Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 16 (2010) 10–12
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The uses and properties of almond oil Zeeshan Ahmad* Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Salisbury General Hospital, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 8BJ, UK
a b s t r a c t Keywords: Almonds Almond oil Complimentary medicine Holistic medicine Sclerosant Ancient medicine
Almond oil [Oleum amygdalae] has long been used in complementary medicine circles for its numerous health beneﬁts. Although no conclusive scientiﬁc data exists currently, almonds and almond oil have many properties including anti-inﬂammatory, immunity-boosting and anti-hepatotoxicity effects. Further, associations between almond oil and improved bowel transit have been made, which consequently reduces irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Further, some studies show a reduced incidence of colonic cancer. Moreover, cardiovascular beneﬁts have also been identiﬁed with almond oil elevating the levels of so-called ‘good cholesterol’, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), whilst it reduces low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Historically, almond oil had been used in Ancient Chinese, Ayurvedic and Greco–Persian schools of Medicine to treat dry skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Further, it is through anecdotal evidence and clinical experiences that almond oil seemingly reduces hypertrophic scarring post-operatively, smoothes and rejuvenates skin. Almond oil has emollient and sclerosant properties and, therefore, has been used to improve complexion and skin tone. Further studies looking into the use of almond oil post-operatively for the reduction of scarring are suggested. Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction Almond oil [Oleum amygdalae] has long been used in complementary medicine circles for its numerous health beneﬁts. Although no conclusive scientiﬁc data exists, almonds and the oil they produce have many properties including anti-inﬂammatory, immunity-boosting and anti-hepatotoxicity effects.1–4 An animal study has highlighted improved movement through the colon and better bowel transit. As a result these have been extrapolated and it is through inference that almond oil may have a beneﬁcial effect in the management of irritable bowel syndrome. Associations have also been made with reductions in the incidence of colonic cancer.1 Moreover, cardiovascular beneﬁts have also been identiﬁed with almond oils elevating the levels of so-called ‘good cholesterol’, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), whilst it reduces low-density lipoproteins (LDL).2 Almond oil has been used for its numerous health and beauty beneﬁts since the ancient civilizations of the India, China and Greece.5–7 Almond oil is used today by beauticians, aromatherapists and massage therapists for its many natural emollient and skin-rejuvenating properties.8 In the practice of aromatherapy, almond oil is extremely popular and sought-after mainly for its rich concentration of oleic and linoleic essential fatty acids.8 Almond oil is used in the cosmetic industry for its * Tel.: þ44 7957 582399. E-mail address: [email protected]
1744-3881/$ – see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.06.015
penetrating, moisturising and restructuring properties. Almond oil is also used as massage oil and is valued as carrier oil when used with essential oil for aromatherapy.8–10 This short paper details the natural history of the almond, the biochemical composition of its oilatum and its properties, which make it such a highly used commodity in cosmetic arenas. 2. The almond The almond, Prunus dulcis is a species of Prunus belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae; within Prunus, it is classiﬁed with the Walnut in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell. Found across the Saharan plains from Turkey and Iran as far wide as to India and Nepal, the almond is native to hot climates.6,7 The almond, the fruit of its tree is not a nut as is the common misconception. Almonds vary in size, on average from 3 to 6 cm long. Like other fruits in the Prunus family such as the apricot, cherry and plum, the almond has a leathery skin or shell (exocarp), which once peeled reveals the kernel (endocarp) therein.6,7 However, in the case of the almond only, the endocarp is the edible portion, with the exocarp normally discarded. The converse is true of its family members mentioned above. It is important that the wild form of the almond contains very high concentrations of potentially deadly glycoside when crushed or chewed as it is transformed into hydrogen cyanide, therefore, the
Z. Ahmad / Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 16 (2010) 10–12
fruit needs be handled with great care. Before cultivation for agricultural purposes predating 3000 BC, wild almonds were harvested as a rich nutritional source and, therefore, they were roasted or leached to release their toxins.6,7
source of vitamins and minerals. Interestingly, the almond’s rich vitamin B complex and zinc content support its skin-beautifying properties, as these components are key to developing and maintaining healthy-looking skin.8–10
3. The biochemical composition of the almond
4. Almond oil
