Argan oil is obtained from the fruit kernel of the Argan tree. This tree is endemic to Morocco, but is grown in few other parts of the world. Argan oil is touted as a wonderful oil for cosmetic uses, specially for the hair and dry skin. However, modern medicinal research on this oil shows that it holds the potential to alleviate some internal health conditions.
The Argan tree ( Argania Spinosa ) has a characteristic shape which makes it stand out of the surrounding arid landscape. Surprisingly enough, goats are drawn to this tree and they actually help in the argan oil production. Its fruits are generally oval with a pulpy layer inside which lies the strong kernel. This kernel is fatty in nature and is the source of Argan oil. There are two broad ways of producing Argan oil.
The Traditional Method : This is the method that has been in use for centuries in Morocco. The Berber women of this region produce argan oil in a home based industry. The pulp of the fruit is first removed by drying in the sun. Another method is to collect the kernels from goat excreta. The goats eat the fruits but the kernel passes through their intestines. This kernel is softer to crack. Then, after procuring the kernels, they are roasted. Grinding them on an indigenous oil press produces a thick, viscous liquid. This liquid is processed using simple filtration techniques to yield an edible oil.
Commercial Method : This method is mainly used for producing argan oil which is only used for cosmetic purposes and is not edible. That is because it is processed from unroasted kernels. These kernels are then extracted using cold pressed to yield organic argan oil, or using chemical extractors. The cold pressed, unfiltered argan oil is the one which is best for skin care.
The therapeutic properties of argan oil are quite diverse and manifold. This makes the oil suitable for cosmetic purposes. However, it is important to note the powerful medicinal properties of the edible hand pressed oil. 
- Emollient – It is a good moisturizer.
- Cicatrizant – It is a good wound healer.
- Anti-Sebum – A study has found out that applying cosmetic grade (topical) argan oil twice daily for a month reduces the amount of sebum ( the natural skin oil ). As a result, oiliness and acne can be suppressed naturally.
- Anti-aging – Applying argan oil regularly on the skin can help to keep skin strong and healthy.
- Antioxidant – It is a good antioxidant and reduces free radical damage both externally and internally.
- Hepatoprotective – Protects the liver.
- Anti-diabetic – Argan oil has demonstrated anti-hyperglycemic effect in rats. It means that it can prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
- Cholerectic – Increases bile secretion from liver.
- Chemopreventive – Ability to reduce or delay cancer. It exhibits anti-proliferative activity which inhibts or retards the growth of malignant cells.
- Hypolipidemic – Improves the lipid profile.
- Hypocholesterolemic – It improves HDL ( High density lipoprotein ) cholesterol and slows the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
- Antiatherogenic – It prevents the formation of atheromatous lesions in the blood vessels and contributes towards keeping the cardiovascular system healthy.
Uses and Health Benefits
Therapeutic properties of argan oil make it ideal for certain applications. First, let us discuss the uses of cosmetic grade argan oil.
Argan oil for Hair
Argan oil forms a wonderful hot oil treatment for hair. Apply ample amount of warm argan oil on the scalp and wet hair and then cover it up with a shower cap. Keep it on for at least 1 hour. If left overnight, this treatment shows best results. Remove the shower cap and gently wash off hair in cold water. This helps to get most of the residual oil out of the hair so that it doesn’t shine too much. The hair would be smoother and much more manageable. As a result, applying argan oil prior to styling them is a great idea. Argan oil also protects the hair shafts from heat related damage so one can do some aggressive hair styling, like curls.
Another method to incorporate argan oil in your hair care routine is to make a homemade argan oil shampoo. The benefit of making such a shampoo is that one can use it more often. It is good for chronically dry and frayed hair. Take half cup of clean water and add one-fourth cup of liquid castile soap. Add 1 tablespoon of argan oil and 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil. Put all in a shampoo bottle and shake well before every use.
