The size of Argan trees varies, but they can be up to ten meters tall and can have either a single or multiple stemmed trunk. The tree mature and bear fruit after 50-60 years, and can live for hundreds of years and is very adaptable. The trunk of the trees are often twisted and crooked, allowing goats in the area to climb the base and edge their way along the branches to eat the fruit and the leaves.
The Argan fruit, which takes over a year to mature, is an oval berry and is about the same size as a large olive. The pulp encases a hard nut, which contains one or two small oil-rich seeds. The kernels of the Argan tree are picked by hand and left to dry, then cracked and the seeds extracted and cold pressed by hand to yield a light golden brown coloured oil. The production of Argan oil is traditionally made by local Berber women who work in cooperatives and it can take 10 to 12 hours to produce one litre of oil. Argan Oil has been used for centuries by the Berbers as part of their skin care regime and their diet.
Argan oil is rich in vitamin E, and thus has potent anti-oxidant properties. This is further enhanced by the presence of carotenoids, such as xanthophylls, which help protect against environmental damage. Argan Oil also contains ferulic acid, a unique anti-oxidant which is believed to help protect against UV damage. It contains natural squalene, which is similar to the skin’s sebum and promotes cell regeneration, making the oil excellent for mature and damaged skin.
Furthermore, Argan oil contains 7 essential fatty acids, particularly oleic and linoleic acids, which help prevent moisture loss and protects the skin against harsh weather conditions, making it beneficial to dry skin.
The production of Argan oil is controlled by women’s cooperatives in Morocco. Through fair-trade, Argan oil provides the Berber women with a dependable source of income, a means of improving their financial independence and it opens better access to health care and education…thus supporting the entire community as a whole.
In 1999 the Argan Forest was declared an International Biosphere by UNESCO. As such, UNESCO funds the activities required to preserve the trees in their natural environment.