In particular, consumers learning how to make personal care products such as homemade hair gel are figuring this out rather quickly. Using the highest quality oils achieves shiny hair and lustrous skin without any health risk from toxins. Argan oil and cocoa butter are some of the top oils to use for this purpose.
Surprisingly, the historical use of argan oil in Northern African cultures is actually as a food! In particular, it is a pleasing accompaniment to most any raw or lightly grilled dishes.
This golden oil is produced from the fruit kernels of the Argania spinosa or Argan tree, endemic to the Northern African country of Morocco.
Rich with antioxidant phytochemicals and essential fatty acids, argan oil benefits to health are well known and valued by local cultures and becoming widely acknowledged worldwide.
Argan Oil Fatty Acid Composition
Argan oil is about 80% unsaturated fat by composition, of which about 32% is essential linoleic fatty acids and 47% oleic acid. This makes it similar to canola oil. The difference is that argan oil is completely unhybridized, not genetically modified and much less likely to be tainted with free radicals.
Argan oil’s beneficial fatty acid composition also bears a certain resemblance to olive oil. However, argan oil is actually more stable and almost three times richer in vitamin E. The high content of tocopherols and the type of omega-3 fatty acids found in both soaked raw nuts and fish give it the unique capacity to help reduce rates of inflammation and neutralize free radicals within the body.
As a healthy and traditional fat, argan oil has been found to prevent oxidation and hence slow aging, while simultaneously stimulating digestion and boosting brain power. Argan oil contains rare sterol molecules and phytochemicals that cannot be found in other plant-derived oils.
How Argan Oil Benefits Health
Modern research is suggesting that argan oil benefits to health consist of the following when consumed as a whole food processed in a traditional manner:
- Powerful anti-oxidant action
- Stimulates the nervous system and builds brain capacity
- Reduces joint and rheumatism pain
- Calms hypertensive tendencies
- Facilitates digestion by increasing pepsin
- Stabilizes blood sugar/insulin levels
Modern Argan Oil Processing
As with any food, processing is key. There are two very different processes used to extract argan oil.
Make sure you aren’t fooled into buying industrialized argan oil!
- High-impact mechanical techniques employed by big companies.
- Traditional manual pressure extraction used in small native cooperatives.
The method of processing greatly affects the quality of the final product as well as argan oil benefits to health. In addition, processing of argan oil impacts the economic viability of the local peoples harvesting it and the sustainability of Argan forests.
If argan oil benefits are sought via consumption as a food, it is particularly important to source oil manufactured the traditional, manual way.
The following steps are followed to produce only the highest quality argan oil richest in antioxidants with no rancidity of the oil from overly aggressive processing (quality source):
- The argan fruits are harvested from stands of trees and left to dry on the roofs of mud houses.
- The pits are then manually removed with the help of two stones.
- A thin protective skin is peeled off, and the pits are subject to a light toasting, a key step for giving the oil its distinct savory flavor.
- The slightly heated pits are then ground and slowly kneaded in traditional stone mills to produce a creamy paste.
- After about 30 minutes of continuous mixing, and with the careful addition of small amounts of boiled water, the precious oil slowly dissociates from the rest of the paste.
- This shimmering golden liquid is argan oil in its true form.
Like truly authentic, 100% olive oil, please note that you get what you pay for when it comes to argan oil. If the price seems too good to be true, it is likely not pure and/or was processed in a manner that negatively impacts its benefits to health.
Also be sure the color is golden as shown in the picture below.
Enjoying Argan Oil in Your Kitchen
In native Moroccan cuisine, argan oil is used liberally to season dishes, acting as a dressing for salads and adding flavor to tagines, couscous, grilled vegetables and desserts.
Great chefs in Europe have also borrowed this secret, using the smooth qualities of argan oil to add depth and warmth to their exquisite dishes.
Easy Argan Oil Salad Dressing
Quick and easy basic salad dressing using argan oil for a dose of healthy fats to add depth of flavor to dishes and encourage hair and nail health from the inside out.
Mix the cider vinegar and oils together in a small bowl.
Emulsify the mustard and honey into the liquid with a fork.
Best made fresh every time you need it.
Have you tried argan oil? How have you been most enjoying its benefits in your home – externally, internally or both?
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources: Dr. Philip Steig, Superfood
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.