Argan oil for Acne
Argan oil forms a good carrier oil for home based acne treatments. It exhibits sebum reducing activity. Take about 30-40 ml of argan oil and add 6 – 7 drops of tea tree oil. Apply it as a spot treatment on acne. If there is only excessive oiliness on face but few acne, one can actually smudge this oil on face and then wash off after 5 minutes. This helps to combat the excess oil production.
Argan oil has a comedogenicity rating of 0 ( on a scale of 0 – 5 )  which means that it is non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores. Therefore, it poses no risk for breakouts from the use of this oil alone. Argan oil has skin healing properties. So one can use it to heal acne scars.
Effectively Reduce Wrinkles and Under Eye Circles
Argan oil has good amount of Vitamin E and many other nutrients that are great for the skin. Many people have experienced reduction in under eye circles and wrinkles near the eyes after regular application of argan oil.
Argan oil for Brittle Nails
When nails turn brittle, thin, weak and break off easily, the situation can be quite distressing. It is never easy to heal the nails. There is a simple home remedy for this condition. Take a large bowl. Add ample amount of argan oil and equal amount of lemon juice. Dip the nails in this mixture for about 10 minutes twice a day. Wipe off with cotton cloth. Argan oil helps to restore thickness, strength and elasticity to the nails.
Other Home Remedies using Argan Oil
There are many more things that one can do with the topical argan oil.
- Apply generously on cracked heels to repair them fast.
- As a brilliantine – Those men who love flaunting a beard know the value of proper beard grooming products. Well, argan oil can be one of them. It softens the beard hair, making them more receptive to other products.
- Quick glossy look – Adding just 2 – 3 drops of argan oil to a moisturizer imparts a glossy look to the skin.
- Mix sugar cubes with argan oil and rub them into the lips. This aids in getting rid of peeling and crusting of the lips. If any minor wounds are present, like the ones we often get in winter, argan oil heals them up.
(Image Credit : Lucyin )
Health Benefits of Edible Argan Oil
Recent medicinal research has shown indications that argan oil has some chemo-preventive activity. Virgin argan oil has demonstrated ability to inhibit or retard growth of cancer cells in case of prostate cancer in humans. This is attributed to the presence of poly-phenols and sterols in it, which are only micro-nutrients. Although there is lack of comprehensive research on the activity of argan oil against other types of cancers, it is quite possible that it comes out to be useful in some of them. ,
A Boost to Cardiovascular Health
Having a good lipid profile is the key to a healthy heart. Consumption of edible argan oil has been linked to increased levels of HDL cholesterol. It also reduces oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is very useful for a number of reasons. Actually, it is the oxidised form of LDL cholesterol which has a higher chance of getting retained in the body . Argan oil has antiatherogenic activity, which prevents the formation of plaques in artery . This effect has a direct benefit in reducing the risk of heart attack. Moreover, argan oil also helps to control high blood pressure.
Argan oil has been found to subside hyperglycemia and thus alleviate its effects. In a study, it was found that administration of argan oil reduced the spike in blood sugar for upto 3 hours after the dosage in rats. Consumption of argan oil in diet, like as a salad dressing can contribute to a lower risk of developing diabetes. 
Argan oil has significant free radical scavenging potential. Regular consumption of argan oil protects the body from gradual damage caused by free radicals that oxidize our cells. The total antioxidant capacity of argan oil is due to major concentration of natural antioxidants like Vitamin E.
Besides its use as a medicinal and cosmetic oil, argan oil is used as a culinary oil. It is good for deep frying with a smoke point of 420º F. It has been used in Morocco as a dipping oil for couscous. Roasted argan oil has a very strong nutty flavor, thus making a nice salad dressing for lettuce and carrots.
Although argan oil has been used for centuries, it was first mentioned by the Phoenicians in about 1500 BC. Then, about a millenia later, Leo Africanus came to know about Argan oil when he was crossing Morocco and thus this oil reached Europe.
Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues
There is still not much information about the safety issues regarding argan oil. However, it may be a potential irritant in some people and cause itching, inflammation, rashes and in severe cases, bronchospasm.
