The Benefits of Argan Oil: Longer Hair, Smoother Skin, Stronger Nails, and Overall Good Health
The Benefits of Argan Oil (Moroccan Gold): What a Find
The benefits of Argan oil, or Moroccan Gold as it is also known, have been relatively unknown in the Western part of the world until recently. However, the Moroccans have known for centuries about its incredible benefits and Europeans have been using the oil for years to help grow longer hair, have smoother skin and stronger nails. It's within the 21st Century that argan oil has been showing up on beauty shelves and in salons around the US, both in beauty products and as a stand-alone oil.
Argon oil has interesting origins. After all, who knew that in the waste of a goat would be such a gold mine? Specifically, it would be interesting to know what "aha! moment" occurred to a farmer or goat herder in the semi-desert of Morocco when he looked at the poop of his goat and said, "Wow! What a nut I see there! I'm going to clean it up and have my wife to crack it open. I'm sure that oil will have nutritional, medicinal and beautification uses!"
His wife probably thought he was the nut!
Whoever it was and in whatever way the oil was "discovered," the Berber Villagers of Morocco really found gold of the liquid kind those five hundred years ago. I'm referring to argan oil from the argan tree, species argania spinosa. Regardless of when and how it was introduced (or the way it's spelled), argan oil can benefit your hair, skin, hair and nails and nourish your body.
Using Argan Oil on Hair, Skin, Nails
Cosmetically, argan oil, which is also spelled argonne or argon, is used on skin, hair and nails. When applied to the skin, argan oil aids dry skin, making the skin look smooth and supple without the typical greasiness of many oils. With its anti-inflammatory properties it improves eczema and psoriasis. Stretch marks and wrinkles are both reduced with consistent use of the oil. In addition, the oil regulates the skin's natural production of sebum, the oil produced by the sebaceous gland, aiding in preventing oily skin and clearing acne. The carotene in argan oil aids somewhat in protection against UV rays.
There are also properties of argan oil that makes it a natural insect repellent that has been used by the Moroccans for centuries. Research has shown that one of the natural ingredients of the oil is camphor and camphor repels insects.
The versatile oil can be used during massage and is reported to be especially helpful as a topical, anti-inflammatory during therapeutic massages for arthritis or sore muscles.
Used on the nails, argan oil eliminates britlleness, softens the cuticles and aids in healthy nail growth. A couple of drops of oil in lemon juice, soak the nails for 5 minutes each week and nails that were dry and easily split and broken will noticeably improve.
This writer's introduction to argan oil came about as I explored different oils to use on my hair. Argan oil feels extremely light and moisturizes the hair without leaving it greasy and flat. It said to actually penetrate the hair shaft, leaving it silky, restoring shine and repairing split ends. Because it is so light, it can prove to be an excellent choice for scalp care, promoting hair growth and retarding dandruff.
Because of its ability to penetrate the hair shaft, argan protects the hair from damage caused by perms, hair coloring and heat styling. Used on the scalp its restorative properties help in the production of new hair and strengthens the hair to aid lengthening.
One way for the hair to reap the benefits of the oil is to use it as a hot oil treatment, applying it to the hair and then wrapping your head with a warm towel for ten to twenty minutes before shampooing. Or, a variation on the same treatment, apply oil to the hair in sections, cover with a plastic cap and sit under the dryer for ten minutes to help the oil penetrate the hair shaft. Shampoo as usual.
Another is to apply a few drops to the ends of the hair to aid split ends to control frizzes after shampooing and after styling is complete to add shine and protection to the hair. While argan oil is very light, apply lightly since too much can weigh the hair down.
Like olive oil or sweet almond oil, argan oil is a carrier oil which means it can be mixed with other oils to increase the benefits. Essential oils of varying scents can also be added to suit your taste. Argan oil by itself is gold to clear in color and has little to a slightly nutty smell. In addition to the ability to mix with other oils, argan oil can be added to creams like shea butter for the skin or used alone.
When buying argon oil, be sure that it is labeled as certified. There are some synthetic oils mimicking argan oil, but if it isn't certified, it may not be true argan oil and the benefits won't be there. Also, when buying, be aware that the oil used for cosmetic purposes is differentiated from that used in cooking and will be labeled accordingly. During processing, the nut of the argan is roasted if it is to be used in the kitchen. Oil that is prepared for cosmetic purposes is in raw form.
Considered a rare oil, argan is more expensive than other oils. It only grows in one area of the world - in the harsh, semi-desert area of Morocco - and because of the Moroccans' overuse of the trees for lumber, the tree is on the endangered species list.
Rare, versatile, and with its many benefits, argan oil is worth trying. It is expensive, but it may be just what your skin, hair, nails, and, not to mention your health, needs. When you do try it, you will also be supporting a community business uniquely run by the women of Morocco. That will be good for you and good for the prosperity of the villagers.
Making Argan Oil
Participating in a project sanctioned by the Moroccan King, the women of the Berber Tribe in Morocco are a part of a Cooperative taking the prescious argan oil to the world. The oil is processed and produced entirely by women who work part-time earning money for their families.
Initially, when gathering the nuts of the argan tree, herders would find the almond shaped nuts in the waste of goats who had dined on the fleshy, exterior of the fruit. The women of the village broke open the nuts by smashing them with stone. Inside the nuts were nestled up to three small kernels. These kernels were pulverized to extract the oil.
While the excrement of the goats is no longer the source of the nuts, the process to make the oil has remained primarily the same through the centuries. There has been one important addition, that of some mechanization of parts of the process for purity, especially when the oil is for use in food.
The Process of Making Argan Oil
Health Benefits When Ingested
One of the rarest oils on earth, argan oil is also purported to be one of the most beneficial. When ingested either as an oil or as a tonic, the health benefits range from lowering cholesterol to easing the inflammation of arthritis.
Argan oil can be used much the same way that olive oil would be - in salads, as cooking oil and for dipping bread. There are also special Moroccan dishes that are made using the unique oil.
The taste is similar to that of walnuts according to some and similar to hazelnut according to others. Regardless of the taste, the oil is full of antioxidants, essential fatty acids including Omega 3 and 6 and vitamins A and E. Antioxidants are important in neutralizing cancer causing free radicals, vitamin E positively impacts cellular aging giving it important anti-aging properties. In fact, argan oil is purported to have more vitamin E and A than olive oil and sweet almond oil.
The argan nut can be ground into a delicious paste to make the Moroccan equivalent of peanut butter.
The Berber villagers take argan oil as a tonic, believing it prevents cancer. The oil has also been found to aid in increasing and improving the appetite of the elderly.
Where to Find the Argan Tree
Argan nuts are rare because the Argan tree only grows naturally in the semi-desert climate of Morocco, in an area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Big and Little Atlas Mountains. It is an easily recognized gnarly tree that has existed for nearly two million years in its same form. It has deep roots in the Moroccan desert aiding its drought resistance and and deep roots in the Moroccan culture. A single argan tree can live up to 200 years, flowering and bearing fruit when there has been the right amount of rain (a rarity) and temperature.
© 2011 Cynthia B Turner