Argan oil

Argan oil

Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the endemic argan tree, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The tree, a relict species from the Tertiary age, is extremely well adapted to drought and other environmentally difficult conditions of southwestern Morocco. The species Argania once covered North Africa and is now endangered and under protection of UNESCO. [cite web
title=Biosphere Reserve Information
] The Argan tree grows wild in semi-desert soil, its deep root system helping to protect against soil erosion and the northern advance of the Sahara. [ Morocco: Argan trees ] ] This biosphere reserve, the "Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve", covers a vast intramontane 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. Argan oil remains one of the rarest oils in the world due the small and very specific growing area.

Argan tree was first reported by the explorer Leo Africanus in 1510, an early specimen was taken to Amsterdam and then cultivated by Lady Beaufort at Badminton c1711 Fact|date=April 2008.

Extraction of the argan oil

Traditional method

The production of argan oil, which is still mostly done by traditional methods, is a lengthy process done by women. The most labour intensive part of oil-extraction is removal of the soft pulp (afiash in Berber) for drying in the sun, and then the cracking by hand, between two stones, of the very hard nut. The seeds are then removed and gently roasted. This roasting accounts for part of the oil's distinctive, nutty flavour. The traditional technique for oil extraction is to grind the roasted seeds to dough, with a little water, in a stone rotary quern. The paste is then squeezed between hands to extract the oil. The extracted paste, amlou, is still oil-rich. Oil produced by this method will keep 3-6 months, and will be produced as needed by a family, from a store of the kernels, which will keep for 20 years unopened.


Now increasingly important for oil produced for sale, as the oil will keep 12-18 months and extraction is much faster. Using mechanical presses, mixing of the dough and water is unnecessary and the dough can be directly pressed. All other steps remaining unchanged, the oil is obtained in about 43% yield (calculated from the kernels) and only two hours are needed to get one litre of oil that preserves correctly.


For industrial or laboratory purposes, argan oil can be extracted from ground kernels using any volatile lipophilic solvent. After evaporation of this latter, and one or two cycles of extraction, the oil is obtained in 50 to 55% yield. This type of extraction furnishes an oil with unsatisfactory organoleptic properties compared to the traditional or press extraction, which is exclusively reserved to prepare argan oil for cosmetic purposes.

Properties and Use of the argan oil

Argan oil is exceptionally rich in natural tocopherols (vitamin E), rich in phenols and phenolic acid, rich in carotenes, rich in squalene, rich in essential fatty acids, 80% unsaturated fatty acids [cite web
title=Argan oil
] and depending on extraction method more resistant to oxidation than olive oil.

Argan oil is used for dipping bread, on couscous, salads and similar uses. The residue from traditional oil extraction is a thick chocolate-coloured paste called "amlou" which is sweetened and served as a dip for bread at breakfast time. It flavour is similar to that of peanut butter.

The unroasted oil is traditionally used as a treatment for skin diseases, and has found favour with the cosmetics industry.


General references

*Rachida Nouaim: L'arganier au Maroc: entre mythes et réalités. Une civilisation née d'un arbre, une espèce fruitière-forestière à usages multiples. Paris, L'Harmattan (2005) ISBN 2-7475-8453-4
* [ Valorisation of Argan oil for a Sustainable Management of the Arid Zones of South-West Morocco] , Zoubida Charrouf, Professor in the Science Faculty of Mohamed V. University, in Rabat, Morocco.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • argan oil — ˈärgən , ˌgan noun : a fatty oil obtained from the seeds of the argan tree and used in cooking …   Useful english dictionary

  • argan oil — /ˈagən ɔɪl/ (say ahguhn oyl) noun the oil from the seed of the tree Argania spinosa, now growing only in semidesert soil in Morocco; used in cooking, cosmetics, and medicine. Also, Moroccan oil …   Australian English dictionary

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  • argan tree — noun Etymology: Arabic arjān : a tall Moroccan tree (Argania sideroxylon) of the family Sapotaceae bearing fruits like olives that are used as a cattle food and seeds that yield argan oil …   Useful english dictionary

  • Argan (disambiguation) — Argan can mean * The Argan ( Argania spinosa ), a tree from North Africa, which produces both fruit and oil * Protagonist of Le Malade imaginaire * Giulio Carlo Argan, Italian art historian and politician …   Wikipedia

  • argan — /ärˈgan/ noun 1. A Moroccan timber tree of the family Sapotaceae 2. Its oil bearing seed ORIGIN: N African pronunciation of Ar arjān …   Useful english dictionary

  • argan — noun a) A tree (Argania spinosa) of southwestern Morocco, particularly prized for its oil. b) The fruit of this tree …   Wiktionary

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