Nutritional and Medicinal Information
Edible argan oil is being lauded for its excellent nutritional value. It is mostly ( about 80 % ) unsaturated fat but it does contain some saturated fatty compounds as well. Argan oil is rich in many forms of Vitamin E, that is the tocopherols, which makes it such a good oil for skin care. However, the most powerful and health benefitting nutrients in Argan oil are its micro-nutrients, those that are present in very small to trace amounts. But still they provide many commendable health benefits.
Argan oil contains the following macro-composition of fats in 100 gm oil.
Mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) – 47 %
Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)- 33 %
Saturated fatty acids – 20 %
Complete fatty acid nutritional profile of edible argan oil
|Gamma Linoleic Acid (18:3)||-%||PUFA|
|Stearic Acid (18:0)||6.95 %||Saturated fat|
|Palmitic Acid (16:0)||12.5 %||Saturated fat|
|Palmitoleic Acid (16:1)||0.06 %||MUFA|
|Oleic Acid (18:1)||46.1 %||MUFA|
|Linoleic Acid (18:2)||33 %||PUFA|
|Alpha Linolenic Acid(18:3)||0.44 %||PUFA|
|Erucic Acid (22:1)||– %||MUFA|
|Gondoic Acid (20:1)||– %||MUFA|
|Behenic Acid (22:0)||0.01 %||Saturated fat|
|Arachidic Acid (20:0)||– %||Saturated fat|
Source : 7
Besides a healthy fatty acid profile, argan oil has high amounts of Vitamin E. Since Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, the overall antioxidant capacity of argan oil should be quite high. These are some of the bio-active micro-nutrients in argan oil and their corresponding health benefits.
- Squalene – It is used in the cosmetic industry but is naturally found in argan oil. It has shown indications of chemo-preventive and anti-tumor effects.
- Carotenes – These are group of antioxidants similar to Vitamin A.
- Phenols – Argan oil contains many phenols like caffeic acid ( anti-inflammatory ), vanillic acid, oleuropein
( antioxidant ) and some kinds of catechins. Surprisingly, catechins and vanillic acid are also obtained from the green tea that we drink.
|Density||0.918 g/ml||great for massage oil|
|Storage temperature||low||Ideal temperature for storage|
|Comedogenicity||0||Pore clogging potential ( 0 – 5 )|
|pH||–||Measure of Acidity|
|Peroxide Value||5.7||Measure of Initial Rancidity|
|Saponification Value||195||Measure of the average carbon chain length|
|Iodine Value||120-130||Measure of unsaturation of oil|
|Free Fatty Acids||0.85 %||Percentage of volatile oils|
Source : 8
Buying and Storage
Argan oil displays a low Peroxide value, which means it is fairly resistant to rancidity. However, one should still keep it in a dark, cool place. Many cosmetic grade argan oil products have slight amounts of antioxidants, like pomegranate oil and rose oil. These serve to protect the oil from going rancid. However, one should be extra careful to buy only the best quality oil. Because, in many cases, these oils are adulterated with cheaper oils or filler products and make the oil of inferior quality.
1. Therapeutic potential of argan oil: a review. Manfalouti et al. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
3. Antiproliferative effect of polyphenols and sterols of virgin argan oil on human prostate cancer cell lines. Bennani et al. Cancer Detection and Prevention.
4. Consumption of argan oil (Morocco) with its unique profile of fatty acids, tocopherols, squalene, sterols and phenolic compounds should confer valuable cancer chemopreventive effects. Khallouki et. al.European Journal of Cancer Prevention.
5.Argan oil phenolic extract inhibits low-density lipoprotein oxidation and has hypolipemiant properties. Berrougui et al.
6.Antidiabetic Activity Assessment of Argania spinosa Oil. Bnouham et.al.Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine
7. Characterization of Fatty Acid Profile of Argan Oil and Other Edible Vegetable Oils by Gas Chromatography and Discriminant Analysis. Rueda et.al.
8. Argan Oil Profile – Mountain Rose Herbs