Moroccan oil or Pure Argan oil is produced from the kernel of the argan tree that grows in the semi desert soil that is predominant in huge areas in the North African country of Morocco. Because this tree grows in very limited areas, the oil produced from it remains a very rare one.
Pure Argan oil is very rich in Vitamin E, phenols, carotenes, squalene and essential fatty acids. Traditionally it has been used by the Berber women who inhabit these areas in Morocco as a cosmetic agent to help them with their hair, skin and nails. Moroccan oil is not greasy and just a few drops are enough to moisturise the face and in particular the skin under the eyes that is very delicate. It protects the skin from being damaged by free radicals and can help to remove fine lines. Moroccan oil is also used to soothe muscles and has a pain reliving property that makes it ideal for use by those with rheumatic joints.
This oil has a rich and nutty flavour and is used in cooked food to add taste to it. In Morocco, Berber families use it as dip for breakfast with home-made bread and mixed with honey makes a spread that is very tasty. Because of its content of fatty acids, potassium and magnesium it can be very beneficial to the heart.
Argan trees yield fruit for more than 50 or 60 years and are able to withstand temperatures of over 50 degrees Centigrade and become completely dormant while waiting for the rains. The tree flowers in the spring and produces olive sized fruits that are yellow when ripe. They are gathered after they have dried in the later part of summer and have fallen to the ground. They cannot be gathered from the tree by hand because there are large spiny thorns that make such picking difficult. The trees generally grow on common land, though some families have been granted gathering rights that have come down to them from previous generations. For three months before the harvest animal grazing is not allowed in areas where argan trees are present.
It is only the seed that contains the Moroccan oil and these are within the fruit layer. The fruits have to be cracked open to extract the seed and this is essentially an activity carried out by hand. The fruit pulp is fed to goats, and the seeds are removed and roasted. This roasting is what imparts the nutty flavour to the pure argan oil. The seeds are then ground into a paste from which the oil is extracted. Once the oil is removed, even the paste has some use as it can be used as animal feed. Moroccan oil removed from the roasted seeds without the use of water is said to have a longer shelf life of almost a year. The extraction rate from the kernels is over 40 percent by weight, and these yields show an increase if the extraction is done using solvents. The quality of such solvent extracted oils is not as good as that obtained by conventional pressing methods.