Argan oil and traditional cosmetics
The argan tree
Visiting us, you surely already know what argan oil is and where it comes from. However, let us present the argan tree once more our way.
Age: 80 million years
Place of residence: Southwest Morocco
Status: Endangered survivor
For centuries, argan tree has become worthy of our respect. It is a relic from the tertiary, but despite being declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1998, it has seen as half of its population has disappeared. According to the most optimistic estimates, 600 hectares of argan trees are lost each year. It is victim of climate and human activity, overexploitation, deforestation by scarcity of resources, urban planning, tourism, grazing and new forms of intensive crops that degrade the environment and jeopardize not only its survival but also throughout a subtle, fragile ecosystem. The capacity of the argan tree to catch the nighttime atmospheric moisture, store water, and return part of it to the subsoil makes it a key part for the subsistence of endemic flora that depends on it in an environment where rainfall is scarce. Rightly, the local tribes called this mythical tree "the father of all". Argan forest is the last stronghold to face the desertification process and the progression of the Sahara. Its enormous value, ecological as well as economic and socio-cultural, has become a double-edged weapon and can make it a simple relic of the past.
The argan tree (Argania Spinosa), member of the Sapotaceae family, grows only in the southwestern part of Morocco. It is a vestige from when the climate was warm and temperate. The etymology of "argan" could be "serg" which means "to cut firewood" among the tribe of Ait Bouzemmour, which resulted in "erg" and then "ergen" with the meaning of "wood bone"; "Ergen" would have evolved into "argan", meaning heavy wood tree or iron wood tree. Other authors do derive this word from the "arjan" Berber, from arabic “rajnah" with the meaning of "stay locked in a place". As it often happens with popular terms, the etymologies are insecure.
80 million years old, argan tree is a unique in its kind in the world and is not cultivated. It can reach eight to ten meters high and live around 150 to 200 years.
Given its many peculiarities, the argan tree is identified with ease: broad and rounded crown, gnarled trunk and short formed by several intertwined branches. Its branchlets are covered with thorns and able to withstand the dry season leaves. It grows on meadows in any type of soil except in loose soil such as sand.
It doesn't fear the heat; found in arid, semi-arid soils and up doors of the desert. Undemanding in water, its roots can sink up to 30 meters in search of deep waters. In case of major drought, argan tree loses its leaves to resist evaporation and then "pretends to be dead" and returns to life when the humidity percentage increases.
The fruits ripen between May and June. They look like olives but are larger and more rounded. They enclose a very hard almond containing up to three seeds from which oil will be extracted. Nowadays the fruits are harvested knocking them out of the tree and then put to dry in the sun.
The quality of the cosmetic argan oil, in particular its smell, is based on the traceability of the fruits. Therefore, to get an odorless oil raw material must be nuts with pulp, because seeds sold in bulk in the markets can come from fruits previously eaten by goats. They provide an oil with a characteristic, very strong and almost fecal goats smell called "huile de chèvre”, “goat's oil". So, people little or badly informed, have the idea that the downside of argan oil is its smell. You can often hear comments "The problem is that argan oil stinks”. If it is "goat's oil", no doubt about it, it will.
Traditionally, with scarce pasture, goats climbed up the argan trees to eat their buds and fruits. Back to the shelter they expelled the kernels. It was an easy way to collect kernels without running the risk of pricking oneself; they are the so-called “goats kernels".
In this context, it should be noted that the cliché of the goat perched in the branches of the argan tree, chewing leaves and fruits, no longer corresponds with the reality that prevails today and while there are still some places isolated from which even goats in trees can be seen, it has become a mere tourist lure. For obvious reasons of sanitary quality today, in traditional cooperatives whose great work we must recognize, goats are forbidden from accessing the argan trees and the trees are pruned to avoid that goats can climb.
When the fruits are dry, the pulp is removed to extract and crack the kernel by hand with two stones to get the oil-rich seeds. They are roasted, milled and pressed to obtain edible argan oil. This roasting gives oil a characteristic hazelnut fragrance and a golden amber color.
To produce cosmetic oil, the seeds are not roasted and are cold pressed. That is why cosmetic argan oil has a more neutral color and is odorless.
One hectare of argan forest provides 800 kilos of mature almonds after drying, which will provide about 40 kg of seeds that will allow extract 18 litres of oil.
The total for the whole country's production is about 130 000 metric tons of mature almonds.
Argan oil history
The argan forest has survived thousands of years and the history of the argan tree merges with History of Morocco, becoming the emblem of the lands of the South of the country. It receives names who try to reflect its socio-cultural importance: tree of life, blessed tree, sacred tree, mythical tree. It is considered a divine gift, "the father of all". Owing to its hardness and resistance, it is the symbol of a force that protects from all the bad, guardian of souls and flocks. From its seed is extracted a praiseworthy oil whose virtues, in the light of science - which is nowadays paying great attention to it -, as yet surprise us.
One of the first known use was that gave the Phoenicians which, by its luminosity, used it to feed their oil lamps. Among the Berbers, it has been used always for his virtues both cosmetic and alimentary purposes.
Nowadays, the exploitation of the argan oil has a real economic weight but overexploitation also raises a threat to their survival, in spite of a Dahir 1925 which sets a consuetudinary law which states the rights of exploitation of the argan forest.
This Act, still remaining in force, ensures the local population very wide rights of use and enjoyment:
· Right to harvest the fruits
· Right to graze
· Right to plow
· Right to use stones and sand without compensation
· Right to collect firewood
Recent awareness of scientific and political groups about interest of argan from a social, environmental and economic point of view in the regions of southern Morocco has materialized the need to implement a plan of protection, promotion and appreciation of the argan forest. As we said before, Unesco declared argan tree World Heritage in 1998 in order to protect it trough the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Argan oil: the Gold of Berbers
Organic cosmetic argan oil is one of the best cosmetic and single-component products you may use. It's a simple and wonderful way for facial, body and hair care. If you still don't know argan oil, you have now the chance to discover a quality product. Our argan oil is 100% organic, cold-pressed, 100% pure, without additives or preservatives, bottled in Spain or in France, Ecocert Greenlife, Cosmébio or Qualité France certified.
