Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What is Argan Oil?


Have you been hearing a lot about argan oil recently? Have you been wondering: What is it? Why is
it so popular all of a sudden? And, why so expensive? Well, argan oil is one of the things we are going to explore on the Vegan Fusion Feast for the Senses Moroccan trip in May. Here's some information to get you filled in and in the know about this amazing oil.

Argan oil iis an oil that is pressed from the nuts of the Argania spinosa tree. These endangered trees are native to, and grow almost exclusively in the Atlas mountains of southwestern Morocco. The tree is important for economic, environmental, and ecological reasons, it is a tree that serves many purposes. It supports local populations and livestock during drought periods; The fruit sustains goats, the leaves provide forage for camels and sheep, whilst cattle live off the press cake that remains after the oil is made and the casings are used as kindling or as fuel in clay bread ovens.

The Argan tree grows wild in arid, semi-desert conditions. There it also plays an essential ecological role by protecting the soil against heavy rain and wind induced erosion. It provides shade while its roots bind the soil helping to protect against further desertification. During times of very low rainfall it has the ability to lie dormant, and to regenerate when the rains come also surviving temperatures of up to 120°F. Because of the recent popularity of argan oil these endangered trees are now protected.

The Argan forests are integrated into the life of the Berbers who live in this part of Morocco. They are typically divided up into small sections amongst the Berber families that live in the area. Almost all of the oil processing is done by hand through women's cooperatives. It takes 10–12 hours to crack enough nuts to obtain sufficient seeds to yield one liter of oil but this provides good jobs for the women and money for educational programs, schools and health programs.

Argan oil is used for both cosmetic and culinary purposes. It contains twice as much vitamin E as olive oil and is rich in antioxidants and EFA's. It is 80% unsaturated, containing eight essential fatty acids and is more resistant to oxidation than olive oil. Argan oil also contains rare plant sterols not found in other oils, which have anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial for arthritic or rheumatic conditions.

The nuts are roasted for the culinary oil which has a rich nutty flavor and, in Morocco, is used for dipping bread, as a finishing touch for cooked food especially grilled and roasted vegetables. It also makes an excellent salad dressing. A traditional dip for bread known as amlou is made from argan oil, almonds and peanuts, sometimes sweetened by honey or sugar. The unroasted oil is traditionally used as a treatment for skin diseases, and it has recently become the rage of the western skin and hair care market.

According to various sources its high vitamin E content helps to reduce wrinkles by restoring the skin's water lipid layer and it cools and soothes inflammation. Its antioxidant properties contribute to the neutralization of free radicals. The oil is also good for your hair as a moisturizer and conditioner. It revitalizes hair making it smooth and shiny. Traditionally the oil is used in Morocco to soothe dry eczema, chicken pox, acne and psoriasis, it can also help to reduce scarring and prevent stretch marks. It is a light oil that absorbs readily without feeling greasy.

Information take from Wikipedia, an article by Dr. Mark Nesbitt and Ruth Hajioff, and argan oil direct website.

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