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Moroccan Argan Oil Uses and Benefits

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Argan oil comes from the argan tree only found in the southwest region of Morocco. It has many health and cosmetic benefits to take advantage of.

Argan oil is produced from the nuts of the argan tree which is only found in southwest dessert region of Morocco. The tree is well suited for a harsh environment, and can live for up to 200 years. Currently, there are about 21 million trees remaining in Morocco which has landed it on UNESCO’s endangered species list.

The unique way the fruits are harvested adds to the interesting background of oil production. Goats climb into the trees and consume the outer green fleshy layers of fruit leaving behind the nut. The left over nuts are picked up by farmers since the kernels inside the nut are where the oil is produced from.

The nuts can contain up to three kernels from which the oil is cold-pressed. The nuts shells are used for heating stoves and homes while the refuse from the pressed nut is turned into a nutty paste for eating or fed to livestock. Since the argan tree needs no cultivation, it is never treated with chemicals making the products and by-products 100% organic.

Benefits of Argan Oil

Argan oil is known for its health and beauty benefits, and is emerging in the world market for these very reasons. It is rich in Vitamin E which is excellent as a skin and hair conditioner. The oil is also rich in antioxidants and essential fatty oils and thought to lower cholesterol, strengthen the immune system and circulation in the body.

To condition hair, massage oil onto scalp 20 minutes before washing as you normally would. For skin softening, apply oil directly to hands, feet, and other areas of extremely dry skin on the body. It’s best to do this at night when the oil can penetrate into the skin for deep moisturizing.

Using Argan Oil in Cooking

Once the oil is pressed out of the kernels, a paste is left which is often mixed with sugar and oil to make amalou. Amalou is nutty and delicious served spread on bread and eaten for breakfast or a snack.

Argan oil should not be heated in cooking preparations, but can be added before serving to add flavor to tagines and couscous dishes as well as in salad dressings. Argan oil’s delicate flavor is perfect served plain for dipping bread into as well.

Argan Oil Buyer Beware

Producing argan oil is a physically labor intensive process, and it can take up to 20 hours to produce just one liter of product. Therefore, it is relatively expensive, and even in Morocco, pure oil may be diluted with other oils and passed off as the real thing. Always buy from trusted sources and differentiate between oil fit for consumption and that which is only good for cosmetic use.

Major beauty companies have begun creating argan oil products and are loudly touting its benefits. The rarity of argan oil allows them to be sold as high-end cosmetics and treatments. Some products can cost up to $50 per bottle, but only have a small amount of oil in a long list of ingredients. Check the label for the list of ingredients before making a purchase.

Sources:

Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argan_oil

Al-bab, http://www.al-bab.com/maroc/env/argan.htm

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Amanda Antara

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