Argania and argan oil – Moroccan gold

Argania (Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels) is a slowly growing endemic tree typical of less fertile areas of southwestern Morocco. The argan tree can reach an extremely high age, at least 125 to 150 years, while some trees can alo reach the age of 400 years. It belongs to Sapotaceae family and is the only species from the Argania genus. It is also the only species from the Sapotacease family whose distribution is not intertropical. Argan forest, which covers 8280 km2 of Morocco, was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1998. Argania is very resistant to drought, its root system can reach depths that may go down to 35 meters to absorb the water necessary for its survival, making it ecologically important because it maintains the humidity and fertility of the soil and prevents desertification.

Argan oil is an extremely important source of edible oil and traditional medicine of Berbers. Its traditional production dates back to the 13th century and has not undergone significant and technologically advanced changes to this day. The extraction of argan oil in a traditional way is a tedious multi-stage process, performed exclusively by Berber women. The Argan fruit is oval-shaped and is about from 1 to 4 cm long. The outer layer is a thick peel that covers the green fleshy pulp. Its middle layer is a hard shell preserving the last inner layer, which contains kernels used for making argan oil. When fruits are harvested, women remove the outer layer and crack the hard shell by hand and finally remove kernels.

Argan oil is used for culinary and cosmetic purposes. When the kernels are slightly roasted prior to pressing, edible argan oil is obtained. Unroasted kernels are saved to prepare oil for cosmetic use, so that such golden yellow oil does not have a characteristic culinary nutty taste.

Traditionally, argan oil was used to treat various skin conditions, such as dry skin, acne, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, joint pain, and skin inflammation. In addition, it was traditionally used to prevent hair loss and dry scalp.