Health benefits of Argan oil
An ancient oil, used by African tribes for its culinary, medicinal and health beneficial properties, Argan oil, became in recent years the subject of studies and research from cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies that were looking for a way to make commercial use of all these health benefits of Argan oil. Image left: See credits under ref.  below.
Common name: English, Argan almond, Argan fruit, Argan oil, Moroccan fodder tree .
BENEFITS OF ARGAN OIL
Since ancient times, indigenous Berber groups made use of Argan tree for almost every possible use, in every way, shape or form, from carpentry to construction purposes. They also knew about the health benefits of Argan oil as well, including its cosmetic, culinary and traditional medicinal uses.
Argan oil became one of the rarest and most exotic oils in the world due to its very limited and specific growing conditions and the area where it is naturally found , being available in areas of different geographical origin as Tidzi, Tamanar, Benaiznassen, Ait mzal, Ait Baha, Ighrem or Aoulouz .
Argan oil is extracted from the fruit kernels of Argania spinosa or Argan tree, a wild forest tree that grows almost exclusively in the native region from where it originates, an area between 800,000 and 900,000 hectares in the south-west of Morocco. In later July, the fruits are black and dry, ready for harvest, moment in which the story begins.
Argan oil is extracted from the kernels of argan fruits that have been sun-dried for either a few days or up to several weeks. Ten to fourteen days of sun-drying is optimum to obtain high-quality argan oil .
Argan oil has a very special taste in either of its forms, raw or toasted, similar to walnut oil and its ideal to accompany many dishes and salads.
In the traditional Moroccan diet, Argan oil is usually consumed at breakfast, especially in the south-western region of the country [3,4], but also mixed with goat cheese and in salads.
Argan oil is rich in:
- vitamin A
- vitamin E,
- unsaturated fatty acids,
- Omega 6 and
- Omega 9,
as well as many antioxidants.
In words of UNESCO, "Argan tree is not only the focus for conservation, but also for research and socio-economic development. Traditional uses of the Argan tree are for example forestry, pastoralism, food, medicine and cosmetics. Growing along the border of Sahara, it also functions as a buffer against desertification" .
ARGAN OIL PRICE
The price of Argan oil is proportional to the amount of time and effort it takes to extract it and produce.
To have a more accurate idea of what this entails you should realize that in order to produce a litre of Argan oil you need more than 30 kg of argan fruits, which later one have to be processed, extracted and pressed.
Organic and traditionally pressed argan oil prices to range from three to five times the price of virgin olive oil, being sold in Europe for about 15 Euros the 100 ml and about 50 USD for 500 ml in the United States.
ARGAN OIL FOR CULINARY PURPOSES
Since Argan oil became so popular, locals have more difficulties to access it and use it.
The average price of Argan oil has made this natural product almost inaccessible for Moroccan people, being only used for those who are still close to the producers of this wonderful natural healthy product.
In Morocco Argan oil has traditionally been used in salads and couscous, but also as a condiment together with goat cheese, another Moroccan natural product which still produces the traditional way.
Argan oil gives a very special and distinctive taste to almost any food with which you mix it or use it but goat cheese is undoubtedly a must try.
Of course, Argan oil is a premium product that you can't obviously use on a day to day, or at least not if you're not one of the lucky ones that can afford to pay such a price for such a small amount of product.
ARGAN FOREST, AN INTERNATIONAL BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Argan forest, located in the southwest of Morocco, is unique in the world. Its extension and characteristics made this forest something worth protecting and taking care of. Aware of this fact, UNESCO declared back in 1998, the Argan Forest an international biosphere reserve.
As UNESCO mentioned, "This biosphere reserve covers a vast intermontane plain of more than 2,560,000 hectares, bordered by the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and open to the Atlantic in the west.
The core area comprises the Souss-Massa National Park. Of main conservation interest is the endemic Argan tree (Argania spinosa). Being a relic of the tertiary era" .
