Prunus dulcis, Prunus amygdalus
- Sweet Almond
The almond trees are native to the Mediterranean region, particularly the eastern coast. Trees of this species are expansive by nature. Normally, almond trees are found to grow up to a height of around seven meters or 20 feet. They have even or smooth boughs that are pale hued. Like in the case of other trees in this genus – plum, cherry and peach, almonds also bear flowers that are pink or white in color.
The trees blossom during the period between mid and late spring. The almond flowers are single and do not have any stalk. The leaves of the trees belonging to this species are oval shaped, finely jagged and sharp at the end. The almond bears fruits that have a faded green color. The outer encasing of the fruit hardens up when they are ripe eventually coming apart to expose the recognizable nuts that are enclosed in rough, yellowish encasings.
Almond has been cultivated since ages. While this species was extensively grown in the Middle East for centuries, the Bible too refers to the tree as ‘Aaron’s rod was an almond branch’. The almond also finds mention in Greek mythology where it is denoted as Phyllis, a mourning nymph who was abandoned by her lover Demophoon.
According to Greek mythology, Phyllis eventually succumbed to sorrow and dejection. The gods are said to have transformed Phyllis into a tree (almond) owing to compassion. When Demophoon returned to the tree, it burst into flower.
In fact, it was the Greeks who introduced the tree to other regions of Europe and documents say that during the Middle Ages, the almond nuts were a significant aspect of trade. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, people pulverized large amounts of almond and mixed it with water to produce a milky white fluid that was widely used for culinary purposes.
Even today, people drink an almond beverage that is cooling as well as acts as a stimulant for the kidneys. In addition, the drink is also taken to relieve heartburn – an uncomfortable burning sensation in the gastric tract. As far as usage of almond nuts in cookery is concerned, till date they are an important element of many dishes prepared by people in the Near and Middle East.
People in Europe usually serve almond preparations with fish. In addition they also use almonds to prepare an assortment of sweets like mouth-watering Spanish candies (nougat).
The oil extracted from almonds is odorless and possesses exceptional nourishing as well as softening properties. Almost half the weight of almonds comprises this oil, which is excellent massage oil either used independently and helps to keep one fit and fine.
The oil obtained from almonds is wispy, soaked up by the skin easily and is effective in relieving skin disorders, such as itching eczema. Almond oil also acts as effective carrier oil for other essential oils used in aromatherapy. Almond oil is also taken internally for its laxative actions. Many people also grind almonds and apply the powder on their skin.
While ground almond is helpful in maintain the overall health of the skin and alleviating a number of skin conditions, it is also a first-rate facial scrub that helps to clean as well as soften the facial skin and tissues.
It may be mentioned here that almonds are found in two varieties – sweet and bitter. While the sweet almond is consumed dried and used for culinary purposes, the Bitter Almond (botanic name Prunus amara) is extensively cultivated for its valuable oil that is used in the manufacture of cosmetics as well as massage oil.
In addition, the oil obtained from bitter almond also serves as useful carrier oil for other essential oils. Interestingly, chefs usually have a preference for bitter almonds to adding essence and give almond flavor to foods.
Seeds, leaves, roots.
In addition to adding flavor to foods, in general, almonds have been found to be helpful in maintaining our health. Almonds possess a number of therapeutic properties which make them useful for treating medical conditions, such as gallstones, kidney stones and constipation.
The oil obtained from almond is used for topical application to treat dry skins. In addition, the almond oil serves as an excellent carrier oil for other essential oils in aromatherapy.
Almond seeds too possess numerous remedial properties and are said to be as effective as a laxative. In addition, they are emollient (soothing), demulcent (emollient or softening), pectoral (effective for chest problems) and nutritive. Herbalists using almond oil for treating various medical conditions usually prescribe the oil obtained from the almond seeds.
Almond seeds also enclose ‘laetrile’ – a substance that is also known as vitamin B17. Although presently there is not sufficient scientific evidence, many herbalists claim that laetrile is effectual in treating cancers. When laetrile is used in its pure form, it is safe and does not harm our health.
However, following hydrolysis, laetrile is known to produce hydrocyanic acid, which is an extremely fast acting poison. Hence, people using laetrile should use the substance with great prudence and carefulness. When taken in tiny measures, this extremely poisonous substance invigorates respiration, enhances digestion and, at the same time, makes one feel good and healthy.
Even the leaves of the almond trees possess remedial properties and some herbalists use them to treat diabetes. Almond trees enclose a compound called taxifolin, which is said to possess anti-tumor properties.
The oil obtained from almond seeds has extensive industrial use too. Almond seed oil is an exceptional lubricant and is used to oil subtle and sophisticated devices like watches. As the almond oil makes the skin smooth and soft, it is also used in manufacturing soaps and other cosmetic items.
