Learn About the Argan Tree and its History
The word argan from Amazigh language, ‘Orkanya Spinoza’ in accordance with the scientific name, is the designation for a ‘blessed tree’ to the Moroccans with its kernels, oil and global reputation. It is of a great size and may exceed a height of ten meters, and it lives between 125 and 150 years. It has strong trunks twisted mostly and covered by a hard shell which gets coarser when the tree gets older.Its branches are thorny and has small, smooth, solid and evergreen leaves and produces once a year a medium-sized fruit, oval-shaped embraces inside the nucleus of which is extracted Argan oil.
Argan is a arare and endangered tree. Western nations longed to have this tree. Israel, America and others tried to germinate the tree in their own lands, but the attempt failed. The tree is considered to be internationally protected.It is long-lived tree which has enormous ability to resist drought and desertification. The largest forest of argan is located in the southern of Souss, Morocco and exactly south of Marrakech and near Essaouira and Agadir as the latter is considered the capital of the argan in Morocco, which covers an area of over 8,000 square kilometers.
The biggest danger threatening the demise of this tree is cattle raids to graze during the dry periods as well as the unfair commercial investment in order to obtain its rare and high price oil. Because of this unregulated attrition, argan trees areas shrunk in the south of Morocco to 600 thousand hectares after it had been covering 800 thousand hectares 50 years ago.
In spite of that the most resistant trees to the thirst and high temperatures of the desert are acacia trees, because it has huge numbers of thorns operate reservoirs water, the argan tree has no thorns, but it is heat-resistant and is not affected by drought and live naturally in the lean years.
Argan plays an important economic role in the lives of the region’s population Apart from the oil extracted from the peel of kernels and those kernels and the dough remaining after oil extraction, are used for cattle feeding because they include high nutritional value. The argan tree also preserves and protects the soil and maintain the ecological balance; this is because the roots delve much in search of water for a deep distance that could be up to 200 m and thus works to stabilize and protect the soil against erosion and at the same time facilitates water leaks into the ground.
Argan tree lives longer life than olive tree, and it has an enormous capacity to resist diseases more than any other tree, as it is almost not infected by any disease. Argan tree chopping is illegal here in Morocco, and it is a punishable crime by law. Moreover, any housing or commercial project wouldn’t be approved on without including some of the trees in its design. These trees are untouchable. The government has lent a helping hand to the young women’s associations in the area of argan, particularly in terms of supervision and training in different fields like packaging, advertising ,marketing, Internet shares and telling about this unique oil and its benefits globally. In 1998, UNESCO classified argan area as a natural reserve, and this classification contributed in highlighting the benefits of the tree and its magical oil. Ten years later,the interest of big companies began to increase, and they started their attempts to find a foothold in the corners area by searching for alliances and agreements with the women’s associations in the framework of ‘Equitable and solidarity trade contracts’.
The most famous and most commonly used part of the tree is the oil extracted from the nucleus of its fruit, which is Argan oil. It is used to treat skin and hair in cosmetics, as well as used in healthy nutrition and medical treatment.
Extracting the oil from the nucleus of argan fruit is concidered to be onerous, because the outer shell forms an obstacle to extract the oil. The shells are soft and stuck to the nucleus, making it difficult to process the cores to get the amygdala, so people in the past used to unleash goats to eat the fruits of argan, and then wait until the goats through them away in the form of waste. Then, they collect the kernels without the shells because the goats digest them except for outer shells because they are non-digestible, while the core remains polished without crust. An analysis showed that the Argan oil extracted from the fruits eaten by goats is contaminated with the germ called ‘BRUCELLA’, that way was stopped.
In all cooperatives that work in the field of argan, we find that most of the workers are women, with exceptions for the technicians who are usually males, because those cooperatives were originally founded for women, so they are often close to their residence place in order not add extra expenses for transportation. Now Argan oil is extracted manually, which requires hard physical effort by specialist women to break the kernel and extract the amygdala. The nucleus of argan, called ‘AFIACH’, is more solid by fifteen times from the nucleus of hazelnuts. After the nucleus is broken, the wooden shells are removed and the amygdala is heated and it is called here in Morocco for ‘ZENIN’ or it is baked on the fire and then grind manually by millstone, made for grinding argan, and the dough is taken to be squeezed by hand to extract the oil, in this case Argan oil is used for cooking and have a color close to the Red and has a strong smell. In the case of fresh Argan oil, commonly used for beautification, the amygdala isn’t heated and grind fresh, then the oil extracted has a color close to the golden color the oil is called liquid gold oil. As for the smell it is almost non-existent.
In order to get one liter of this oil, the necessary amounts bout 70 kg of the argan fruit.
Argan oil is anti-acne and very useful to beautify the skin and hair. It gives freshness and fight wrinkles because argan fruit contains high amount of vitamin E, essential fatty acids (omega 6, omega 9) and antioxidants more than olive oil, and for this reason, Argan oil is one of the most expensive cosmetic oils and is sold in Morocco. It is considered a luxury product, so it is rarely sold outside of Morocco.
Argan oil protects against cardiovascular diseases, strengthens the immune system, and renew tissues, and besides olive oil, it is the only oil given to people with cancer, obesity, cardiovascular and blood disease. It is useful for children as it helps in the growth and build a child’s body, including babies, and the good energy does not cause any side effects. And the vitamins contained in argan oil are useful to children.
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