March 22, 2011
To indigenous cultures around the world, beautiful, healthy skin is
nothing new under the sun. The Berbers of North Africa, Native
Americans of the Sonora Desert, and Australian Aborigines have
each known for centuries that the plants most common to their arid
environments actually offer them a treasure trove of skin care uses and
benefits. This especially includes plant oils, derived from either leaves
or extracted from nuts, and long coveted for nurturing and healing
properties that help support a healthier life in an otherwise difficult
place to live.
The argan tree is common to Morocco, and it doesn’t grow anywhere
else; the aromatic oil extracted from its fruit kernels is considered so
rare and precious, it is known as “liquid gold”. Prized for its nutritive,
medicinal, and cosmetic powers, argan oil is used to treat skin
conditions, as well as to restore the radiance of skin and hair.
It contains twice the amount of tocopherols (vitamin E) as found in olive oil, and is loaded with essential
fatty acids like linoleic acid, well-known for their moisturizing and anti-oxidant properties. These powerful
anti-oxidants help neutralize free-radical damage in the skin.
Smaller than an argan tree, jojoba is a perennial woody shrub native to the Sonora Desert of the American
Southwest. The oil extracted from jojoba seeds boasts a wide spectrum of beneficial properties due to the
fact that it matches the molecular structure of hair and skin sebum. As a result, this desert ingredient can
quickly penetrate the skin and scalp without leaving an oily residue, even as it supplies hair and skin with
nutrient-rich, restorative hydration.
The benefits of Australia’s tea tree oil are no less amazing. Waters infused with the fallen leaves of
surrounding Melaleuca Alternifolia trees offered antiseptic healing powers that Aborigines once considered
magical. For the last half century, medicinal research has come to see why. Testing has revealed tea tree oil
to contain over 100 different chemical compounds, making this singular leaf-derived oil an effective
anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and detoxifying agent. The New York Times Health Blog recently detailed how tea
tree oil can be particularly effective in treating skin conditions like burns and acne.