The leaves of almond trees too have industrial use since a green dye is obtained from them. Even the almond fruits yield a dye whose color varies from deep grey to green. The leaves and the roots of the almond tree also yield a yellowish dye. In addition, when the crushed almond leaves are wiped inside any container, it helps to get rid of potent smells of cloves or garlic provided all grease has been removed from the container earlier.
The gum obtained from the stems of the almond plants is made use of as an adhesive. On the other hand, when the discarded shells covering the almond seeds are burnt, they have the aptitude to absorb coal gas, while the burnt pericap is rich in potassium content and, hence, are widely used in manufacturing soap.
Almond seeds enclose a substance called amygdallin that can be hydrolyzed to produce benzaldehyde and prussic acid with water as a catalyst and in the presence of a suspension. It may be mentioned here that benzaldehyde is the fragrance of almond having a chemical formula C6H5CHO, while prussic acid is the venomous principle.
Various parts of the almond tree possess different remedial properties. Some of the medicinal utilities of the almond have already been experimented both on humans as well as animals. Although the remedial properties have been tested, their safety and efficacy have not been established yet.
Below are some of the medicinal uses of almond. Since some of the uses entail treating potentially critical conditions, it is advisable to consult a competent medical practitioner before you try to use them to treat your medical conditions.
High cholesterol (Use whole almonds)
Initial findings of some researches conducted on humans as well as animals have demonstrated that ingesting whole almonds may be effective in reducing the total intensity of cholesterol in the blood stream, especially the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol), while increasing the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol). However, the scientists are yet to ascertain the effectual and sage dose of whole almonds for treating high cholesterol levels in the blood stream.
Anxiety (Especially, palliative care patients)
Many claim that consumption of sweet almonds helps to relieve anxiety; however, thus far, there is no scientific base to prove this view. Hence, there is a need for more investigative research on sweet almond before it can be officially recommended to actively treat anxiety or nervousness.
Radiation therapy skin reactions (Topical application on skin)
Initial studies on topical use of pulverized sweet almond on skin to cure reactions due to radiation therapy have not been able to confirm any benefits. In fact, more studies are in process to ascertain whether applying sweet almond on the skin is truly beneficial to treat such conditions.
Almond seeds may be consumed in numerous manners. Dried almond seeds may be taken raw; they may be cooked and also pulverized and used in confectionary items. The whole almond seeds may also be sprouted, roasted or used in making cakes, pastry and confectionary products.
Sweet almonds taste delectable taken raw or in any other form. However, the bitter variety should not be consumed at all, not even in small amounts. The bitter form of almond seeds is very toxic and may cause severe aftereffects. Generally, the almond seeds are quite difficult to digest and, hence, they need to be chewed comprehensively before swallowing them down the track.
Almond seeds may also be pulverized and mixed with water to produce a milky fluid called the almond milk, which is used to flavor many dishes. Almond seeds also yield edible oil. While the oil obtained from almond seeds are primarily used to add flavor to foods while cooking. In addition, the almond seed oil also has medicinal and industrial uses.
The stems of the almond tree also yield a kind of gum from places where they are bruised. This gum is edible as well as used for manufacturing a type of adhesive.
Habitat and cultivation
The almond is indigenous to the areas in the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in Iran, Jordan and the Middle East. The species was later brought to Europe, especially to the southern regions of the continent, and is extensively grown in all nations situated alongside the Mediterranean. While it is widely cultivated in Italy and Spain in Europe, people in several areas in California in the United States grow almond.
Almond has a preference for sunlit areas and soil that has a proper drainage system. The trees also grow well in loamy soil that can retain moisture, but has a good drainage. The trees have some preference for soil containing some amount of lime, but when the soil has excessive lime they become chlorotic or yellowish owing to the failure to develop chlorophyll.
While the almond trees grow equally well in sunlit areas as well as in partial shades, trees growing in sunny locations yield more and better quality of fruits.
The almond is found in numerous varieties and is usually grown for its edible seeds in places having temperate climatic conditions. Precisely speaking, the almond trees have a preference for the type of climate prevailing in the Mediterranean region, where the climatic conditions are completely different during spring and winter.
If the trees are cultivated in somewhat near the coastal areas, they may be stimulated to flower much earlier than their blooming season. However, almond trees grown in moderate maritime regions are susceptible to damages caused by frosting. In addition, almond trees cultivated in the marine regions may also sufferer owing to absence of adequate number of insects to pollinate the flowers.
In such cases, the flowers need to be pollinated manually to enhance the crop yield. While every almond tree is capable of self-fertilization, it is advisable to grow at least two cultivable varieties of the species (cultivars) in the same region to obtain more and better quality of crops.
Almonds are found in two different assortments – while one form of almond has ‘sweet’ seeds, the seeds of the other type are bitter to taste. In fact, both varieties of almonds are grown extensively. Chemical analysis of the bitter almond has revealed that the sourness of the seeds is basically owing to hydrogen cyanide, a chemical substance present in the seeds of the Bitter Almond or Prunus amara.
