Empowering Women, Preserving Nature: Together for Argan Sustainability.

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Argan Oil: Chemical Composition, Extraction Process, and Quality Control

Argan oil is a vegetable oil derived from the argan tree in Morocco, which is considered a significant forest species for both economic and social reasons. While the oil is primarily produced by women’s cooperatives in Morocco using a semi-industrial mechanical extraction process, it is exported globally by various European and North American companies. The oil is highly versatile and comes in two types, cosmetic and food-grade, depending on how the kernels are prepared. Cosmetic-grade oil is made from unroasted kernels, while food-grade oil is obtained by cold-pressing kernels roasted for a few minutes. The traditional, laborious process of producing food-grade oil has evolved with technological advancements, allowing for high-quality oil to be extracted at a larger scale. The quality, stability, and purity of argan oil can be influenced by the extraction process and various accompanying factors. As such, this review delves into the different aspects of argan oil, including its chemical composition, nutritional and cosmetic benefits, preparation methods, quality control, oxidative stability, and authenticity assessment.

For ages, the indigenous population of North Africa, the Amazigh, have lived in the arganeraie region of Morocco and developed a way of life that revolves around the argan tree. However, due to anthropogenic and environmental factors, the argan forest in Southwest Morocco has decreased from 1.5 million hectares to 800,000 hectares by the year 2000. To address this issue, the Moroccan argan forest was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1998, and a sustainable program was initiated to save the argan tree. This effort has yielded significant results, including the scientific confirmation of the traditional medicinal virtues of argan oil, which has increased its value and global demand. Additionally, in 2021, the United Nations recognized the importance of the argan tree by designating May 10 as its international day.

The argan tree is an endemic plant primarily found in Morocco, but it has also been introduced as a cultivated species in various countries worldwide. It is the only species of the Sapotaceae family that grows above the tropics and is well-adapted to the drylands of southwestern Morocco. The tree plays an important ecological role in its biotope, protecting the soil from erosion and maintaining soil fertility by preserving moisture. Moreover, the tree has multiple uses, with its leaves, fruits, and oil providing nutrients and bioactive compounds that offer nutritional, cosmetic, and economic benefits. This chapter will discuss the chemical composition of argan oil, its nutritional and cosmetic advantages, the different processes used to produce argan oil, quality control measures, and assessment of oxidative stability.

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