The Useful Argan Tree

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Ethnobotanic, Ethnopharmacologic Aspects and New Phytochemical Insights into Moroccan Argan Fruits

Khallouki F, Eddouks M, Mourad A, Breuer A, Owen RW
Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 30;18(11)
PubMed Central: PMC5713247

Researchers at the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum and Facultés des Sciences et Techniques d’Errachidia reviewed current data on the argan tree (Argania spinosa) and its fruit, including geographical distribution, traditional uses, environmental interest, and socioeconomic role.

Goats on an Argan tree in Morocco
Goats on an Argan tree in Morocco [Source: Marco Arcangeli, WikiMedia Commons]
Writing in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, the authors detail existing ethnobotanical, ethnomedical, and phytochemical data on argan fruits and offer insights about new natural products derived from them.

From the introduction:

“The argan tree Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels, an endemic species of Morocco with tropical affinities, is typically a multi-purpose tree, and plays a very important socio-economic role in this country, while maintaining an ecological balance. This species is the only representative of the tropical family Sapotaceae in Morocco. The tree is the second largest forest species, after oak and before cedar, and can live up to 200 years. The tree was recognized as a biosphere reserve since 1998 and was declared as a “protected species” by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“The argan tree has very specific chemical compositions which fortify their potential in particular for use in food, cosmetic, and medical preparations. The argan tree supports the livelihood of rural populations as a source of income and therefore they depend on the aganeraie. The various botanical parts of the tree also make a large contribution to biodiversity.”

The authors note the environmental importance of the Argan tree, whose roots develop deeply, helping prevent wind erosion and desertification of the soil. The trees provide shade for a number of crops, and help maintain soil fertility. One hundred plant species have been recorded growing near the argan tree, which speaks to the genetic importance of the tree itself as well to other animal and plant species.

After a fuel crisis in 1917, during which thousands of hectares of argan tree were destroyed, the Moroccan state took ownership of the tree while preserving the right of inhabitants of the region to benefit from the forest, including the right to harvest. The tree and its products are increasingly important to the Moroccan economy:

“The Arganeraie constitutes an important source of income for the Moroccan Berber populations. The press cake is used for fattening cattle, while fruit pulp and leaves also constitute a fodder for animals. The wood of the argan tree is extensively used as an energy bioresource, in the form of coal. The most economically viable part of the tree is its fruit, which provides food and cosmetic oils. The global demand for this oil is now increasing in the North American, European Union, Asia Pacific (China and Japan), Middle East and South African markets. The number of personal-care products on the US market including argan oil as an ingredient increased from just two in 2007, to over one hundred by 2011.

“The argan tree has created many jobs through the creation of women’s cooperatives. The global argan oil market was 4835.5 tons in 2014 and is expected to reach 19,622.5 tons by 2022.”

The authors review and update current research on the phytochemistry, ethnopharmacology, and ethnobotany aspects of the argan tree and catalog a number of bioactive compounds that may play an important role against several ailments, including arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, skin diseases, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer.

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

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