Argan oil is a natural oil derived from the seeds of the argan tree ( Argania spinosa ) native to Morocco. Rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, argan oil is often used in skin care as an anti-aging agent. Argan oil is also used in cooking, and consuming it is believed to have medical benefits, including treating high blood pressure and diabetes .
Argan oil is marketed for a number of different purposes, most notably for hair and skin care. In recent years, argan oil has become so popular in cosmetics that the Moroccan government has stepped up efforts to increase the cultivation of argan groves. Sometimes it is even called "liquid gold".
The use of argan oil in cooking is no less popular. Consumers are drawn not only by its mild spicy taste (reminiscent of pumpkin seed oil ), but also by its purported health benefits. As a polyunsaturated oil, it is considered good for the heart and has the same health benefits as olive oil .
Proponents argue that argan oil can treat a wide range of skin conditions, including acne , eczema , psoriasis , burns, and skin infections. The high concentration of antioxidants in argan oil, including oleic acid and linoleic acid, has led some to claim that it can fight aging by neutralizing cell-damaging free radicals .
Dermatologists also say that the omega-3 fatty acids found in argan oil can increase collagen production and smooth skin, while reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition to being used in skin creams, lotions, serums, face masks, and ointments, argan oil is often added to shampoos and conditioners, or used as a massage oil .
According to a 2015 study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging , topical use of argan oil in postmenopausal women resulted in a significant increase in skin elasticity after 60 days. This effect was reinforced by the oral intake of argan oil in half of the participating women. Reassuring, but note that the findings were limited by the lack of a placebo control group .
The benefits of argan oil in treating burns and skin infections are much less obvious. Although argan oil is known to have antibacterial properties, it is not known whether its effect is sufficient to prevent infection or aid in healing.
A 2016 study in the journal Ostomy Wound Healing hinted at an advantage in which rats treated for second-degree burns with argan oil healed faster than rats treated with 1% silver sulfadiazine (standard burn cream) or placebo. … (The results of any animal studies must be reproduced in humans to be considered applicable).
Argan oil is believed to improve hair quality by preventing damage to the outer cuticle of the hair shaft while retaining the natural pigments ( melanin ) that give hair color.
According to a 2013 study in Brazil , argan oil can improve hair quality and retain color after multiple hair color treatments. Hair coloring is one of the harshest treatments hair can undergo, and argan oil appears to have a protective effect compared to commercial hair conditioners.
Oral therapeutic use
Some advocates believe that consuming argan oil can help treat or prevent certain conditions, such as osteoarthritis , high blood pressure , diabetes , epilepsy , and atherosclerosis . To date, there are several scientific studies that support these claims.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine concluded that diabetic mice treated with argan oil experienced significantly greater reductions in blood sugar levels than mice not treated with the disease. Additionally, the oil appeared to stabilize blood pressure, which was not seen in untreated mice.
A similar study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease found that argan oil attenuated the effects of obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet. Compared to untreated mice, argan oil-treated mice had lower levels of total cholesterol , triglycerides , glucose , insulin , and "bad" LDL cholesterol . However, argan oil does not raise the level of "good" HDL cholesterol , which is vital for heart health.
It is not clear if these same benefits can be replicated in humans. Unfortunately, argan oil remains poorly understood compared to other heart-healthy polyunsaturated oils.
Possible side effects.
Argan oil is generally considered safe to consume and apply topically. However, in some people, argan oil can cause a form of allergy known as contact dermatitis , characterized by rashes, redness, and itching at the site of application .
Argan oil also contains tocopherols, a form of vitamin E, which can slow blood clotting and interact with blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) . It is not known whether the concentration of tocopherols in argan oil is sufficient to trigger an interaction.
Dosage and preparation
Argan oil is marketed as a culinary ingredient and as a tonic. Often times, there will be no discernible difference between the two options other than price. Argan oil for cooking is usually cheaper, although high-quality cold-pressed oils can sometimes be as expensive as medicinal oils.
There are no guidelines for the correct use of argan oil. When applied topically, most manufacturers recommend applying a few drops of the oil to the skin or massaging the scalp before styling.
What to look for
Argan oil and the products that contain it can be found online and in many health food stores, pharmacies, and specialty hair salons. Bottles should be glass and dark in color (for example, amber) to help prevent oil degradation that can occur when exposed to light.
For therapeutic use, choose organic cold-pressed oil whenever possible. Cold pressing reduces oxidation, which can increase the acidity of heat-pressed oils. The oil can then be refined to a transparent consistency and a characteristic yellowish golden hue. Some argan oils deodorize without affecting quality.
Organic oils must be certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Is argan oil about to expire?
Argan oil has a relatively long shelf life (up to two years), although its quality can be affected by high temperatures and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
To avoid this, store argan oil in its original glassware in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Refrigeration will help preserve the oil. Although it will freeze, it will return to normal when allowed to reach room temperature.
Throw away any oil that is past its expiration date, has a musty odor, or that suddenly turns cloudy or discolored.
How can argan oil be used in cooking?
Argan oil can be used as olive oil or any other vegetable oil . However, because of its price, about $ 30 for an 8-ounce (250 milliliter) bottle, most people choose to drizzle it over pasta, couscous, casseroles, salads, and other prepared foods. Some argan oils are derived from lightly roasted beans, which give the oil a pleasant nutty flavor. Dorado reduces some of the nutritional value, but not enough to undermine its dietary benefits.