Posted by Tammie Umbel, CEO Shea Terra Organics on 11/28/2014
2003 one of my Moroccan employees introduced me to a bottle of argan oil that
his mother had someone make for him. It was roasted and some debris of the nuts
sat at the bottom of the bottle. It smelled and tasted so good. I found the oil
remarkable, not so much for putting on the skin but for eating. I soon began
receiving container loads of pure argan oil along with my amazing ghassool and
fragrant rose water. Although completely unheard of in the US, the French,
frequent visitors in Morocco, had been enjoying the benefits for decades. I
recall meeting a man in a trade show a few years later who displayed argan as
one of his European company’s line ups. “Argan oil is such a nice oil. Too bad
its name is so similar to argon the gas. I think no one will ever use it just
because of its name,” I said. He agreed with me as we shook our heads thinking
it was just too bad that argan was cursed with such a name. Little did I know
that it would become a world-wide sensation in less than a decade later.
What is argan? The Latin name for argan is
argania spinosa. The argan tree grows wild in south-western Morocco although
some can be found in Algeria as well. The tree is believed to be a survivor
dating all the way back to the Tertiary Period. It is often quite gnarled and
has a similar appearance to the olive tree. The trees are found growing in the
wild where humans and nature have been living together harmoniously for
thousands of years. Often crops are planted around the trees to avoid cutting
them down. If you are familiar with sandy, beach type biomes then you can
probably imagine the growing conditions of the argan tree. The tree only grows
in an area with a particular type of soil spanning from the shore side to a
section of Atlas to an area where the barren Sahara sands begin to encroach.
The area is under threat from humans and climate change. In 1998 UNESCO
declared the biome protected.
spring the trees produce a crop of roughly 150 kg argan fruits. The fruits are
similar in shape to olives. They start out green but soon become the color and
fragrance of apricot. Eventually the fruits darken and fall from the trees
where they are eventually collected from the ground. It takes a tree about 30
years to produce their first crop. And of the bulk of the non-edible fruit,
only two small slivers of fruit will be used to produce argan oil.
How is argan oil produced? Today argan oil is often made
by machines. Sadly these foreign investors have undermined the traditional role
that Moroccan women have played in the traditional production of argan oil. The
government has encouraged, however, the formation of women’s groups to ensure
that the age-old art of argan oil extraction is not lost. The work is tedious
and takes many hours to make a single liter. And I should know as I have made
the oil several times myself. After the dried fruits are collected and stored
for several months to allow time for the oil to peak, the fruits must then be
decorted. This is done in stone-age fashion. The dried fruits are separated from
the nuts by hitting them with a hand held rock up against a larger rock.
hard shelled nuts are then banged in a similar fashion to until they crack open
and reveal the tiny slivers of “almonds” inside. If the oil is to be eaten the
“almonds” are then roasted over an open fire. If used for cosmetic oil the
“almonds” are not. The nuts are then put into a small stone mill which is hand
turned to turn the “almonds’ into paste.
Whew! Next the paste is mixed with a
little boiling water and hand kneaded for a few hours until the oil starts to
separate from the paste. The oil is then hand squeezed from the paste until as
much oil can be wrung out as possible. The oil is then filtered and bottled.
The remaining oil is cake is then fed to livestock.
What are the benefits of argan
oil? Argan oil
has many nutritional benefits which we will not cover here. Traditionally in
Morocco it is this edible argan oil that is mostly sought after. It is
expensive even in Morocco so it is a valued resource. What is now popular around
the world is the unroasted oil used for beauty purposes. In comparison with
most other oils that can be used on the skin, argan oil works in harmony with
skin. It soaks into the skin well leaving the skin feeling dewy and fresh
rather than oily. It is noncomedogenic and thus does not clog pores when used
in moderation. It is a long lasting oil giving nearly a full day of protection
against moisture loss. Berber women have long used argan oil to produce
lustrous, long hair with little frizz and split ends. The oil nicely coats the
hair protecting it from breakage without leaving it overly oily. Applied
regularly to the scalp the oil is known to decrease the rate of falling hair.
How is argan oil used? Traditionally argan oil is
used in the hammaam, an open steam room. After a deep cleansing argan oil is
massaged into skin and scalp. In France and other European countries hammaam
treatments have also long been popular. As argan oil has spread across the
globe it is found in more and more skin and hair care products. The best way of
utilizing argan oil, however, is it buy 100% pure argan oil from a respected
source and massage it daily into face after washing and into the hair prior to
washing. A little bit of argan oil can be applied to hair after washing to make
the hair conditioned and shiny.
How eco-friendly is argan oil? Argan oil is one of the most
eco-friendly products on the market today. The Argan Forest has now been
protected. Inhabitants of the forest region are now seeing benefits of not
allowing their animals, goats and camels, to graze on the argan fruits and
leaves. The fruits grow in the wild, are hand collected once fallen, and many
argan oil production areas are not far from where the fruits are collected.
With the exception of chemical or machine extraction, the oil is produced by
hand using Stone Age technology. The leftovers are not considered waste at all.
The remaining cake etc. are used to feed livestock.
How do I know if I am
purchasing a quality argan oil?
The qualities of argan oil vary greatly in Morocco. Because the oil is so
costly to produce it is often diluted with cheaper oils like olive, almond and
sunflower. Some oil has a very strong, unpleasant aroma. This is due to poor
manufacturing/ storage practices. A good quality argan oil will be mostly
clear, golden yellow/ brown and have a slight nutty to soured aroma. The oil
will not feel like a dry oil at all. When applied to skin it should absorb well
without much of a greasy sheen. The oil should last on the skin for most of the
day. Argan oil that is completely void of aroma could be deodorized argan oil or not argan oil at all. Always look for argan oil that has its distinct aroma so you can be assured that it is potentially genuine. Deodorizing of argan oil depletes its nutritional value.
Diluted argan oil often feels lighter, greasier and doesn’t last as long.
Sometimes trying a few brands is necessary to understand what a pure, high
quality argan oil should feel like. Shea Terra Organics has over a decade long
reputation for selling only the highest quality, pure argan oil at a reasonable
price. We purchase our oil far from the salty shoreline to improve the quality
of our oil. Our oil is flown directly from production for
Click here to purchase 100% pure Moroccan Argan Oil.