Traditional uses could be explained by the chemical composition of argan oil which proved to be interesting for the nature of its glycerical (99%) and unsaponifiables (1%) fractions.
Argan oil “Fatty acids” are composed of 80% unsaturated acid.
Oleic and linoleic acids are present in about 45% and 35% respectively, which gives the Argan oil good diet qualities.
Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid (Vitamin F). It can’t be synthesized in the human body and therefore has to be absorbed in the form of vegetable oil in food and cosmetic products.
Argan oil is one of the richest oils in unsaturated fatty acids.
Those last one are inserted in the phospholipid membrane, hydrate and nourish the skin. In fact, argan oil is emollient and its action is clearly different than a classic emollient.
Thanks to its high content in linoleic acid, argan oil has revitalizing properties. Its moisturizing and restorative effect has been scientifically confirmed. EFA (Essential fatty acids) deficiency, inevitable with age, causes skin aging resulting in dryness and loss of elasticity of the skin, and so favoring the onset of wrinkles. The correction of the deficiency in the EFA delay skin aging. In addition to securing the membrane fluidity, EFAs are cellular mediators.
According to nutritionists works, these acids (linoleic acid, linolenic acid, etc.) are biological precursors to intracellular hormones, prostaglandins. This last ones are key regulatory molecules in different cellular systems, particularly in all membranous exchanges.
Unsaturated fatty acids play an essential role in preventing cardiovascular disease and the omega 6 family (as linoleic acid) is essential in the growth of the child. The unsaponifiable fraction of argan oil has an original chemical composition.
Containing hydrocarbons and carotene (37.5%), tocopherols (7.5%), triterpene alcohols (20%), phytosterols (20%) and xanthophylls (6.5%). Anti free radicals.
Argan oil is relatively rich in tocopherols: 700 mg / kg (olive oil: 320 mg / kg). The principal representatives of this class in olive oil are the Alpha-Tocopherol and Vitamin E (5%), gamma-tocopherol (83%) and Delta-tocopherol (12%). Polyphenols identified are caffeic acid (2 ppm) and oleuropein (4 ppm). Tocopherols (Vitamin E) and the polyphenols are natural antioxidants. These latter play an essential role in the conservation of the oil and the prevention of multiple diseases, because they are anti free radicals.
Under certain conditions, free radicals (F.R.) are produced in excess and causes damage and injuries at DNA in essential cellular proteins and lipids in membranes. Free radicals can initiate cascade reactions, such as lipid peroxidation ( resulting of this the alteration of the membranes and cell death). Excess production of F.R. is the base of the pathophysiological explanations about important diseases known as neurodegeneratives: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
Other diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, appear to be closely related to an excess of F.R.. In cataracts and joint problems, they are also often cited. The pharmacology of F.R. seeks to develop anti-F.R., which are antioxidants.
Tocopherols are natural antioxidants, found in vegetable oils in four forms: alpha-tocopherol, beta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol. If the alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) has the highest biological activity (vitaminic), gamma-tocopherol has the highest antioxidant power. Rich in gamma-tocopherol, argan oil is a valuable functional food. The antioxidant power of his unsaponifiable fraction is greater than the alpha-tocopherol one. The triterpene fraction consists essentially of tirucallol, beta-amyrin, butyrospermol and lupeol.
The sterol fraction is composed mostly of spinasterol and schottenol. They are Delta 7 sterols, rarely found in vegetable oils. These biomolecules are effective at both revitalizing and protection anti radicals of the dermis, and also in the relaunch of cellular activity. The beneficial effects of argan oil on the skin have been confirmed. Argan oil restores the cutaneous hydro lipid layer and increases skin nutrient tenure of skin cells.
This oil also stimulates intracellular oxygenation, neutralizes free radicals and protects the connective tissues. The delta 7 sterols are inhibitors of the 5 alpha reductase enzyme. This enzyme allows the conversion of androgens or male hormone (testosterone) into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Studies have shown that a high level of DHT is responsible for problems like acne, hair loss and prostate hypertrophy. If we could prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT by blocking the action of 5-alpha reductase, we could generally eliminate many problems associated with DHT excess. And so, formulations based on delta 7 sterols are used in cosmetics against juvenile acne and seborrhea and in an anti-benign prostate hypertrophy medicament. The presence of triterpenes and phytosterols may explain many uses in traditional medicine. According to Duke, the tirucallol has cicatrizant properties, beta-amyrin protects the skin, butyrospermol protects from the sun and lupeol is a disinfectant.
A more recent publication mentions that lupeol has anticancer properties and enhances the proliferation of keratinocytes (hair, nails and skin). According to some authors, the schottenol would be responsible for the activity of a plant (Agyratum conyzoides) whose juice is used in India for the treatment of skin diseases. An epidemiological study (unpublished work Derouiche et al, Research Laboratory of lipoproteins. Faculty of Ben Msik Sidi Othman. Casablanca), carried out in a region of southwestern Morocco, showed that populations consuming argan oil are normotensive. If the difference in plasma total cholesterol, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol between the group consuming argan oil and the control group was not significant, the plasma concentration of LDL cholesterol and apo B decreased in the group of argan oil consumer . As for the oxidative profile analysis in these two populations, the plasma concentration of vitamin E increases, and decreases the peroxides one. These results indicate that argan oil may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Hypocholesterolemic activity of argan oil has been proven by clinical studies.