Berber women have always used argan oil for its dietary qualities. Like tea offered to guests, argan oil with a dish of honey is a sign of hospitality among indigenous peoples.
They also use this oil for its cosmetic, almost medicinal virtues. Experience corroborates everyday all that the tradition told us about the amazing properties of argan oil.
For that reason, argan oil holds a prominent place in the Berber traditional pharmacopoeia. Used on infants and children for body massage, helping to heal rashes caused by chicken pox, in the adolescent acne treatments to prevent the appearance of stretch marks and on people suffering from rheumatism or pain joint healing (Berbers say this oil "heats" joints).
Cosmetic argan oil
Due to the enormous pressure of demand in Western markets in recent years, oil producers acquire seeds to local producers. This is carried out at times without any guarantee of origin. Therefore, we want to set crystal-clear that a cosmetic argan oil worthy of this name has no smell. Do not buy any oil for cosmetic purposes if it does not meet this first requirement. Remember that to produce cosmetic argan oil, kernels are not roasted as in the case of food oil production. The seeds have to be cold-pressed in order to preserve all its properties.
Due to its high content in Vitamin E, natural anti-oxydant, the shelf-life of argan oil is quite longer than other vegetable oils.
Organic argan oil cosmetic worth
Pure biological argan oil is a real jewel for face, hair, nails and body care. It is a unique oil whose effectiveness, supported by centuries of tradition, is currently being corroborated by scientific research.
Argan oil is composed by up to 80% of essential fatty acids or EFAs: oleic acid (45%), linoleic acid (vitamin F) (35%), alpha-linolenic acid (15%), gamma-linolenic acid (3%), arachidonic acid (1%); contains large quantities of tocopherols and vitamin E (approximately 700 mg/kg), almost three times more that olive oil for example, carotenoids which 50% are beta-carotenes, precursor of vitamin A, phytosterols (D-7steroles) - that rarely found in oils vegetables - and squalene.
Nowadays the presence of these sterols in argan oil has aroused great interest among doctors and researchers, especially the schottenol (48%) and spinasterol (44%). For the moment, as far as we know, no other vegetable oil presents such a concentration of different sterols.
As we said before, argan oil is rich in squalene (320 mg/litre), whose concentration tends to be low in the vegetable kingdom. Compared with olive, almond or rapeseed oil, argan oil has the highest concentration of essential fatty acids and linoleic acid in natural association. Unsaturated fatty acids essential, i.e. those that the body cannot synthesize itself and must be obtained from intake (diet or cosmetics), are vital nutrients that are involved in the regeneration of tissues-related physiological and biochemical processes. They develop, therefore, play an important role in mitigating scars, wrinkles and give the skin smoothness and softness.
It has a high tocopherols content, as it has been said, much higher that olive oil (argan oil: 620 mg/litre, olive oil: 320 mg/litre). It was believed until recently alpha-tocopherols (75 mg/litre) were the most active form of vitamin E. However, more recent studies have shown the biological importance of gamma-tocopherol, predominant in the argan oil (75%). The gamma-tocopherol is an antioxidant much more effective than alfa-tocoferol. This explains its good results in the fight against oxidation and free radicals, direct cause of the lack of elasticity of the skin and the resulting appearance of wrinkles, stretches marks…. On the other hand, to oxygenate skin, argan oil favours the restoration of the hydrolipidic layer and skin cells whose content in nutrients increases considerably. The benefits are elasticity, softness and lightness of the skin.
For anti-aging skin care, argan oil softens the skin, moisturizes and protects it from dryness.
Contrary to Rose Hip seed oil, for example, argan oil is non-comedogenic, that is doesn't clogg pores. It is consequently recommended even for people with oily skin and/or acne with very positive results in the recovery of marks, scars or after-effects of this pathology, although if initially and logically, one could be reluctant or doubtful about the advisability of applying an oil on an oily skin.
For body massage, it allows us to unite the sensual pleasure of massage with the benefit of vitamin E, providing hydration, nutrients and softness to the skin after bath or shower. Recommended for use on sunburn and skin irritations; argan oil will relieve the sensation of burning, itching and tightness.
But that's not all, it can also be used to strengthen brittle nails and protect them from external aggressions. As a capillary treatment, argan oil gives brightness and resistance to dry off and brittle hair. This is due to its contents in lupeol, which promotes the generation of keratinocytes, cells that produce keratin, main component of skin, nails and hair.
How to choose a good argan oil?
The choice of a good argan oil is quite easy. Just following 3 criteria will be enough to avoid any displeasure : smell, colour and the penetration capacity.
The odor: A good cosmetic argan oil has to be unscented and cannot have goat or roast smell. Indeed, to produce cosmetic argan oil the kernels are unroasted and have to be cold-pressed to preserve all their properties. Some sensitive noses are able sometimes to smell the characteristic aroma of the argan fruit.
Colour: argan oil is characterized by a natural colour near Golden apricot oil. It can be slightly turbid (presence of pulp), if it is not micro-filtered; this fact doesn't affect its quality. A too dark argan oil is an oil that has been heated. On the contrary, a too light argan oil has been refined.
Fast absorbing argan oil is characterized by its deep nourishing power, unlike other oils, it does not grease skin. A simple application and a light circular massage is enough to make it penetrate. An argan oil which leaves your skin greasy is certainly mixed with another oil (obviously cheaper) or low-quality.
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