ACTIVE CONSTITUENTS OF ARGAN OIL
If we had to look for a rational explanation of the many health benefits of Argan oil we will start by looking at its active constituents, the main reason why Argan oil exerts so many properties and health benefits. Argan oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, tocopherol and phenolic compounds .
Generally, Argan oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, principally oleic and linoleic acids (44.8 and 33.7%, resp.) [3,4].
Argan oil is mainly rich in antioxidant compounds such as tocopherols, which are present in a higher proportion compared to olive oil (637mg/kg versus 258mg/kg, resp.) and especially in its γ-isoform (75%) [3,4]. Image right: Argania spinosa by Merche Lazaro under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).
Among the active constituents found in Argan oil, research evidence suggests that arganine C can be considered as a lead compound for new antivirals .
ARGAN FRESH FRUIT
The fresh fruit oil had significant amounts of:
- endo-borneol, and
ARGAN DRIED PULP
The dried pulp oil contains:
- 1,8-cineole, and
- 2-methylbutanoic acid.
- Argan oil contains also quantities of camphor and 1,8-cineole.
ANTICANCER PROPERTIES OF ARGAN OIL
Among the health benefits of Argan oil we have to highlight one, Argan oil with its high content of the vitamer - tocopherol, squalene and oleic acid was found to be able to likely to enhance the cancer prevention effects of the Moroccan diet .
There are two varieties of Argan oil, the raw and the toasted one. The difference is obvious, apart from the slightly different taste of both varieties, the toasted one is made after of course toasting the Argan fruit seeds and extracting the kernels from which the argan oil is extracted after pressing them in the traditional form.
In studies done to evaluate the antiproliferative effect of Polyphenols and sterols extracted from the virgin Argan oil on three human prostatic cell lines (DU145, LNCaP, and PC3), results showed some of the interesting properties and health benefits of argan oil.
Polyphenols and sterols of virgin argan oil and 2ME(2) exhibited a dose response cytotoxic effect and antiproliferative action on the three tested cell lines. Image right: Herbcyclopedia.
In a study aimed to evaluate the antiproliferative effect of tocopherols obtained from alimentary virgin argan oil extracted from the endemic argan tree of Morocco and of saponins extracted from argan press cake on three human prostatic cell lines (DU145, LNCaP, and PC3), it was found that the best antiproliferative effect of tocopherols is obtained with DU145 and LNCaP cell lines.
The saponins fraction displayed the best antiproliferative effect on the PC3 cell line. These data suggest that argan oil is of potential interest in developing new strategies for prostate cancer prevention. .
The results of this study show for the first time the antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of Polyphenols and sterols extracted from virgin argan oil and confirm the antiproliferative and pro-apoptotic effects of 2ME(2) on prostate cancer cell lines .
CARDIOVASCULAR PROPERTIES OF ARGAN OIL
Consumption of Argan oil could contribute to reducing the risk in patients at high cardiovascular risk . Virgin argan oil is of interest in cardiovascular risk prevention due to its fat composition and antioxidant compounds.
The findings of a study suggest for the first time that regular consumption of virgin argan oil induces a lowering of LDL cholesterol and has antioxidant properties. Argan oil offers an additional natural food to reducing cardiovascular risk .
In spite popular claims that Argan oil has beneficial properties, only a few studies have reported beneficial pharmacological effects of argan oil and its compounds in blood pressure, lipids and lipids peroxidation in human and animal models. Image left: Argan fruit by gailhampshire under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).
Some studies suggest that Virgin argan oil provides a source of dietary phenolic antioxidants, which prevent cardiovascular diseases by inhibiting LDL-oxidation and enhancing reverse cholesterol transport. These properties increase the anti-atherogenic potential of HDL .
