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Su B

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‘You should put Argan oil on your hair,’ the hairdresser said. When I asked what it was, he said ‘Oh, I don’t know. They take thousands of Argans and squash them all together. It’s a very good moisturiser.’

I looked it up later, and he’s right, though not about the Argans. The oil comes from a tree, Argania spinosa, which grows mainly in Morocco. It’s used in face and body creams as well as hair products, and it’s so highly-prized that the Argania tree, which was rare in the first place, could easily have become another casualty of Western greed.

But something else has happened. Argania is now grown and harvested sustainably as a commercial crop. That obviously benefits the economy of Morocco, but there is an added bonus: the plantations are helping to hold back the spread of the Sahara Desert

That sounds to me like a win-win situation, with the proviso that the Western appetite for rare and exotic herbs is apt to be fickle. There certainly are plenty of other wonderful moisturisers out there, and next year there could be a different superstar.

But if, in the meantime, our desire for shiny hair means that desertification is held in check, that’s worth more than all the rest. 

EDITOR: The Herb Handbook by Su Bristow can be bought here or contact Su direct via her website.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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