Argan Oil – Composition, Production and Uses
Argan oil has skyrocketed from a mere
tourist attraction to one of the most priced
oils in the world in a few short years. Argan
oil’s unique savor and multiple pharmacological properties are responsible for this
Argan oil is prepared from the fruits of argan trees (Argania spinosa). These trees are slow growing trees exclusively endemic to the barren lands of southwest Morocco, where all-women cooperatives specialize in high quality argan oil extraction (1). Each argan fruit has 2-3 kernels and the kernels are used to extract the oil.
- Argan oil can be manufactured as food or cosmetic grade oil. Cold pressing technique is used to manufacture edible oils and both cold pressing and chemical extraction techniques are used to manufacture cosmetic grade argan oil.Virgin edible argan oil is prepared from kernels that are slightly roasted prior to grinding and cold pressing. This oil is copper-colored, it presents a slight hazelnut taste, and is the basic ingredient of the local diet (2).
- Virgin “beauty” argan oil is prepared by cold pressing of the unroasted kernels. It is golden-colored and has no taste. Virgin edible argan oil presents a better long-term preservation profile than virgin beauty argan oil. At 25°C, the former preserves its quality for up to two years, while the shelf life of the latter is only 3-4 months (3).
- As a cosmetic ingredient, argan oil is produced by solvent-assisted extraction of the finely crushed kernels. Enriched-argan oil that is produced by distillation of cosmetic argan oil and it can be supplemented with antioxidants. Hence, it presents an even better cosmetic potential.
Virgin argan oil of edible or “beauty” grade is composed of 99 % acylglycerides, primarily triglycerides (4). Fatty acids that compose acylglycerides are principally oleic and linoleic acid, 43-49% and 29-36%, respectively (5). Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid of the omega-9 family, while linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid belonging to the omega-6 family.
Unsaponifiable matter, which represents the remaining one percent, is composed of carotenes, tocopherols, triterpene alcohols, sterols, and xanthophyll (4).
The tocopherol content of argan oil is 620 mg/kg, compared to 320 mg/kg in olive oil.
Tocopherols are molecules with strong antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties. gamma-Tocopherol, the most efficient free radical scavenger of all tocopherols,(6) composes 69% of argan oil total tocopherol content (7) and it is the major form of vitamin E in many plant seeds and in the US diet (8).
The level of unsaponifiable matter (such as vitamin E) in the oil manufactured by solvent extraction is three times lower than that observed in the press-extracted oil9.
Traditionally, argan oil was used extensively in Morocco as topical oil to treat various ailments, such as dry skin, acne, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, joint pain, and skin inflammation (4). It is also used to prevent hair loss and dry hair (4). Ingested, argan oil is a choleretic and hepatoprotective agent that can prevent hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis (4)
When used in hair care products, argan oil improves the elasticity of the dry, brittle hair, help reduce the frizziness of the hair making the hair softer and more manageable, repairs damaged hair and reduces further breakage as well as aid hair growth. Vitamin E in argan oil is a great stimulant for growth of capillaries, when the capillaries are healthy and profuse, the blood circulation in the scalp will be enhanced that will therefore promote strong and healthy growth of hair.
For hair growth stimulation and hair loss prevention in general, we would recommend a mixture of argan oil with other essential oils (such as Bacopa monneri, Arctium lappa, Eclipta alba, Moringa Oleifera, Acacia Concinna). These oils contain minerals and proteins that argan oil doesn’t have, so it would make a powerful combination and use this mixture to massage the scalp with.
Argan fruit pulp and argan leaves also contain proteins, peptides, saponins and other chemicals presenting highly interesting dermocosmetic properties, but these were not thoroughly researched yet (11).
- Morton JF, Voss GL. The argan tree (Argania sideroxylon, Sapotaceae), a desert source of edible oil. Econ Bot 1987;41:221-233.
- Charrouf Z, Guillaume D. Should the Amazigh diet (regular and moderate argan-oil consumption) have a beneficial impact on human health? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2010;50:473-477.
- Gharby S, Harhar H, Guillaume D, et al. Oxidative stability of edible argan oil: a two year study. LWT-Food Sci Technol 2011;44:1-8.
- Charrouf Z, Guillaume D. Ethnoeconomical, ethnomedical and phytochemical study of Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;67:7-14.
- Rahmani M. The chemical composition of virgin argan oil. Agricultures 2005;14:461-465.
- Jiang Q, Christen S, Shigenaga MK, Ames BN. gamma-Tocopherol, the major form of vitamin E in the US diet, deserves more attention. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:714-722.
- Charrouf Z, Guillaume D. Argan oil: occurrence, composition and impact on human health. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol 2008;110:632-636
- Jiang Q1, Christen S, Shigenaga MK, Ames BN., Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Dec;74(6):714-22.
- Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol. 2008, 110, 632–636 Zoubida Charrouf and Dominique Guillaume
- Dom Guillaume, Zoubida Charrouf, Alternative Medicine Review Volume 16, Number 3.
- I. Stussi, F. Henry, P. Moser, L. Danoux, C. Jeanmaire, V. Gillon, I. Benoit, Z. Charrouf, G. Pauly: Argania spinosa – How ecological farming, fair trade and sustainability can drive the research for new cosmetic active ingredients. SOFW J. 2005, 131, 59–62