Argan oil has been a culinary staple in Morocco for centuries — not only because of its subtle, nutty flavor but also its wide array of potential health benefits. This naturally occurring plant oil is derived from the kernels of the fruit of the argan tree. Although native to Morocco, argan oil is now used across the globe for a variety of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal applications. This article explains 12 of the most prominent health benefits and uses of argan oil.
- Contains Essential Nutrients
Argan oil is primarily comprised of fatty acids and a variety of phenolic compounds. The majority of the fat content of argan oil comes from oleic and linoleic acid. Approximately 29–36% of the fatty acid content of argan oil comes from linoleic acid, or omega-6, making it a good source of this essential nutrient. Oleic acid, though not essential, makes up 43–49% of the fatty acid composition of argan oil and is also a very healthy fat. Found in olive oil as well, oleic acid is renowned for its positive impact on heart health. Additionally, argan oil is a rich source of vitamin E, which is required for healthy skin, hair and eyes. This vitamin also has powerful antioxidant properties.
Argan oil provides a good source of linoleic and oleic fatty acids, two fats known to support good health. It also boasts high levels of vitamin E.
- Has Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The various phenolic compounds in argan oil are likely responsible for most of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities. Argan oil is rich in vitamin E, or tocopherol, a fat-soluble vitamin that serves as a potent antioxidant to reduce the damaging effects of free radicals. Other compounds present in argan oil, such as CoQ10, melatonin and plant sterols, also play a role in its antioxidant capacity. A recent study revealed a significant reduction in inflammatory markers in mice fed argan oil prior to exposure to a highly inflammatory liver toxin, compared to the control group. Additionally, some research indicates that argan oil can also be applied directly to your skin to reduce inflammation caused by injuries or infections. Although these results are encouraging, more research is needed to understand how argan oil can be used medicinally in humans to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Multiple compounds in argan oil may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, though more research is needed.
- May Boost Heart Health
Argan oil is a rich source of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated, omega-9 fat. Oleic acid is also present in several other foods, including avocado and olive oils, and is often credited with heart-protective effects. One small human study noted that argan oil was comparable to olive oil in its capacity to reduce heart disease risk through its impact on antioxidant levels in the blood. In another small human study, a higher intake of argan oil was associated with lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and higher blood levels of antioxidants. In a study on heart disease risk in 40 healthy people, those who consumed 15 grams of argan oil daily for 30 days experienced a 16% and 20% reduction in “bad” LDL and triglyceride levels, respectively. Although these results are promising, larger studies are necessary to better understand how argan oil may support heart health in humans.
Argan oil’s fatty acids and antioxidants may help reduce heart disease risk, though more research is needed.
- May Have Benefits for Diabetes
Some early animal research indicates argan oil may help prevent diabetes. Two studies resulted in a significant reduction in both fasting blood sugar and insulin resistance in mice fed a high-sugar diet alongside argan oil. These studies largely attributed these benefits to the antioxidant content of the oil. However, such results do not necessarily imply that the same effects would be seen in humans. Therefore, human research is needed.
Some animal studies indicate argan oil may reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance to help prevent diabetes. That said, human studies are lacking.
- May Have Anticancer Effects
Argan oil may slow the growth and reproduction of certain cancer cells. One test-tube study applied polyphenolic compounds from argan oil to prostate cancer cells. The extract inhibited cancer cell growth by 50% compared to the control group. In another test-tube study, a pharmaceutical-grade mixture of argan oil and vitamin E increased the rate of cell death on breast and colon cancer cell samples. Although this preliminary research is intriguing, more research is needed to determine whether argan oil could be used to treat cancer in humans.
Some test-tube studies revealed potential cancer-fighting effects of argan oil, though more studies are needed.
- May Reduce Signs of Skin Aging
Argan oil has quickly become a popular ingredient for many skin care products. Some research suggests that dietary intake of argan oil may help slow the aging process by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. It may also support repair and maintenance of healthy skin when applied directly to your skin, thus reducing visual signs of aging. Some human studies show argan oil — both ingested and administered directly — to be effective for increasing skin elasticity and hydration in postmenopausal women. Ultimately, more human research is needed.
A few small studies indicate that argan oil may be effective at reducing signs of aging, either when ingested or applied directly to your skin.
