That healthy fats and oils are crucial for our health cannot be news to anyone. There are countless studies on the health benefits of ‘good’ fats contained by for example olive oil or our favorite fatty fruit, the avocado. Another, in many ways extraordinary oil can be put on that list: Argan oil from the southwestern Region of Morocco. Not only are there several health benefits linked to the consumption of this oil, it also helps preserve the economic and social survival of the people harvesting Argan trees. Read on to find out more about the countless benefits of Moroccan argain oil.
Morocco – The Only Home of the Argan Tree
Argan oil is obtained from the fruit of the argan tree. And this scruffy tree is –well, you could say demanding or even picky, concerning its favored growth conditions. Its pickiness extends to growing in actually only one region, the south-west of Morocco. You will not find Argan trees growing in any other region of the world. The reasons of this remain unsolved until today. Some assume it must have something to do with the Moroccan goats and dromedary inhabiting the home base of argan trees. According to that theory, for an argan seed to sprout it must have passed through the digestive tract of one of those animals.
The argan tree can reach up to 10 meters with a maximum treetop span of even 20 meters. As the region of south-western Morocco is rather dry, its roots dig deep into the ground. Also, argan trees can survive large periods of drought by simply going dormant. When the water returns, they will wake up and burst out alive sprouting leaves. But it is quite common for nearby argan trees to ‘wake up’ at different times – for this locals describe them as having quirky personalities. Besides this, argan trees can reach quite an old age, undisturbed they might celebrate more than 200 birthdays.
How to Obtain Argan Oil
After having described this extraordinary character of the tree, let’s get to its famous produce, the argan oil. Argan oil is made of the fruit of the argan tree. Between the small, yellow-green leaves of the tree, you will find yellow flowers. These flowers contain a small ovoid fruit. And inside this fruit, covered by bitter peel and pulp, you will find the nut of the argan tree, which itself contains the two seeds of the fruit.
The seeds of the tree are the source of argan oil. For the fruit to grow and ripe it actually takes about one year. Obviously growing argan trees must be linked to having quite a patient personality. Impatience even puts the quality of the end product at stake. Shaking the tree to make the fruit fall off increases the acidity in the oil, for this people have to wait for the fruit to let go of the branches itself.
Once the fruit has fallen, the farmers collect them, dry them, later peel them, and manually open the nut. As the seed inside are very sensitive, it is actually pretty hard to shift that have that step done by a machine. After this, to finally obtain the oil, it gets extracted from the seeds. This step can be done by a commercial cold-pressing extractor, or, once again, manually. Obviously, the making of argan oil relies on handicraft and loads of patience.
Economical, Social and Environmental Benefits of the Argan Tree
The argan tree secures the livelihood of the people of southwestern Morocco, the Berber, in several aspects. First of all, its fruits and the obtained argan oil are an important source of income, as the popularity and thus the demand of it has grown a lot during the last years. Although many argan orchards are nowadays privately owned, many trees remain ‘free’ and are harvested by local communities.
Additionally to the economic aspect the argan tree helps the enhancement of female empowerment in the otherwise quite male-dominant culture. Traditionally it were and still are women, who produce the argan oil at home. The international increase of the demand of argan oil led to the formation of many women-run cooperatives. They autonomously sell the product thus earning their own income. This encourages their independence and enhances social changes towards gender equality.
And finally, the narrow strip of where argan trees grow represents the last natural barrier against the Sahara desert in the southwest of Morrocco. It protects the local flora and fauna of being consumed by the endless masses of Sahara sand. Of course, the Berber also have an interest of containing their villages.
Health Benefits of the Moroccan Superfood
Nowadays, argan oil is used in the kitchen as well as cosmetic and medicinal applications all around the world.
Using argan oil in a culinary way, you will be surprised by its mild and nutty taste. Besides its delicious taste, consuming argan oil will also be accompanied by many health benefits. It is comprised by many nutritious fatty acids and phenolic compounds. Among others, around 30 percent of the fatty acid content of argan oil comes from omega-6 acids. This makes it a super healthy source of this essential nutrient. It also contains lots of vitamin E, which boosts healthy skin, hair and eyes.
The consumption of argan oil is also linked to benefits for your heart health and for patients suffering from diabetes. It is said to have antiinflammatory effects and the application of it on your skin is said to keep it young and healthy.
So it is absolutely not far fetched to say argan oil is Maroccos brightest superfood.
Last But Not Least – How to Find Quality Argan Oil
Maybe you got quite curious and want to try argan oil yourself, to convince yourself of its health benefits. If so, there are some guidelines you should follow:
First of all, no matter if you want to use it in your kitchen or for cosmetics, look for argan oil that has only one ingredient: argan oil. It should also be packed in dark amber glass bottles. This is important as light might break down the oil’s best properties.
Good argan oil is linked to a lot of handicraft work, thus normally costs a bit more than other oils. If the offer is too low, you should get suspicious. Buying Argan oil from a certified manufacturer might help to ensure its high quality, as well as ethically sourced fair trade labels.
Of course, there are also differences in culinary and cosmetic argan oil. Take care to get the right choice and do not use cosmetic argan oil in the kitchen and the other way round.
Following these basic tips, we are sure you will soon fall in love with this typical Moroccan product. If you want to find out more about healthy oils, check out our blog post about olive oil!