Argan oil is a star of the health and beauty aisle, appearing in lotions and hair products of all kinds. The world of edible oils has also embraced this versatile option. Argan oil is harvested from the argan tree, Argania spinosa, in Morocco. People in Northern Africa have used oil from argan seed kernels in medicines and cosmetics for generations.
Edible argan oil is prepared from roasted seed kernels, while cosmetic oil is extracted from unroasted kernels. Although edible oils are more extensively studied, research has verified some properties of cosmetic oils. Overactive sebum glands make skin feel oily and contribute to some types of acne, and creams and lotions containing argan oil reduce the production of this natural substance.
The human body can't produce long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, but these beneficial fats increase "good" cholesterol and decrease levels of "bad" cholesterol. Our bodies obtain them from foods, preferably those that do not also contain unhealthy saturated fat. More than 98% of the fats in argan oil are essential fatty acids.
Olive oil has protective benefits against breast, prostate, endometrial, and pancreatic cancer. Argan oil possesses many of the same components, including phenolics, which have antioxidant properties. These compounds provide antiproliferative effects that inhibit cancerous growth. Argan oil also contains sterols that inhibit the spread of prostate cancer cells.
Argan oil contains tocopherols, including vitamin E and oleic and linoleic fatty acids. These micronutrients are antioxidants. Tocopherols help skin cells repair damage from UV rays. There are twice as many tocopherols in argan oil as olive oil. UV rays often cause sunspots — darker areas of pigmentation on the face. Argan oil can help reduce their appearance.
Argan oil's cardiovascular health benefits come from fatty acids and sterol compounds. They increase HDL or good cholesterol, which travels through the bloodstream and picks up excess cholesterol. High HDL levels help limit bad LDL cholesterol levels that leave fat deposits in arteries and contribute to heart disease. Sterol compounds also stimulate liver receptors to breakdown harmful cholesterols.
Argan oil influences metabolism in several ways. It encourages bile production in the liver, which helps fat digestion. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in argan oil stabilize blood glucose levels and reduce insulin resistance. Argan oil also helps with weight loss and makes it easier to stick to low-calorie diets — compounds stimulate receptors in the stomach, making people feel full more quickly.
Topical argan oil preparations have mild antibacterial properties. Argan oil also acts as an emollient and moisturizer, which can speed the healing of cuts and scrapes. The most effective healing benefits of argan oil are nutritional. It contains several compounds that reduce inflammation, and vitamin E and oleic acids encourage wound healing.
Argan oil in hair and skin treatments has some benefits. The fats in the oil . Skin treatments control oil and act as moisturizers. Nutritional benefits are achieved by consuming edible argan oil preparations. Cells in hair strands and the top layer of our skin are dead — they can't absorb nutrients. As such, even if your main interest in argan oil is skin and hair health, combining topical products with edible ones will likely be more effective than topical products alone.
There are no known toxic side effects of argan oil. Populations in Northern Africa have used argan oil in food, medicine, and cosmetics for centuries without record of toxicity. The estimated therapeutic dose — the amount necessary to gain health benefits — is one or two tablespoons daily. Although side effects aren't a concern, people using argan oil for the first time should be cautious of allergies. Allergic reactions are rare, but one case of anaphylaxis was recorded.
Argan oil can be substituted for olive oil for most culinary purposes. Although the taste is slightly different, argan oil works well in dressings and marinades that call for olive or sunflower oil. While it can be used for frying, and it has a high smoke point, heat destroys many of the beneficial micronutrients.
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