Argan Oil – Complete Guide to History, Uses, and Benefits

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Countries in the Mediterranean region have been using argan oil for thousands of years to treat a wide variety of skin, hair, and medical conditions. The argan tree is native to Morocco and the majority of the argan oil being produced in southwestern Morocco by females using manual labor-intensive techniques. [1]

Argan oil is produced from the kernels found in the fruit produced by the argan tree (Argania spinose L.). The hard-shelled nut found within the argan tree fruit comprises approximately 25% of the fruit’s weight and contains three argan-oil rich kernels. [2]

Related: Tea Tree Oil Uses – 13 Household & Life Hacks

The method for extracting argan oil varies slightly based on whether the oil is to be applied topically or ingested orally. However, the overall process remains relatively unchanged and largely manual despite significant advances in extraction technology over the past couple hundred years.

The first step requires involves drying the argan tree fruit it in the open air. [1] Decreasing the moisture content increases the brittleness of the protecting shell. At this point the fleshy pulp is removed by hand or extracted mechanically if the fruit is not dried. [1] Mechanical extractors must carefully ensure they remove enough pulp to expose the nut.

The next step must be performed by hand as it involves cracking the nut to obtain the three argan-oil rich kernels. [1] Extraction technology has been unable to replicate the precision and accuracy to which the kernels are extracted by hand. At this point the extraction takes one of two paths. If the oil is to be orally ingested, then the kernels are roasted otherwise they’re immediately ground up and pressed to extract the oil. [1]

Roasting the kernel at a low heat unlocks the flavors and aromas that eloquently complement food. Overall the extraction process is fairly inefficient; yielding somewhere between 30% and 50% of all oil within the nut depending on the extraction method. [2]

The pressed oil may sit for up to two weeks, allowing the natural solids to settle to the bottom, before it is filtered one final time and packaged for use. [1] Residual sediment is normal and is not an indicating of low-quality or expired argan oil.

Argan Oil Uses

Argan oil is applied to the skin and hair directly as well as ingested for its health benefits. Argan oil is rich in fatty acids, 80% of which are monounsaturated and 20% of which are saturated fatty acids. [3] More specifically, argan oil is 42.8% oleic, 36.8% linoleic, 12.0% palmitic, 6.0% steric, and <0.5% linolenic acid. [4]

Scientists believe one of the keys to the health and longevity found in Mediterranean countries is their generous consumption of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.

Argan oil is found as a standalone product as well as used in numerous high-quality cosmetic products sold across the globe. Argan oil can be part of a face mask or applied to moisturize, tone, or exfoliate. [5] It also decreases the itchiness and redness of skin infections, bug bites, and skin rashes. [6]

Those with dry skin, acne, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, joint pain, and skin inflammation may also benefit from direct topical application of argan oil. [1] You can also incorporate argan oil in to your hair regimen, as a leave-on conditioner or overnight hair treatment as it rehydrates hair and is believed to prevent hair loss. [5][1]

Argan Oil

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Although not commonly used in Western medicine, argan oil is consumed orally to increase the volume of bile secretion from the liver, protect the liver, prevent high cholesterol, and slow buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries. [1]

Those prone to blood clots are also often prescribed argan oil because of its cardioprotective properties and ability to reduce the formation of blood clots which changing bleeding time. [7] Argan oil is also used to fight both obesity and cancer but will not cure either. [8]

To ensure optimal potency aim to finish a bottle of virgin beauty argan oil in 3 to 4 months and virgin edible argan oil in less than 2 years. [1] In both cases store the oil in a dark contain away from direct sunlight at a temperature of approximately 77oF/25oC. [9]

In Mediterranean diets argan oil may be dipped in bread at breakfast as well as drizzled on couscous, salads, and pasta dishes. Those looking for a sweet treat can make Amlou, a traditional Moroccan spread created by grinding roasted almonds and mixing with argan oil and honey. While argan oil has a multitude of uses, the scientific support of its benefits is only beginning to emerge but overall appears positive.

Argan Oil Benefits

Scientific evidence continues to emerge in support of applying argan oil to the skin and ingesting argan oil on a daily basis. Argan oil is rich in phenols caffeic acid, oleuropein, vanillic acid, tyrosol and catechol as well as polyphenols resorcinol (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin. [10]

There’s a strong correlation between the consumption of a polyphenol-rich diet and prevention against degenerative diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. [11] Ounce for ounce argan oil has almost double the amount of tocopherol, also known as vitamin E, compared to olive oil. [1] Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays numerous critical roles at the cellular level.

The current consensus is that argan oil’s high linolenic acid content is the primary driver for its anti-inflammatory properties. [1] Oral consumption of argan oil also appears to inhibit platelet aggregation without increasing the duration of bleeding. [7]

For those with a history of or currently experiencing blood clot issues this is fantastic news as the oil not only decreases the likelihood of developing a blood clot but also does not appear to thin out the blood as seen with many prescription medications.

One study on oral consumption of argan oil appears promising for those looking to optimize their hormone levels. 60 healthy males between 23 and 40 years old consumed either virgin argan oil or extra virgin olive oil daily for three weeks. While both groups increased their testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels above baseline, the argan oil group experienced 2.5% and 24.1% greater increases in testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels compared to the olive oil group. [12]

Optimal testosterone and LH levels improve the ease of accruing muscle mass, dropping fat, enhancing mood, and improving overall quality of life. A meta-analysis of current literature on argan oil found a high probability that oral consumption can protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, as well as the buildup of fats and cholesterol in arterial walls. [8]

These findings support the claim that diets rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, much like the diets found in the Mediterranean region, improve both life expectancy and quality of life.

