Argan oil is a vegetable oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) endemic to Morocco.
Argan oil mainly consists of fatty acids:
Argan oil contains tocopherols (vitamin E), phenols, carotenes, squalene and fatty acids (80% unsaturated). The main natural phenols in argan oil are caffeic acid, eleuropein, vanillic acid, tyrosol, catechol, resorcinol, epicatechin and catechin.
Depending on the extraction method, argan oil can be more resistant to oxidation than olive oil.
In Morocco, the oil is used for culinary purposes, e.g. salad dressings or in couscous. Amlu, a thick brown paste with a consistency similar to peanut butter, is used locally as a bread dip. It is produced by grinding roasted almond and argan oil using pits, then mixing the argan oil and almonds with honey.
For cosmetic use:
Since the early 2000s argan oil has been increasingly used in cosmetics and hair care preparations. As of 2020, the main cosmetic products containing argan oil are face creams, lip glosses, shampoos, moisturizers and soaps.
Production of argan oil using traditional methods
The argan nut contains one to three oil-rich argan kernels. Extraction yields from 30% to 50% of the oil in the kernels, depending on the method. It takes about 40 kg of dried argan fruit to produce just one liter of oil.
Mining is the key to the production process. To extract the kernels, workers first air-dry the argan fruit and then remove the fleshy pulp. Some producers remove the flesh mechanically without drying the fruit. Moroccans usually use the flesh as animal feed. The kernels are then recovered from the animal's excrement, greatly reducing the labor involved in extraction at the expense of some possible taste aversion. In modern practice, the skins are removed by hand. Workers gently roast the kernels to be used to make cooking argan oil. After the argan kernels have cooled, workers grind and press them. Puree coffee expels pure, unfiltered argan oil. Finally, they transfer the unfiltered argan oil into containers. The rest, which is rich in protein, is often used as cattle feed.
Argan plant production
After the first sales of the cosmetic product in the US in 2003, demand soared and production increased. In 2012, the Moroccan government planned to increase production, then about 2,500 tons, to 4,000 tons by 2020. After studies, it was found that the reserves of argan oil were being diluted with other oils, such as sunflower oil, as the extraction process for the pure Argan oil was difficult and expensive. In 2012, the Moroccan government began testing purity before export.
By 2020, production had increased significantly, especially after studies suggested health benefits.
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