Argan oil: The treasures of the Moroccan argan tree
The argan tree, also known as the ironwood tree or Argania spinosa, has undergone an impressive transformation in recent years. What was once considered a mere tourist curiosity is now arousing the growing interest of scientists, particularly in the fields of cosmetics and nutrition. This interest stems from the extraction of argan oil from the seeds of the argan tree, which has fascinating properties.
The argan tree: a survivor in the desert
The argan tree impresses with its sturdy trunk and reaches heights of up to ten meters. Its thorns protect it from being eaten by animals, with only dromedaries and climbing goats having access to its leaves and fruit. In dry periods, it sheds its leaves and can survive for years without growing. When it rains, it sprouts new leaves, flowers and fruit within a few days. With its deep roots up to 30 meters deep, it prevents soil erosion and protects against the advance of the desert.
The unique flower of the argan tree produces seeds in a green berry. In good rainy years, up to four generations of flowers and fruits can be found on the trees at different stages of ripeness. The argan tree is the only representative of the Sapotaceae family in the southern Mediterranean region and has a long history of development.
The extraction of argan oil
Argan oil is produced in various ways. The traditional method involves manually opening the seeds, which have previously been digested by goats. The seeds are then roasted, ground and the oil is extracted by hand. This method achieves a yield of about 30% of the seed weight. More modern methods use undigested seeds that are opened between stones and then cold-pressed. This method ensures higher purity and longer shelf life. Finally, there is a method that uses organic solvents to extract oil for cosmetic products.
Qualities of argan oil
Argan oil is classified into four qualities according to Moroccan standards: "L'huile d'argane vierge extra" with a maximum of 0.8 g free acidity per 100 g, followed by "L'huile d'argane vierge fine," "L'huile d'argane vierge courante," and "L'huile d'argane vierge lampante" for lamp oil that is not suitable for consumption.
The composition of argan oil
Argan oil consists mainly of glycerides, with 96% triglycerides dominating. The unsaponifiable portion contains carotenoids, tocopherols, sterols and triterpene alcohols, which comprise a significant amount of biologically active phytochemicals. Squalene is also abundant, as are tocopherols, which are an important source of vitamin E. The sterols in argan oil, especially spinasterol, lower cholesterol levels, while the phenols it contains have antioxidant properties.
Application in cosmetics
Argan oil has found its way into the cosmetic world, especially for the care of dry skin. It has been proven that argan oil has regenerative effects on the skin, improves skin structure and increases hydration. In the Berber tradition, argan oil has been used to treat skin problems and prevent stretch marks. It is also used as a natural sunscreen.
In summary, argan oil is a valuable source of nutrients and phytochemicals that can provide various health benefits. Although there are no specific medicinal applications