In the beautiful kingdom of Morocco, nature’s bounties abound. But one tree in particular has grown in fame for the oil of its nuts, which has miraculous age-defying and rejuvenating effects on skin. The oil adds sheen and luster back to dry hair instantly and organically repairs any cellular damage due to pollution or harsh sun exposure. Where does this “liquid gold” come from and how is it produced?
Here’s the Argan story:
The Argan Tree
The Argan Tree grows in Southwester Morocco, amidst recurring drought and harsh weather. It grows wild and doesn’t need anything more than semi-arid soil. Its deep roots are able to anchor the tree in the fast-eroding soil of the region near the Sahara desert.
Yet, while Argan trees once covered much of North Africa, today they are endangered and Argan Oil remains one of the rarest oils in the world.
Harvesting Argan Oil
100% pure organic Argan Oil is made by traditional hand-produced methods.
Since ancient times, the Berber tribe in the south western region of Morocco has been producing Argan Oil for domestic purposes, to use as cosmetics and for cooking. Argan fruits, which are the size of hazelnuts, have been a long time staple of goats in the region. The women of the Berber tribe, who inhabit much of this region, noticed that goats would climb the trees to eat the fruit, but would eliminate undigested Argan pits in their waste. They have since been using these pits to harvest oil.
These women start harvesting Argan around July and August every year, when the fruits of the Argan tree ripen. Some are picked from the ground whereas others are plucked from between the large thorns surrounding each branch of the Argan tree.
The fruits of the Argan tree are small and fleshy. Under the fruit peel and pulp lies the coveted, hard-shelled Argan nut, which may be round, oval or conical in shape. Within this nut are one to three oil-rich kernels. These kernels are pressed to get oil that is almost 75% fatty unsaturated acid and filled with Vitamin E, great for repairing and regenerating skin and hair.
High Quality Argan fruits are selected and first dried in the open air. Then the pulp of the fruit is removed (which usually comes handy as feed for cattle). The real prize is the nut underneath the pulp which is cracked open to reveal kernels laden with oil.
Cold Pressing by Hand
The key to 100% organic top quality Argan Oil lies in the production process of extracting oil from Argan fruit kernels. The highest quality oil is yielded by a method known as cold hand pressing. Argan Co-operative groups consisting only of women produce this Argan Oil.
The Argan kernels which will be used for culinary purposes, say as cooking oil, are roasted. But the kernels for cosmetic use lose valuable vitamins when heated, so they are ground and pressed directly. This is a cold-press process, where no heat is used.
As detailed earlier, the women first pluck the Argan fruit from trees, dry it out and then separate the pulp from the nut. Next, the women crack the Argan nut shell with sharp stone or implements. The kernels then are placed between two slacks of rock and grinded into a brown paste. The paste is further kneaded by hand to extract the nutty oil from within.
The brown- colored paste of kernels will ooze out pure, unfiltered Argan oil. This is 100% organic and chock-block full of nutritious elements for skin and hair.
This drying of the fruit, removal of pulp and cracking of the nut is all done by hand, by Berber women, making it a time and labor intensive process, but also consequently one where utmost care goes into producing a fine quality product.
This oil is poured into dark colored bottles and left to rest for approximately two weeks to let the solids suspended in the oil settle down at the bottom as natural sediment. While sometimes Argan Oil may be further filtered depending on the degree of purity required, pure Argan Oil may contain some of these natural sediments. Each of these bottles is labeled with the name of the co-operative that produced it, thereby marking it as an authentic product from the Moroccan region. The extraction process is time consuming, but is purely organic, containing no chemical treatment, paraben, or SLS.
Changing Lives: Meet the Argan Oil Women’s Co-operatives
Argan Oil is not only a miracle beauty product, but also a source of positive change in the world! The main Argan producing region in Morocco (the Arganeraie) has been revitalized socially and economically thanks to the Argan oil production trade. For instance, today, Argan Oil production supports more than 2.2 million people in the Arganeraie.
A major reason for this wide-reaching impact is the “women effect.” Much of the Argan Oil today is produced by Berber women’s co-operatives.
What are these Berber women co-operatives? In the south-western region of the Kingdom of Morocco lives a tribe called “the Berber Tribe.” It is the women from these tribes—known as Berber women—who growing up in an area with little economic activity, harsh climate and restrictive social conditions, have found solace and social mobility through the miracle Argan Oil.
The Argan Oil’s international rise to fame has greatly changed the lives of Berber women, who have risen to the challenge of meeting the growing Argan Oil demand in a professional, organized way through cooperatives. While getting fair and generous prices for their natural resource and intensive labor, they have also been able to protect their ecosystem by keeping profit-hungry international conglomerates at bay and using sensibly the ecological reserves in their region.
The Argan oil trade puts women at the center and provides them with a stable mean of livelihood, which in turn ensures better health, education and future for their children and families. These women not only have stable economic incomes from the profits of the co-operatives, but have also found greater autonomy and rights-awareness in a male-dominated society.
Seeing the economic and social success of these co-operatives, the Moroccan government has started funding these co-operatives and other countries like Monaco are also donating to support these Women’s co-operatives. Many international agencies like the European Commission and Canada’s International Development Research Center have also aided and supported the Moroccan Argan Oil Women’s Cooperatives by providing funding for their professional and personal development.
This support combined with the income they earn from selling 100% organic Argan Oil around the world has transformed their lives and provided a secure and happy future to their families.