- May Treat Some Skin Conditions
Argan oil has been a popular home remedy for treating inflammatory skin conditions for decades — especially in North Africa, where argan trees originate. Although there’s limited scientific evidence supporting argan oil’s ability to treat specific skin infections, it is still frequently used for this purpose. However, current research indicates that argan oil does contain several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may be why it seems to treat skin tissue. Keep in mind that more research is needed.
While argan oil has been traditionally used to treat skin infections, there is limited evidence to support this. That said, anti-inflammatory compounds may benefit skin tissue.
- May Promote Wound Healing
Argan oil may accelerate the wound healing process. One animal study revealed a significant increase in wound healing in rats given argan oil on their second-degree burns twice daily for 14 days. Although this data doesn’t prove anything with certainty, it does indicate a possible role for argan oil in wound healing and tissue repair. That said, human research is needed.
In one animal study, argan oil applied to burn wounds accelerated healing. However, human research is needed.
- May Moisturize Skin and Hair
The oleic and linoleic acids that make up the majority of argan oil’s fat content are vital nutrients for maintaining healthy skin and hair. Argan oil is often directly administered to skin and hair but may also be effective when ingested. In one study, both oral and topical applications of argan oil improved the moisture content of the skin in postmenopausal women. Although there isn’t any research on the specific use of argan oil for hair health, some studies indicate that other plant oils with a comparable nutritional profile may reduce split ends and other types of hair damage.
Argan oil is popularly used to moisturize skin and hair. Some research indicates the fatty acids in argan oil may support healthy, hydrated skin and reduce hair damage.
- Often Used to Treat and Prevent Stretch Marks
Argan oil is frequently used to prevent and reduce stretch marks, although no research has been conducted to prove its efficacy. In fact, there is no strong evidence that any kind of topical treatment is an effective tool for stretch mark reduction. However, research does indicate that argan oil may help reduce inflammation and improve the elasticity of skin — which could be why so many people report success in using it for stretch marks.
Argan oil is often used as a remedy for treating stretch marks, although no scientific data supports this.
- Sometimes Used to Treat Acne
Some sources claim argan oil to be an effective treatment for acne, although no rigorous scientific research supports this. That said, argan oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds may support reduced redness and irritation of the skin caused by acne. The oil also may contribute to skin hydration, which is important for acne prevention. Whether argan oil is effective in treating your acne likely depends on its cause. If you struggle with dry skin or general irritation, argan oil may provide a solution. However, if your acne is caused by hormones, argan oil will not likely provide significant relief.
Though some people claim that argan oil is effective for treating acne, no studies support this. However, it may reduce redness and soothe irritation caused by acne.
Easy to Add to Your Routine
As argan oil has become increasingly popular, it’s easier than ever to add it to your health and beauty routine. It is widely available in most major grocery stores, drug stores and online retailers.
Argan oil is usually used topically in its pure form — but also frequently included in cosmetic products like lotions and skin creams. While it can be applied directly to your skin, it may be best to start with a very small amount to ensure that you won’t have any adverse reactions.
You can apply argan oil directly to damp or dry hair to improve moisture, reduce breakage, or reduce frizz. It is also sometimes included in shampoos or conditioners. If it’s your first time using it, start with a small amount to see how your hair responds. If you have naturally oily roots, apply argan only to the ends of your hair to avoid greasy-looking hair.
If you’re interested in using argan oil with food, look for varieties specifically marketed for cooking, or make sure you’re buying 100% pure argan oil. Argan oil marketed for cosmetic purposes may be mixed with other ingredients that you shouldn’t ingest. Traditionally, argan oil is used for dipping bread or drizzling on couscous or vegetables. It can also be lightly heated, but it is not appropriate for high-heat dishes as it can easily burn.
Because of its recent rise in popularity, argan oil is widely available and easy to use for skin, hair and food.
The Bottom Line
Argan oil has been used for centuries for a variety of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal purposes. It is rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Early research indicates that argan oil may help prevent chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It may also treat a variety of skin conditions. While current research cannot definitively state that argan oil is effective for treating any of these conditions, many people report desirable results after using it. If you’re curious about argan oil, it’s easy to find and start using today.