Argan oil, also known as Moroccan oil, has always been one of my favourite oils. I apply it to my skin and hair to give them a silky smooth texture. Consuming argan oil, as I would olive oil, for example, never occured to me. But it’s something the people of Morocco have been doing for centuries.
Recently, scientists decided to investigate culinary argan oil for its ability to improve skin. In a study, sixty post-menopausal women were alloted 25 ml of argan oil for 60 days. Guess what: They’re skin became thicker and more elastic. Even more exciting: Their lipid and hormone profiles improved!
I decided to try it for myself, and I’m delighted with the results. I’ve been taking two tablespoons of culinary argan oil every day for two months, and my skin has a more even tone and healthier glow. People have been saying, “You look younger, Heather. What’s your secret?” Read on, if you want to know. 🙂
How Does Argan Oil Work its Magic?
Aging occurs as a result of free radical damage. Our bodies are equipped to deal with free radicals, but as we age it becomes increasingly difficult for them to cope. It will come as no surprise to hear that the best thing you can do to help your body is look after it: Plenty of fresh air and adequate sunshine; Sufficient rest and relaxtion; and, a diet full of antioxidant-rich foods.
Argan oil is filled with antioxidants, including a powerful polyphenol antioxidant called gamma-tocopherol, or vitamin E. Vitamin E can neutralize free radicals without becoming unstable itself. This makes it incredibly useful, because it slows down the aging process.
Your Skin Needs Antioxidants
Fibroblasts are connective tissue cells that produce the collagen and elastin fibrils; think of them as the rebar of your skin. With vitamin E circulating throughout your system, your body can make more and better fibroblasts, which helps your skin to be stronger and more resilient.
As post-menopausal women, we know that our skin is becoming thinner and more fragile, as well as increasingly lined. The idea that we can improve the situation by simply eating more vitamin E-rich foods, including argan oil, is encouraging.
Is Argan Oil Therapy the Answer to Dropping Estrogen Levels?
Estrogen stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. Once we hit peri-menopause and our estrogen levels decrease, our skin becomes less resilient.
Prescription hormone therapy used to be the gold standard of treatment for menopausal complaints, including everything from thinning skin to the prevention of heart disease and strokes. But it has fallen out of favour as it presents potential health risks of its own. That said, new studies have suggested that the use of HRT is something which needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis: It can be good for some and not for others.
No one in the know will argue that injesting two tablespoons of argan oil daily will create the dramatic changes that prescribed synthetic and natural hormones can make, but it has been recognized as a valuable tool in the treatment of postmenopausal conditions. There are no side effects, it improves skin elasticity and thickness, and there is growing evidence that it can help to forestall cardiovascular and other degenerative diseases.
…don’t worry that your interest in argan oil will destroy a forest somewhere. Instead, it will help to protect it.
Where Does Argan Oil Come From?
Argan oil is extracted from the kernels of fruits that grow on argan trees found naturally in North Africa, particularly in the Argan Forest in Morocco which covers over 8000 square kilometers.
The argan forest is half the size it used to be. Throughout the last 100 or so years the forest was razed by local people for charcoal making, grazing and cultivation of other crops.
Thanks to increasing world-wide demand for argan oil, the forest is now protected, and was designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1998. So, please, don’t worry that your interest in argan oil will destroy a forest somewhere. Instead, it will help to protect it.
How Argan Oil is Made
Argan trees take 40 to 60 years to mature before they produce fruit. Consequently, the oil is hard come by, which makes it expensive, particularly when compared to other culinary oils. (It’s a steal when you compare it to the price of most cosmetics.)
To make culinary argan oil, the kernels are roasted to enhance flavour and to make the oil more digestible. They are then ground by hand.
There are also beauty and cosmetic grades of argan oils. The beauty oil is made in the same way as the culinary oil, although it’s not roasted. Used neat, it imparts to the skin a lovely, silky texture.
The cosmetic oil is prepared by industrial machines. The raw kernels are pressed for use in shampoos, creams, lotions and the like. Cosmetic grade argan oil is inedible, because it’s been deodorized and decoloured and mixed with synthetic antioxidant preservatives.