The bitter variety of almond is cultivated for its essential oil that is used widely in cosmetics and massage oil. Here is a word of caution. While the bitter seeds of almond are utilized to add essence to foods as well as in the preparation of marzipan, they should never be consumed directly either fresh or dried.
In fact, even the seeds of the sweet variety of almond should not be consumed in excess as it may result in toxic side effects. It is estimated that consuming around 900 seeds of the sweet variety of almond at one time is equivalent to a high toxic dose for any healthy adult.
Almond trees have been found to be more resilient when they are propagated on a plum rhizome or rootstock. In any case, the almond trees are somewhat self-sterile, denoting that flowers of the same tree are only able to pollinate to a certain extent.
It has been found that majority of the trees belonging to this genus do not have deep roots and in case their roots are damaged, they develop shoots from the subversive stems or roots (suckers) to support the tree. Trees belonging to this particular genus are highly vulnerable to honey fungus.
Almond is generally disseminated by its seeds. In order to propagate almond trees from the seeds, it is best to harvest the seeds immediately when they mature and then sow them in cold stratification for around two to three months. It is especially important to sow the almond seeds in cold stratification without wasting any time after they have ripened.
Be careful to look after the seeds sown in cold stratification from rodents and other perpetrators who feed on them. In fact, germination of the seed may be quite sluggish, occasionally taking as much time as 18 months to sprout. When the seeds have germinated and the seedlings have grown somewhat to be handled, prick them out and plant them in individual containers.
During the first winter of the plants, grow them indoors or in a greenhouse with a view to shelter them from frosts. When they have grown reasonably, plant them in their permanent positions during spring or summer of the subsequent year.
Alternately, species of this genus may also be propagated by cuttings taken from semi-mature wood having a base or heel. The best time of the year to make the cuttings is during July and August. Though it is difficult to propagate almond from cuttings, it is advisable to put them in a cold frame soon after you undertake the cutting.
You may also undertake cuttings from soft wood plants, but this needs to be done during the period between the early part of spring and summer. In this case too, it is advisable to place the cuttings in a cold frame soon after the piece of wood is cut. Cuttings from ripe wood should be done during the latter part of autumn and immediately put in a frame.
Oatmeal face mask
The recipe for an oatmeal face mask requires a combination of two ingredients – almonds and oatmeal, which are traditionally considered to possess the aptitude of deep cleansing and are extremely valuable for your complexion. You are free to use ready almond meal or, alternately, make your own by means of pulverizing almonds into an excellent powder using a food processor or blender.
In order to prepare a facial mask to have an additionally softer texture, you should replace the regular oatmeal with the particular colloidal oatmeal available with the druggists. Store the remaining infusion in a refrigerator and later use it in the form of a face wash.
The following items are required to prepare this face mask at home:
- 1 teaspoonful (5 grams) of dehydrated leaves of rosemary
- 1 tablespoonful (15 grams) of almond meal
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 grams) of regular oatmeal
- 1/ 2 cup (125 ml) of boiling water
First, add the dried rosemary leaves to the boiling water and allow them to permeate for about 15 minutes and filter the resultant herbal brew. Use a different bowl for crumbling the dried oatmeal using your fingers and, subsequently, mix it with the almond meal.
Add sufficient amount of the rosemary infusion to this mixture to prepare a substantial paste. In order to use this facial mask mixture, first you should rinse your face and steam it or you may also apply a tepid, damp washcloth for some minutes.
Next, spread the paste all over your face gently and uniformly, keeping away from the areas around your lips and eyes. Allow the mask to remain for about 15 to 30 minutes giving enough time for it to dry completely. Subsequently, rinse your face using a soft cloth drenched in tepid water.
Almond milk cleanser
The ingredients required to prepare this herbal facial cleanser include:
- 2 teaspoonfuls (30 grams) of pounded almonds
- 1/ 4 teaspoonful (7.5 ml) of rose water
Mix these ingredients for about two minutes, filter the resultant liquid and store it in an airtight bottle.
- From Susan – Mar-28-2021
- My husband’s doctor told him to eat almonds everyday because of his raised cholesterol levels and that some constituents in almonds have abilities to cleanse the arteries. He really doesn’t want to take drugs. So hopefully eating almonds and balanced, healthy diet will work for him.
- From Mary – Mar-25-2021
- I eat a lot of almonds everyday. Didn’t even know that they are good for anxious people. That can explain why I eat them a lot as I am a person who suffers from anxiety.
- From Gauhar – Aug-12-2017
- I use almond in grinded form to exfoliate my facial skin. I gently massage the skin of my face with these tiny bits of almond. It cleans and make my skin smooth in touch. I do this regenerating peeling no more than two times a week. It removes the dirt in the skin pores.