Argan Oil. Renowned for its cosmetic benefits – including shiny and strong hair; skin hydration, repair and protection resulting in soft and clear skin; diminished wrinkles; scar reduction; stronger nails and softer cuticles. It has reputed restorative and anti-aging qualities. And food grade Argan Oil is celebrated for dietary, culinary and medicinal uses.
The oil, which is extracted from the nut of the fruit of the Argania Spinosa tree, is exceptionally rich in natural tocopherols (vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant), phenols and phenolic acid (guards against free radicals), carotenes (essential for hair growth), squalene (keeps skin soft) and essential fatty acids (omega oils – reduces inflamation).
Argan Trees are indigenous to the mountains of southwestern Morrocan, at the edge of the Sahara Desert, where they are resistant to the drought and other environmental conditions in that part of the world. The nut is harvested by co-ops of Berber Moroccan women, enabling them to make a living and improve the lives of their families. Due to the small and very specific growing area, and that efforts to plant the tree in other locales have failed, Argan Oil is rare. Argan trees, which were once in abundance in the region, are now endangered and under the protection of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to ensure reforestation and continued production of the oil.
Argan Oil comes from the two or three kernels found inside the pit of the oval-shaped green fruit of the argan tree. The extraction is a labor-intensive task perfected by the Berber women native to the area (it takes a few days to produce one liter of oil).
First they crack the pit with sharp stones. This is the most difficult part of the process. The shell of the argan pit is extremely hard…even machines designed to crack them have been known to fail! They then place the kernels between two slabs of rock, grinding them into a brown paste, resembling chunky peanut butter. The paste, kneaded by hand to extract the oil, transforms into a solid hunk and is sent to nearby factories, where a press extracts more oil.
Using traditional methods, 220 pounds of fruit and 20 hours of work are required to yield 2 pints of oil. Some co-ops have introduced a degree of mechanization that reduces the amount of manual labor required.