In the landscape of today’s health and beauty market, we as consumers are obsessed with the latest superfoods and anti-aging elixirs. Every few months, a new product comes to the market from an exotic culture that has the promise of longevity and immortal beauty. Most of these wonderful products have centuries of use in their local cultures as medicines of the earth.
As a doctor of natural medicine who has studied with healers in many traditional cultures, I have been able to see the (both positive and negative) impact that this “superfood” culture” has had on indigenous peoples. It is my desire to see the health and beauty industry strive to educate consumers on the local cultures from which these "Medicines of the Earth" come, so as to promote the practice of fair trade. In this way, the gifts we receive for our health and beauty can be a gift that is given twice by giving the opportunity for growth and abundance to the local cultures that they are extracted from.
Ahmed Jeriouda, the CEO of Moroccan Elixir, shares the impact that the argan oil cosmetic revolution has had on the local women and villages of Morocco in the following story.
—Dr. Gabrielle Francis
Argan oil has been revered as a “beauty and health elixir” for centuries by the Moroccan people. Although argan oil is primarily endemic of the southwestern part of Morocco, its legendary use has permeated the culture of Morocco, and that is why it is often known as "Moroccan Oil.”
My first memories of argan oil were as a young boy in Morocco with a family of women that were always using argan oil as a beauty remedy for hair, acne, anti-aging for wrinkles, and even as a remedy for cellulite. When the whole family came down with the chickenpox, my mother used the argan oil to help heal the skin sores, and it worked like magic. We also used argan oil as a dressing for couscous and tagines as well as a dip for our wonderful bread. Having argan oil in the house was always considered a special treat.
Argan oil made its debut in the international market about 20 years ago. First, it became a favorite of the French, British, and German markets as the travelers from Europe were introduced to argan oil on their trips to the southwest regions of Morocco. In the last 10 years, argan oil has become popular in the American cosmetic industry.
The traditional production method of argan oil is still a cottage industry of local women’s cooperatives. The new demands and the commercial success of the business have helped to preserve this tradition and to enhance local cultures and customs. I have watched the evolution of this growth and development firsthand.
In my late teens I would make an annual pilgrimage to Essaouira, an idyllic walled city, on the western coast of Morocco, for the annual Gnawa Music Festival that takes place each year in June. My friends and I were renting an apartment from a wonderful old woman named Khadija. She was a widow with many children, and the status of widows in Morocco at that time was very challenging. She would rent her house as a way to make money to feed and support her family.