(NaturalNews) Known by the Moroccan Berber community as the "Tree of Life", the Argan tree (Argania spinosa) has supported the people of these arid regions and their livestock for centuries. The leaves and fruit sustain goats, camels and sheep. Cattle live off the press-cake that remains after the oil has been extracted; humans eat the oil and the nut shells are used for fuel. Argan oil is produced from the kernels of the tree and is one of the rarest and most expensive oils in the world. Berber women have used Argan oil for centuries to protect and nourish their skin, hair and nails from the harsh conditions in which they live. Now Argan oil is gaining popularity as a "miracle ingredient" in the Western beauty product industry. It has extremely high levels of Vitamin E and 80% fatty acids which make it perfect for healing many skin ailments as well as protecting against premature aging caused by oxidation.
Healing and Protecting
The active substances called triterpenoids that occur in Argan Oil offer amazing skin protection benefits. These include tissue healing (scars), anti-inflammatory, sun-protective and disinfectant properties.
The oil contains 80% unsaturated fatty acids and is more resistant to oxidation than olive oil. Argan oil also contains 0.8% unsaponifiables (a large group of compounds also known as plant sterols or sterolins). Sterolins improve skin metabolism, reduce inflammation and promote excellent moisture retention.
Argan is considered an effective anti-aging oil due to properties such as the high levels of vitamin E /tocopherols (anti-oxidants help neutralise free radical damage, which is important for skin exposed to polluted Western environments) and saponins (skin-softening agents). Besides cooling and soothing inflammation, it is also reputed to help reduce wrinkles by restoring the skin`s hydro-lipid layer.
Argan oil contains rare plant sterols (schottenol and spinasterol), not found in other oils. It is believed that these phytosterols are unique in their combination and that there are no other vegetable oils with a comparable phytosterol composition. In general phytosterols reduce inflammation and help block cholesterol absorption from the intestines. They also show anti-cancer properties.
Argan oil facilitates digestion by increasing the concentration of pepsin in the gastric juice. It contains flavonoids that act as a natural anti-inflammatory both internally and externally.
The oil is considered highly beneficial for arthritic or rheumatic conditions.
It is helpful for lowering cholesterol levels, stimulating circulation and strengthening the body`s natural immunity.
It is used to soothe skin ailments like chickenpox, acne, psoriasis, and dry eczema. It is also used to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
Traditionally Argan oil is also reputed to have aphrodisiac and tonic properties.
Interesting Argan Oil Facts
Argan tree groves survive for 125 - 450 years, making them a valuable inheritance for future generations.
Argan oil has a similar fat content to olive oil and is used for similar purposes. Commercial Argan oil is a lot more expensive than olive oil. The Argan tree however lives longer than the Olive tree and requires no cultivation.
Traditionally the local Berber women collect the seeds and press them to obtain the Argan oil for domestic use. This is a laborious process taking about 12 - 20 hours of hand processing to produce one litre of Argan oil. Oil produced by this method will keep for 3 - 6 months because it has extremely high vitamin E levels and is considered oxidatively stable. Moroccan families produce the oil as needed from a store of the kernels, which will keep for 20 years unopened.
Charrouf Z, Guillaume D. Ethnoeconomical, ethnomedical, and phytochemical study of Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1999; 67(1):7-14.
Katherine Oosthuis is completing a Diploma in Nutritional Therapy. She researches and writes for a health and nutrition website Detox For Life . Her passion is to make research available to those who are looking to improve their well-being and revolutionise their health through better nutrition and alternative medicines.