Almond oil comprises sizeable proportions of the essential fatty acids, which needs to be derived from the diet hence deemed essential, as they are not synthesised by the body. Almond oil is rich in beta-zoosterol, squalene and alpha-tocopherol, all of which are important constituents of healthy looking skin. Clearly from Fig. 1a and b, almonds are a rich source of essential fatty acids, carbohydrate and protein and is a highly nutritional
Oleum amygdalae is prepared from a variety of almonds and is a glyceryl oleate, with a slight odour and a nutty taste. It is almost insoluble in alcohol but readily soluble in chloroform or ether and it is used a substitute for olive oil as it exhibits similar carrier properties.8–10 Sweet almond oil is obtained from the dried kernel of the plant. This oil has been traditionally used by massage therapists to lubricate the skin during a massage session, and is considered by
6 to 8%
Almond Nut, Raw [based on 100g]
Pantothenic Acid (B5) 0.3mg (6%)
Fig. 1. (a) A table illustrating the percentage composition of fatty acids found in the almond. (b) A table showing the nutritional constituents together with the recommended nutritional intake of vitamins and micronutrients.9
Z. Ahmad / Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 16 (2010) 10–12
many to be an effective emollient.8,9 With respect to its chemical properties, almond oil is a unique non-toxic, non-irritating, nonsensitising and non-comedogenic, water insoluble, readily emulsiﬁable ester, which possesses the following unexpected properties and attributes: imparts a dry lubricating feel in the presence of large amounts of mineral oil or petrolatum superior solubiliser of lipophilic cosmetic raw materials, especially sunscreen agents and volatile silicones high positive spreading coefﬁcient anti-tack agent, especially in antiperspirant formulations wetting agent and auxiliary suspending agent for water insoluble powdered products stable to hydrolysis within pH range of about 2–12.
5. Health beneﬁts It is thought that almonds and almond oil have many multifaceted properties including anti-inﬂammatory, immunity-boosting and anti-hepatotoxicity effects.1–4 Further associations between almond oil and improved bowel transit have been made; as per the result of one study use of almond oil reduces irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.1,11–13 Further, some studies show a reduced incidence of colonic cancer.1,11–13 Moreover, cardiovascular beneﬁts have also been identiﬁed with almond oil elevating the levels of socalled ‘good cholesterol’, high-density lipoproteins (HDL), whilst it reduces low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Recent studies have found that the inclusion of almonds in the diet elevates the blood levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Similarly, a controlled trial showed that 73 g of almonds in the daily diet reduced LDL cholesterol by as much as 9.4%.2 Historically, almond oil had been used in Ancient Chinese, Ayurvedic and Greco–Persian schools of medicine to treat dry skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.6,7 From history it is known that the Ayurvedic schools of medicine used almonds and almond oil to improve skin complexion and to treat skin conditions, thereby promoting soft healthy skin. Further they used it as a nutritive for the brain and nervous system. Across the Indian subcontinent today, many physicians prescribe almonds for those partaking in scholastic pursuits such as undertaking examinations etc. in view of this point.6,7 The Greco–Persian Unani–Tibb medical system considers almond oil as a natural aphrodisiac for massage and internal consumption.6,7 Together with these massage properties, almond oil has sclerosant properties which can be used to reduce hypertrophic scarring. Almond oil is often used together with phenol and injected in to haemorrhoids.11 This practice is typically seen in South-East Asia, but is still used in Europe to date. Almond oil is commonly used in otolaryngology for conditions affecting the outer ear such as otosclerosis once again for its anti-sclerosant properties. More recently, Cayce, an American holistic practitioner recommended that almonds should be included in the staple diet as he claimed health beneﬁts including improved complexion, improved movement of food through the colon and the prevention of cancer were attributable to almonds and their consumption.1 6. Conclusion Throughout history the use of natural remedies have delineated the basis of medical treatment and therapies which have been in some cases mass produced as pharmacological agents12–22;
examples include peppermint oil which has been shown in multiple studies to improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improve overall gastrointestinal bowel transit.12,13,19 Other substances such as the psyllium seed has been shown to improve constipation, and guar gum which has been used to manage critically ill patients with diarrhoea by optimising their nutrition.14–19 Almond oil is a unique substance with multifaceted properties, which if studied and harnessed appropriately, could offer better results postoperatively by minimising scars and contractures together with improving skin tone and complexion. Further study is suggested to explore its uses from this standpoint.
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