content meant an oil with a longer shelf life at a lower price.
The role of the women of the Berber communities was reduced to little more than a supplier of raw Argan nut kernels. Investors even tried to replace the Berber Women who break open the ultra-hard Argan nut casing by hand with modern nut cracking machines.
Now with the development of cooperatives most of the production process, from harvest to extraction, is carried out by local people.
The Argan tree fruits ripen in June / July. When they ripen they are 2 cm or more long and green bright green colour.
Families and communities come together to complete the long and arduous job of getting the fruit off the trees with sticks and collecting them from the ground.
Once gathered the bright green Argan tree fruits are left to dry until they form a dark brown husk around the Argan nut. These husks are stored in large sacks until they are needed.
When ready to press oil the husks are removed to reveal the brown Argan nut. These nuts are hard to break and the process is still done by teams of women who crack the nuts open by hand.
Inside each nut are 2 or 3 pale yellow, bitter tasting kernels. Over 2 Kg of nut kernels are cold-pressed to extract one litre of pure oil.
After pressing the oil is filtered to yield a yellow coloured oil which has an Argan nut scent. This oil may also be filtered a second time to extract additional sediments and yield an oil that has almost no Argan nut smell – “deodorised” Argan Oil.
The Different Grades of Argan Oil.
There are two main types of Argan Oil. Culinary Argan Oil and cosmetic Argan Oil.
Culinary Argan Oil is used for cooking and eating or nutritional supplements. It has a golden brown colour and a toasted, nutty smell.
|100% Pure Argan Oil – 1x 2.20fl oz
Pure Organic Argan Oil double filtered without Argan scent for skin care and hair treatments.
Culinary Argan Oil is very rich in vitamins, omega fatty acids and other nutrients. It has been used in Morocco in traditional medicine for the treatment of health problems. New research is now confirming the effects of culinary Argan Oil for health. Culinary Argan Oil is not suitable for cosmetic use.
The 3 Grades of Cosmetic Argan Oil.
- Single Filtered oil. This has a medium yellow colour and an Argan nut scent which is a natural olive/citrus smell.
- Filtered with Active Carbon. A small amount of oil production in Morocco is doubled filtered using active carbon. This is an inert compound that removes sediment without affecting theoil. Carbon filtered oil has a lighter yellow colour and has a more perfumed, sweeter smell less like olive.
- Double Filtered Oil. The purest grade of Argan Oil is filtered twice to remove all sediment. This oil has a pale yellow colour and almost no Argan nut fragrance.
You can buy both single filtered scented oil and odourless Argan Oil on our online store.
What is in Moroccan Argan Oil?
A number of studies have been done to explain the traditional uses of Argan Oil for cosmetics and health. Argan Oil analysis has revealed some of the nutrients that are responsible for the effects of Argan Oil.
This is a list of some of the most important nutrients in Argan Oil’s composition that give it it’s unique benefits:
Anti Oxidant TocopherolsArgan Oil has over twice the Vitamin E content of Olive oil. This high anti oxidant levels help prevent damage to skin by “free radical” that age cells. Anti oxidants in the Argan Oil chemical formula is also important for promoting cell proliferation. 
Essential Fatty Acids
Analysis of Argan Oil shows that it is very rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3 are healthy fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential to keep skin pliable and also play a role in reducing inflammation.
Argan Oil contains Triterpinoids. Once of these Triterpinoids, called Tirucallol, has an important role in cicatrisation – which is the process that heals damage to the skin.
Beta Amyrine is contained in many herbal products to stimulate cell growth and increase the healing process for skin damage. It has the ability to stimulate cell to generate and to synthesise new collagen. It is reported to be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of psoriasis. 
Butyrospermol has a powerful anti inflammatory effect that may be of benefit in reducing inflammation of the skin and internal inflammation in problems such as Arthritis.
Lupenol has a strong antiseptic effect.
 Triterpenoid α-amyrin stimulates proliferation of human keratinocytes
Edyta Biskup1,3, Marek Gołębiowski2, Robert Gniadecki3, Piotr Stepnowski2 and Ewa Łojkowska http://www.actabp.pl/pdf/2_2012/255.pdf
 Map: Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology: Project Turner Reproduced with kind permission of the Max Planck Institute for social Anthropology