Argan oil has become a staple in the cosmetic industry due to its incredible health benefits. This multi-purpose “liquid gold” is like therapy for your hair, face, and body. While it has recently gained major popularity internationally, Moroccan women have been using it for centuries.
So let’s dive into where argan oil comes from.
Where Argan Oil is From
The process of making Argan oil all begins with the source - the Argan trees (Argania Spinosa) in Morocco. The Argan tree is native to Morocco and has been growing for millions of years, but today only grows in a narrow area, specifically the semi-desert southwest area around Essaouira and Agadir.
These trees are exceptionally drought-resistant and can survive in harsh conditions where few other trees are able. If necessary, they go dormant until water eventually returns. If undisturbed, they can live up to 200 years.
Argan trees are short and scruffy-looking trees, with gnarled trunks. Small yellow-green leaves sprout from their branches and produce yellow flowers. However, the value of the tree lies within its fruit, which is handled with care by the Berber women of Morocco.
While the Moroccan culture is still heavily male-dominant and societal roles are still very present, Argan oil is a major source of empowerment for women, and it is the women of Morocco who have traditionally produced Argan oil.
Now that the popularity of Argan oil has increased internationally, local women’s cooperatives have been established, and the knowledge of how to process argan for oil can stay alive. These co-operatives practice sustainable and responsible harvesting to preserve the Argan forests. In fact, the entire area is now protected to ensure the women can continue to make a living and Argan resources stay available.
How Argan Oil is Made
The process of making Argan oil begins with harvesting, which takes place in June or July when the fruit is fully ripe and beings to fall off of the Argan trees. It takes nearly a full year for the fruit of the Argan trees to mature. There are three layers to the fruit: a thick peel, the pulp, and then the nut. The nut contains one to three kernels. These seeds are the source of Argan oil.
The fruit is then typically sun-dried before de-pulping by hand. To get access to the kernels, the Berber women take sharp stones to hammer into the hard-shelled nut with enough force to crack them open. While this does take quite a bit of force, care must be taken to not shock the kernels. If the kernels are shocked, the oil can be damaged. Therefore, to make top-notch oil, the process must be done by hand.
There have been stories about the goats that inhabit Morocco and their roles in the production of Argan oil. It is said that the goats climb the Argan trees and graze on the leaves and fruit. However, they cannot digest the nut inside the fruit. Therefore, argan is processed thanks in part to the digestive system of the goats. But don’t worry, that route isn’t used today and farmers are working diligently to keep the local goats away from the Argan trees.
Once the kernels are removed, they are ground by hand to separate the oil from the seeds. This is done with a hand-operated stone mill or, in some cases, with the help of a commercial cold-pressing extractor. The extractor applies pressure without heat to preserve the oil’s nutrients. The extracted oil is then decanted into vessels. From there, the Argan oil must rest before the final purification process for the remains to settle. Once the oil has gone through the necessary amount of purification, it is decanted into new vessels.
Then, there you have it! While the process is pretty basic by today’s technology standards, making Argan oil is labor-intensive and time-consuming. The overall process takes about a week and takes roughly 20kg of Argan nut kernels to produce 5 liters of oil.
Where Can You Purchase Argan Oil?
So you want to try this Moroccan miracle oil for yourself? Pure Argan has become an incredibly accessible oil, and it’s not difficult to find a bottle. Our favorite is from Argan Cosmetics. They’ve been around since 2012, providing people with 100% pure, organic, cold-pressed argan oil. You can find out more about the oil here!