Argan oils anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties have a strong positive influence on acne, skin elasticity, and quality. The oleic acid in argan oil promotes healthy levels of sebum production and the linolenic acid promotes healthy skin turnover by preventing the formation excess dead skin cells. [13] Sebum is the oily secretion emitted from the sebaceous glands on the skin. High sebum levels are correlated with clogged pores and acne.

One study found that when 20 healthy volunteers with oily facial skin applied a sebum control cream containing saw palmetto, sesame seed, and argan oil twice daily for four weeks. 95% of volunteers self-reported a visible decrease in sebum production and clinical assessment found that average sebum levels decreased by 20% and the area covered by oily spots decreased by 42%. [14]

Argan oil looks promising for those with oily skin and/or mild acne. From the skin quality standpoint, a study of 60 individuals found that those who applied or ingested argan oil significantly decreased transepidermal water loss and increased the water content of the epidermis compared to olive oil placebo. [15]

These findings suggest that argan oil creates a barrier on the skin to prevent water loss. A second study of 60 women found that those who applied or ingested argan oil experience significant increases in gross-elasticity of the skin, net elasticity of the skin, biological elasticity, and significant decreases in resonance running time compared to olive oil placebo. [16] While argan oil may not be the foundation of youth it may strongly contribute to the appearance of healthier and more hydrated skin.

Argan oil is tolerant by a vast majority of the population but in rare cases may cause minor allergic contact dermatitis. [17] There is no known acute or chronic toxicity issues when argan oil is applied on the skin or consumed in moderate dosages. [1] If you’ve been looking to improve skin, hair, and blood markers then argan oil may be worth trying.

Do you have experience with topical application or oral consumption of argan oil? Let me know in the comments below.

References

1) Guillaume, Dom, and Zoubida Charrouf. “Argan Oil.” Volume 16, Number 3. Alternative Medicine Review, 2011. Web. Aug. 2016.
2) Charrouf, Zoubida, and Dominique Guillaume. “Ethnoeconomical, Ethnomedical, and Phytochemical Study of Argania Spinosa (L.) Skeels.” ScienceDirect.com. Journal of Ethnopharmacology – Volume 67, Issue 1, Oct. 1999. Web. Aug. 2016.
3) Monfalouti, H. E., et al. “Therapeutic potential of argan oil: a review.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Pharm Pharmacol, Dec. 2010. Web. Aug. 2016.
4) Khallouki, F., et al. “Consumption of Argan Oil (Morocco) with Its Unique Profile of Fatty Acids, Tocopherols, Squalene, Sterols and Phenolic Compounds Should Confer Valu…” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Eur J Cancer Prev, Feb. 2003. Web. Aug. 2016.
5) Barret, Jayme. “10 Simple Beauty Uses for Organic Argan Oil.” Mindbodygreen. N.p., 15 Nov. 2012. Web. Aug. 2016.
6) Axe, Josh. “Top 12 Argan Oil Benefits for Skin & Hair.” Dr. Axe. N.p., 2016. Web. 19 Aug. 2016.
7) Mekhfi, H., et al. “Antithrombotic Activity of Argan Oil: an in Vivo Experimental Study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Nutrition, Sept. 2012. Web. Aug. 2016.
8) Cherki, M., et al. “Argan Oil: Which Benefits on Cardiovascular Diseases?” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Pharmacol Res, July 2006. Web. Aug. 2016.
9) Gharby, S., et al. “Oxidative stability of cosmetic argan oil: a one-year study.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Cosmet Sci., n.d. Web. Aug. 2016.
10) Charrouf, Z., and D. Guillaume. “Phenols and Polyphenols from Argania Spinosa.” Science Alert. American Journal of Food Technology – volume 2, Issue 7, 2007. Web. Aug. 2016.
11) Manach, Claudine, et al. “Polyphenols: Food Sources and Bioavailability.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. N.p., May 2004. Web. Aug. 2016.
12) Derouiche, A., et al. “Effect of Argan and Olive Oil Consumption on the Hormonal Profile of Androgens Among Healthy Adult Moroccan Men.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Nat Prod Commun, Jan. 2013. Web. Aug. 2016.
13) “Argan Oil: What’s ‘Oil’ the Fuss About?” Fox News Magazine. N.p., 26 Mar. 2013. Web. Aug. 2016.
14) Dobrev, H. “Clinical and Instrumental Study of the Efficacy of a New Sebum Control Cream.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Cosmet Dermatol, June 2007. Web. Aug. 2016.
15) Boucetta, Kenza Qiraouani et al. “Skin Hydration in Postmenopausal Women: Argan Oil Benefit with Oral And/or Topical Use.” Przegla̜d Menopauzalny = Menopause Review 13.5 (2014): 280–288. PMC. Web. Aug. 2016.
16) Qiraouani Boucetta, Kenza et al. “The Effect of Dietary And/or Cosmetic Argan Oil on Postmenopausal Skin Elasticity.” Clinical Interventions in Aging 10 (2015): 339–349. PMC. Web. Aug. 2016.
17) Foti, C., et al. “Allergic Contact Dermatitis Caused by Argan Oil. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Contact Dermatitis, Sept. 2014. Web. Aug. 2016.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.