Argan oil is a carrier oil, not an essential oil. As such, if you choose to consume it there’s no need to worry about overdosing. (That said, there are about 70 calories in a tablespoon.)
The Working Women of Morocco
I don’t imagine the women in Morocco who were part of the skin study were surprised by the findings. For generation, they’ve been relying on argan oil to improve their nails, skin and hair, and for its culinary uses and curative powers.
For cultural and religious reasons, the Amazigh women of the Berber tribe are the only people who can harvest argan kernels and make oil. Today, only they have the rights to sell argan oil through government established cooperatives.
The cooperatives ensure sustainable cultivation and reforestation initiatives are practiced. When all goes according to plan, the sale of argan oil provides the women with jobs, fair wages, safe working conditions, education and literacy programs.
With all the work that goes into getting the oil, expect to pay more for it than you would other culinary oils. Cheap argan oil probably isn’t pure. Disreputable sellers mix cheap cooking oils with argan and try to pass it off as the real thing. There’s no point in purchasing it. If it isn’t the real thing you’re not going to get the results you want. And the women of Morocco whose livelihoods are made through the sale of the genuine article benefit only when we buy the real thing.
My 60-day Argan Oil Challenge
Having read about how powerful argan oil is, I purchased both culinary argan oil and beauty argan oil so I could do my own 60-day challenge. I don’t have the tools to measure the thickness of my skin, or the ability to measure my lipid or hormone levels, but I’m really pleased with what I see in the mirror.
For about three years, I’ve been dealing with fragile red skin on the tip of my nose. February 1st, 2018, I started consuming two tablespoons of culinary argan oil daily and I applied the beauty oil to my face in the morning and in the evening. Soon after, I noticed my skin improving, and after 60 days the skin on my nose was no longer red. Also, when I cut my thumb recently, it healed rapidly.
If you decide to take the 60-day argan oil challenge, let us know how it goes by posting about your experience in the comments section. Did you see an improvement, and if so what did you see?
Intreresting Facts About Argan Oil
- not suitable for cooking; argan oil can be used in salads, at the table, and in dips and spreads and smoothies or simply added to water and swallowed
- argan is the world’s most expensive culinary oil
- best kept tightly capped in a cool dark place; culinary oil lasts about two years and cosmetic oil lasts about 18 months
- rich in vitamins A and E, and omega 3 fatty acids
- it’s always wise to patch test any new product, and if you have a nut allergy, use argan with caution
- the argan tree (Argania spinosa) is a thorny evergreen tree also known as Morocco Ironwood
- the tree grows up to 10m tall and is known in Morocco as the “Tree of Life”
- there are approximately 50 million trees in the Argan Forest, a UNESCO biosphere reserve
- the argan trees help to prevent the spread of desert
- trees live for 150 to 450 years; they begin to fruit at about 50 years
- the argan fruits are stone fruits and take about a year to mature
- inside each pit are one to three seeds which are 60% oil
- it takes 30kg of fruit to make one litre of oil
- approximately 3 million Moroccans, mainly women, depend upon argan oil for their incomes
- traditionally, goats climbed the trees to eat the fruit, and the seeds were collected from their feces
- goats are now banned from the forest; machines collect the pits and women crush them to collect the kernels
- you can still see goats in argan trees in Morocco; they are there primarily for the amusement of tourists
Argan oil smoothie
Once you’ve made a few smoothies you really don’t need a recipe. It’s more a case of using some key base ingredients, which for me includes argan oil and plain yogurt, nuts and ground flax, and then adding to them whatever takes your fancy. But here’s a recipe, in case you need one to get started.
- ½ frozen banana
- ¼ cup berries
- ¼ cup 2% milk
- ¼ plain 2% Oikos yogurt
- 2 tbsp argan oil
- 2 tbsp nuts
- 1 tsp Certo or psyllium husk
- 1 tsp ground flax
- Put it all in the blender (pop in ear plugs to protect your hearing) and whir until smooth.
- Whatever you like to put in your smoothies, add a couple of tablespoons of argan and reap the rewards.
I also like to use argan oil instead of milk on my granola cereal. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s really tasty and healthy, too!