Almond is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia, but is now grown in Africa, parts of Europe and California. California now produces 80% of the world’s almonds and 100% of the almond supply for the United States. The trees grow from twelve to thirty feet tall and have either white flowers (sweet almond) or pale pink flowers (bitter almond) blooming before the leaves in early spring. The actual almond is an edible seed enclosed in a hard shell surrounded by a thick greenish grey covering called a hull. Domesticated almond trees are not toxic, but wild forms contain glycoside amygdalin which is transformed into deadly prussic acid. When the bitter almond seed is combined with water, it can produce deadly doses of hydrogen cyanide.
The kernel of the sweet almond contains an oil and emulsion that is used internally in alternative medicine. They contain 49% oils, of which 62% is monounsaturated oleic acid (omega-9 fatty acid), 24% linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 essential fatty acid) and 6% palmitic acid (saturated fatty acid). It is an excellent source of vitamin E, containing twenty four milligrams per one hundred grams of oil. The oil is extracted by cold pressing of the kernels and then cleaning the oil through filtration.
Almond seeds are used in marzipan, pastries, cookies and cakes. They can be made into gluten-free low carbohydrate flour to make breads and desserts for those who have gluten allergies. Sweet almonds can be made into almond butter, similar to peanut butter, and is a popular substitute for those who are allergic to peanuts. An almond paste can be used to make moist, sweet cakes or for fillings in pastry recipes. They are also processed as a milk substitute, called almond milk, providing a soy-free choice for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant, though it does have a sweet taste compared to regular milk.
Almond oil is an excellent emollient for the skin and has been used by massage therapists in place of olive oil. It can be used to provide relief for strained muscles and soothes irritations and inflammations. This inexpensive oil can be used to improve facial complexion by using just several drops and massaging the oil over your face. It will not leave residue on your face unless you have used more than a few drops. It moisturizes skin, alleviates dark under eye circles and cures chapped lips.
Another home remedy for almond oil is for acne or eczema. Combine a few drops of almond oil with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Apply to the affected area(s). If you have dry, itchy scalp or dandruff, apply a few drops of almond oil to your fingertips and slowly massage your scalp. Adding a few drops of almond oil to shampoo or conditioner also alleviates dry itchy scalp and dandruff, plus it nourishes the hair, the hair cuticle and controls hair loss.
Because of the nutrients found in almond oil, it is an excellent choice in homemade remedies. There are no serious side effects when using sweet almond oil as a skin softener, muscle relaxer and treatment for hair. The fact that almonds and almond oil are low in carbohydrates and are gluten-free, they make a great substitute for an every day diet.