The argan tree is the only type of sapotaceae, which grows north of the Sahara in the South-West of Morocco where it has an important ecological function. Whereas the tree used to grow in larger areas in Southern Europe and North Africa, today there is only a limited population in the South-West of Morocco in Souss-Massa-Draa. Unesco therefore made this area in 1998 a biosphere reserve. The argan trees are now state property, but the Berbers are allowed to use the fruit from the trees but must not shake them or cut them down.
During the main harvest season from July to September animals are not allowed to graze in the Arganeraie. The members of the Berbers` families are allowed to pick up the windfalls, dry them in the sun and store them. 10 - 30 kilos of fruit are obtained from one argan tree every year. Approx. 38 kilos of fruit or 2.6 kilos of its almonds are needed to produce one litre of argan oil. The total production of argan oil in the Arganeraie is estimated at 2,500 to 4,000 tons a year.
The oil is obtained from the very tiny stones in the almonds of the yellowish fruit which is the size of a plum. The fruit is collected from the ground, because the tree protects itself with its sharp thorns.
The traditional production of argan oil is labour intensive and time consuming and carried out by hand by the Berber women: the kernels, which are removed from the shells using stones, are dried, roasted, ground in typical stone mills and then made into a dough by adding warm water. Constant kneading slowly releases the precious oil. The oily emulsion is then saved and decanted. Hand-pressed argan oil is sold in Europe as an organic product.
Oil which does not contain water is considered to be very stable due to its high tocopherol and polyphenol content. It is believed to be less susceptible to oxidation than olive oil.
The precious argan oil which is (red) golden yellow in colour after pressing and slightly yellowish after filtering is valued for its excellent conditioning properties for dry and mature skin. Even skin disorders may benefit from the oil`s broad spectrum of fatty acids, which is characterized by its well-balanced combination of oleic acid, palmitic acid and linoleic acid. Due to its high tocopherol content (Vitamine E) argan oil supports the skin functions and has an anti-oxidative effect – this makes it a natural anti-ageing active ingredient.
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