Argan oil is plant oil derived from Argan tree native to Morocco.
The deep roots of the argan tree stabilize the ecosystem. The tree plays an important role in maintaining the ecological balance.
It is popularly known as the tree of life among the people of Morocco. Argan oil is commonly used as a food ingredient and for cosmetic purposes. Argan oil has an interesting composition.
99% of argan oil is composed of Acylglycerols (including 95% of triacylglycerols).
The remaining 4% is composed of monoacylglycerols, diacylglycerols, and free fatty acids. Other components include phenols, sterols and carotenes.
All the components found in argan oil are in some way or the other benefits to health.
Argan oil is popularly used in hair and skin products.
It is rich in anti-oxidants and is hence used in cosmetic products that moisturize the skin and improve circulation. It can reduce wrinkles caused by skin ageing.
It can be easily absorbed by the skin.
It plays an effective role when used as hair oils and shampoos. It is suitable for hair and scalp as it provides adequate hydration and improves blood circulation preventing hair loss.
It helps retain moisture, repairs brittle hair and prevents split ends.
It is used in skin lotions for topical application on areas affected by psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis to reduce inflammation and for relieving pain.
It can be used as a lip moisturizer to exfoliate and soften the lips and can be applied on the cuticles to encourage healthy nail growth.
Argan oil is used as a seasoning in foods like pasta, dressing for salads and soups and to enhance the flavour of desserts and vegetables.
It has numerous health benefits like benefits in diabetes, obesity, arthritis and cardiovascular diseases.
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Possible Side Effects of Argan Oil
Although argan oil is considered relatively safe for use it may have some minor and rare side effects. Some of which have been mentioned below.
1. It can cause allergic reactions
There are no serious reports regarding toxicity to argan oil.
The first case of anaphylaxis to argan oil was reported in a 34-year-old Moroccan man without any allergy history.
Allergy was reported in the form of rhinitis and conjunctivitis when smelling argan oil.
The man also experienced throat discomfort. Treatment involved avoidance of argan oil in the diet and carrying of an emergency kit comprising of epinephrine, antihistamine and corticosteroid.
The allergic reactions caused by argan oil can be suppressed by a process of refining.
It was caused due to an allergen found in argan oil and researchers expect many more such cases in the near future. Some cases of allergic contact dermatitis by argan oil in humans have also been reported.
Argan oil is used in various cosmetic products for skin pimples, juvenile acne, facial wrinkles, and chicken pox pustules.
One must perform a patch test on a small area of the skin before applying it on an affected area. Although argan oil has been found to be suitable for most skin types, In case of any allergy which may be rare, one must stop using it.
What does this mean? A case report has presented a possible allergic reaction to argan oil aroma and application. It is advisable to conduct a patch test before applying argan oil.
2. People with nut allergies should avoid argan oil
Studies carried out on humans to evaluate anaphylaxis caused on the consumption of tree nuts and peanuts.
Argan oil is derived from the nuts of the argan tree and therefore people suffering from nut allergies in the past should avoid the intake of argan oil.
However, they can use argan oil for topical application on the skin and hair.
Lip products containing argan oil should be avoided by people suffering from nut allergies as it may be ingested and increase their risk of anaphylaxis.
It is best to seek advice from a medical practitioner before using it.
What does this mean? In case of nut allergies, please avoid oral consumption of argan oil.
3. Argan oil may be adulterated
Argan oil is expensive and this makes fraudulent attempts more likely.
Possibility of side effects by argan oil is higher if the oil purchased is impure or has been adulterated with cheap oils.
Therefore it is necessary to be aware of the quality of argan oil you purchase.
One should buy high-quality argan oil products from reliable sellers that have been made from seeds collected exclusively in Morocco.
Pure argan oil should sediment a bit at the bottom, appear a bit cloudy, should have a smooth, silky texture absorbed quickly by the skin and natural earthy smell without any bad odor.
Various research studies using gold nanoparticles and spectrophotometric analysis have been formulated to evaluate the quality of argan oil and whether it is safe for use.
A nanoparticle-based assay was used by Zougagh et al. in 2011 for this purpose which was low cost and simple but provided valuable information.
What does this mean? Ensure you buy organic pure argan oil from trusted suppliers. It should be free from adulteration. Pure argan oil has sediments, is slightly cloudy with a natural earthy smell.
4) Argan oil degrades under inappropriate storage conditions
The storage condition of argan oil is also a very important parameter which needs to be considered. Argan oil deteriorates when stored in high temperatures and exposed to sunlight.
Thus argan oil must be stored at room temperature, around 25˚C in dark colored bottles protected from sunlight so that the quality of argan oil is satisfactory for use even after 12 months.
Do not purchase argan oil in clear plastic bottles as exposure to sunlight breaks down the most essential components present in the oil. Deteriorated argan oil may contribute to the side effects.
The quality of argan oil also depends upon the method of production.
Side effects may sometimes be caused due to overdosage.
It is highly recommended to follow the appropriate dosage if orally consuming Argan oil.
One must consult a doctor for this purpose. While applying it on the skin and hair it must be used in moderation.
What does this mean? Argan oil should be stored in dark bottles at cool temperatures. Please check whether the argan oil product is food grade or for dermatological use before purchase.
Thus owing to the numerous benefits that argan oil provides it has very few and rare side effects.
However, these side effects cannot be overlooked. It is important to be aware of its side effects before including it in your day to day life.
One must take the necessary steps like buying pure quality argan oil, storing it in inappropriate conditions, performing a patch test before topical application and consulting a doctor before incorporating daily oral dosage of argan oil.
People with nut allergies must avoid its intake.
The people of Morocco have sworn by argan oil for years and we cannot deny the fact that argan oil provides numerous health benefits when used with precaution.