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The argan tree has existed for more than 80 million years. In earlier times, it probably covered large swaths of North Africa and southern Europe, but later on, owing to climatic cooling, it grew only in certain areas of southern Morocco, Algeria and Mauretania. Today it grows almost exclusively in the southwest of Morocco in an area that was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1998. In 2014, the ancient knowledge and practices concerning the uses of the tree and its fruits were declared an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
The Berber people in Morocco have cherished argan oil for many generations. The oil has long been said to have many beneficial effects, both as a food and as a cosmetic product, with particular emphasis given to its regenerative effect on the skin. This is hardly surprising given that in this region, one of the driest on earth, only plants that are able to protect themselves in such harsh climatic conditions can survive and flourish. The argan tree is one of those plants. What’s more, it can pass on its gifts to people. Indeed, despite the heat and aridity the Berber people who live here have beautiful, smooth and healthy skin.
The argan tree (Latin name: Argania spinosa L.) is a member of the Sapotaceae family of flowering plants. It can grow to 12 metres tall and its crown can spread to up to 14 metres in diameter, while it roots can reach a depth of around 30 metres. The argan tree is able to survive extreme drought and temperatures of more than 50 degrees Celsius. In the summer and in the dry season it sheds part of its foliage, in this way protecting itself against drying out. It has a life expectancy of between 250 and 400 years. It does not bear fruit until it is around five years old, and not until it is 50 or 60 years old does it begin to yield abundantly. The fruit of the argan tree takes over a year to mature, ripening in the summer of the following year in a two-year cycle, and its flesh tastes bitter. In good years, a single tree can bear several generations of flowers and fruits at the same time. The fruit resembles a date and contains a nut about the size of an almond, with an extremely hard shell. Inside the nut are two kernels, each about the size of a large sunflower seed. It is from these kernels that the precious oil is extracted.
A very special cooperative was founded in 2003 in the southwest of Morocco, in a nature reserve not far from the coastal city of Essaouira. Run as a family business, the Sidi Yassine cooperative employs more than 500 people, mainly women, who gather the argan fruits exclusively through wild harvesting. The fruits are left to dry in the sun and then peeled, which exposes the hard nut. Using a traditional method, the women workers crack the nut open by hand between two stones. This reveals the kernels, which are then cold pressed and the oil mechanically filtered. The product of this labour-intensive process is an oil that possesses anti-oxidative and regenerative properties thanks to its high vitamin E content – a genuine beauty treasure. Once it has been filled into large vessels this treasure finds its way to Weleda, where it is incorporated into high-quality, sensually fragranced face care products that help to counteract the effects of light exposure and aging on the skin.
Weleda began supporting the Sidi Yassine cooperative in 2008 not only because it produces organic argan oil in Fair Trade Certified quality, but also because it is helping to improve the living conditions of the local population through several social initiatives. With the support of this project, a school and a kindergarten were built where the children of the female workers, most of whom are illiterate, learn to read and write. The women receive higher wages than elsewhere, as well as a contribution to their social security. A special feature of this project is that the female workers receive their pay directly rather than it being given to their husbands, as is customary in this culture. This strengthens their family status as well as their self-confidence. Sidi Yassine also supports other social projects in the country, for example a “children’s village” where orphans and homeless children are taken care of and given a home. In order to do all this, the price of the argan oil from the Sidi Yassine cooperative is around 20 percent higher than the market rate. Weleda pays this price gladly in the knowledge that it will be using a natural resource that has been extracted using environmentally friendly, socially responsible and high-quality methods. A good manufacturing process that makes the world a little richer and benefits both people and nature deserves our support!
The clear, corn-yellow Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil consists of approximately
80% oleic and linoleic acids. It is a light oil that is easily absorbed by the
skin and leaves behind a silky feeling. It improves the skin's inherent barrier
function and thus it is ideal for the care of sensitive, dry and mature skin.
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