Eating two soup spoons argan oil induces a decrease in cholesterol of 7.9% for women and 13.1% for men after one month of treatment. Along with the decrease in total cholesterol, a decrease in triglyceride levels.
And, thanks to its high content of antioxidants, argan oil protects LDL against oxidation, which is the key step in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In vivo assays were performed. The administration of 5 ml / kg / day of argan oil leads to a normalization of blood pressure and a reduction in total cholesterol.
The results show a decrease in blood glucose, plasma total cholesterol, LDL, insulin, diastolic blood pressure and systolic blood pressure by 4.4%, 14.4%, 32.5%, 26, 8%, 28.8% and 30.5% respectively. Moreover, the treatment caused no weight gain, increased HDL and triglycerides respectively of 27.9% and 16.2%.
A nutritional intervention study with argan oil compared with olive oil, unpublished, made by the team's research lab Casablanca lipoprotein (Faculty of Ben Msik Sidi Othman. Casablanca), was performed in a group of healthy subjects compound of 60 men.
The results show no significant variation in the average weight or body mass index. While no significant differences were observed for total cholesterol between the two groups, triglycerides decreased and HDL cholesterol increased for the group of argan oil.
This clearly demonstrates the hypolipidemic effect of argan oil. It seems that argan oil improves antioxidant defense system by increasing the catalase activity.
The nutritional study, conducted in vivo, has shown on one side, that the ingestion of argan oil led to a change in polyunsaturated fatty acids membranous comparable to that caused by the peanut oil and secondly, this oil relatively rich in vitamin E, causes the stimulation of an enzymatic activity associated with detoxification and antioxidant defense of cells. This results in a decrease in membrane susceptibility to peroxidation, which is the cause of aging, according to some authors.
Consumed for centuries by the Berber population, argan oil presents no toxicity for humans.
Argan oil is traditionally extracted by hand by Berber women. This know-how has improved oil extraction technology to better meet international requirements.
"Argania Spinosa", the argan tree, is a natural wealth actually well known. Different jobs, nationals (Moroccan) and internationals (Canada, Germany, France ...), have shown its many virtues (skin, nutrition, cardiovascular ...).
The Argania Spinosa, a tree that improves the life to 3 million people. This multipurpose tree plays an important socio-economical and environmental role in southwestern Morocco, where is the 2nd forest wealth of the area with more than 800,000 ha.
Mentioned in 1219 by Ibn El-Beithar in his book "Traité des simples" (Leclerc, 1877, Leclerc, 1881, Leclerc, 1883), and in 1510 by Jean-Leo The African, in his book "Description de l'Afrique" the argan tree is considered a tree exclusively Moroccan.
The argan tree is a forest managed by the Water and Forest Management, but the locals enjoy, however, a traditional use rights. Without ignoring the role the regulations for forest conservation have played so far in this way, we must admit that this no longer fit with the current situation. Because the argan tree is in a process of degradation. Having lost half of its area in a century, the argan tree still decline in both area and density. This degradation is anthropogenic.
However, in arid zones and densely populated, environmental concerns can not be separated from economic concerns. Also, the valorization of the argan tree, through its products, and the participation of local communities can be a force for a sustainable and a rural forestal protection. In fact, safe people, invests more naturally in these trees if they provide food, traded products and for consumption by livestock.
Argan is a source of high-value products, whether argan oil or biologically active products extracted from the argan. There is progress in identifying new outlets to increase the commercial value of the Argan products.
A program involving economic and environmental concerns has been developed and the first results are encouraging. The argan forest is today a Reserved Biosphere for Morocco and UNESCO.
Apart of the use in human food, argan oil has been used in traditional medicine for body care and treatment of juvenile acne, chicken pox and rheumatic complaints. By his hypocholesterolemic properties, it would be indicated for the prevention of atherosclerosis. As a full care product, argan oil have nutritional, protective and soothing properties, regenerating the skin and dull and brittle hair.
It is used in both the hair and scalp care as for dry skin and wrinkles. It is recommended for irritations, eczema, wrinkles and burns. Calms rheumatism and joint pain, stimulate and develop the cerebral capacities. Prevent spontaneous abortion risks and stimulate the production of sperm (azoospermia).
Major fatty acids
The oil contains 695 mg / kg of Tocopherols and the mixture is constituted by alpha-tocopherol (5%), gamma-tocopherol (83%) and delta-tocopherol (12%). Main phytosterols and triterpene alcohols: eschottenol, espinaterol, beta-amyrin, lupeol, butyrospermol and tirucallol.