Other studies conducted in vitro or on human and animal models suggest that Argan oil could play a beneficial role in cardiovascular diseases prevention and its consumption could protect against atherosclerosis and cancer via a variety of biological mechanisms. Argan oil reduces cardiovascular risk and may be used as anti-atherogenic oil .
APHRODISIAC EFFECTS OF ARGAN OIL
In spite there are no scientific research studies done on this subject, it is widely believed that Argan oil exerts aphrodisiac effects on those having included it in their regular diets.
This may have been boosted by the fact that traditionally the region where it was consumed had other factors that may have influenced that particular aspect, as their healthy diets and use of many fruits and vegetables rich in Polyphenols, flavonoids and other antioxidant sources as part of their daily meals. In any case, it may be worth trying it.
COSMETIC PROPERTIES OF ARGAN OIL SOAP (ANTI-ACNE, ECZEMA, ANTI-AGEING)
In previous articles we already mentioned some herbs with anti-acne properties as Neem, Thyme, Echinacea purpurea, green tea and Rawvolfia serpentina, being Thyme among all of them the number one in the list, as it was scientifically demonstrated to be even better than anti-acne creams.Now we will have to add a new one to the list, Argan oil.
As we already mentioned, Argan oil has been broadly used for its cosmetic properties. Argan oil soaps are widely available, being used mainly for their health benefits and properties for the treatment of acne, eczema, as anti-ageing and against skin cracks.
In spite there are no many studies on the effects of argan oil for acne treatment, it is broadly believed that Argan oil, rich in vitamin E, and Argan oil soaps exert powerful anti-acne properties and are able to help eliminate acne and eczema.
Additionally, argan oil is also believed to be an anti-aging agent and help you combat drying skin, fighting also free radicals responsible for oxidation, being a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits. Image: Herbcyclopedia.
ARGAN OIL INSECT REPELLENT PROPERTIES
As we mentioned Berber tribes indigenous from North Africa use since ancient times Argan tree products including Argan oil for many purposes. One of the uses of Argan oil for which it has been considering useful by many is its insect repellent properties.
Until modern times, when Argan oil was duly analysed and studied, it wasn't known which active constituents were responsible for this insect repellent properties.
Argan oil exerts this insect repellent properties due to the presence of camphor and 1,8-cineole in argan fruit essential oil. Due to this property, Argan oil is used locally as an insect repellent.
ARGAN ESSENTIAL OIL IMPROVES COGNITIVE FUNCTION
As we mentioned, Argan oil contains 1,8-cineole, an active constituent that has been linked in previous studies to an increased performance of the cognitive function, as we already mentioned in the article Rosemary oil boost cognitive function.
Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver, two researchers from the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Center at Northumbria University in the UK published the results of an experiment in which an active constituent found in Rosemary oil (Rosmarinus officinalis) and also present in Argan oil, namely the 1,8-cineole, was directly and proportionally related to an improvement of the cognitive function in twenty healthy volunteers that participated in the experiment.
The performance-related improvement varied with the concentration of 1,8-cineole, being higher at higher concentrations of 1,8-cineole . In spite the relationship between Rosemary 1,8-cineole and the mood was also tested, the results were no as significant as those obtained on other cognitive function performance tests.
Maybe not the only reason to use it but if you take into account that it also has a very good taste it may be worth trying it.
ARGAN OIL FOR HAIR
The hard conditions that the above-mentioned local desert tribes are exposed to added to the difficulties that those ones have to access modern medicinal and cosmetic resources forced them to made use of what they had in nature to solve some of the problems that such nomad live style entailed.
One of the most extended uses of Argan oil among these tribes, extended nowadays to us via cosmetic industry, is its use as hair conditioner and as a natural way to restore hair tone and keep it bright and strong. One of the active constituents found in Argan oil that may contribute to this is vitamin E, a vitamin that we can find in Argan oil in big quantities.
Vitamin E is widely known to help with capillary growth and help blood circulation, which in addition will help hair receive the necessary nutrients that they need to keep healthy and strong.
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