|Profile For Sweet Almond Oil|
Latin name: Prunus dulcis. Aroma: Delicate, sweet and practically odourless. Colour: Virtually clear, with a hint of pale yellow.
Method of extraction: This oil is obtained by cold pressing the kernels. The best quality oil is obtained by cold pressing.
Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6 and E.
About the plant and its environment: The almond tree is indigenous to the Middle East, and is now cultivated in the supportive warm climates of the Mediterranean countries and California. It is an ancient tree, which has been cultivated for thousands of years.
Almonds were prized by the Greeks, who introduced them to southern Europe. The trees were grown in Italy for hundreds of years before they spread to France in the 8th century and on to Britain some 800 years later. The tree is small, reaching only 3-7 metres (10-23 feet) in height and bears white or pink blossom in the springtime, which appears at about the same time as the leaves begin to show. The fruits have a light-green, furry outer skin and have the appearance of a small, green apricot.
About the oil: Sweet almond oil is one of the most used carrier oils; it is pale yellow in colour, slightly viscous and very oily. In pharmacy, almond oil means strictly the oil of Prunus amygdalis, although the oils of the peach kernel (Prunus persica), apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca) and hazelnut are chemically similar. Indeed, it is a difficult matter to discriminate between these, both chemically and physically. An advantage that these oils have over some others is that they have less of a tendency to become rancid.
Therapeutic properties (internal use): Sweet almond oil is said to be effective in reducing blood cholesterol levels.
Therapeutic properties (external use):
- an excellent emollient, alleviating and nourishing dry skin.
- helps to sooth inflammation.
- beneficial in relieving the itching caused by eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and all cases of dry scaly skin.
- has been used to ease irritation on baby's bottoms.
- soothes sunburn.
Pharmacological studies reveal that sweet almond oil is absorbed slowly through the skin. Sweet almond oil can be used for massage.
Folk-lore and traditional plant uses: Almonds were very popular in Elizabethan England soon after they were introduced into the country and were much used in cookery, which often also included almond water. Sweet almond seed or seed oil has been used as a folk cancer remedy for bladder, breast, mouth, spleen and uterine cancers, among others says that the expressed oil is useful in bronchial diseases, tickling coughs, hoarseness, nephritic pains etc.
Carrier Oils General Information
Essential oils are concentrated and powerful and most cannot be used directly on the skin or they will cause irritation. Because of there concentration they need to be diluted in what are called 'carriers'. Most carrier oils are simply used for lubrication, but a few have therapeutic properties of their own, which can be chosen to complement those of the essential oils used with them. For example, peach kernel, apricot kernel and particularly avocado oil are all rich and nourishing and help dry and ageing skins. Wheatgerm oil (rich in Vitamin E) is used to reduce scar tissue after injury or operations and also facial scarring caused by severe acne. Wheatgerm is also a natural antioxidant which helps to prevent other oils from becoming rancid (i.e. oxidising). Small amounts (up to 10%) will improve the keeping ability of any other oil by two or three months.
Cold Pressed Oils - Cold pressed vegetable oils are the best and are generally superiour oils. In the cold pressing process, excessive heat is avoided in order to minimise changes to the natural characteristics of the oil.
Traditionally, there are two methods of cold pressing. In one, the raw material (seeds, nuts or kernels) is simply pressed with a hydraulic press and the oil is squeezed out. This process is only used for soft oily seeds and plant material such as olive, sesame and sunflower etc.
Harder seeds, such as safflower, require more force and a large, powerful screw device known as an expeller is used to crush the plant material, which may be passed through the expeller more than once. The crushed shells, etc are removed from the oil by a succession of filters, the last of which is made of paper. The oil obtained is usually clear (avocado is an exception as it is usually cloudy, especially in cold conditions) and has its taste and nutritional properties intact.
Macerated Oils - Macerated oils have additional properties to all the vegetable oils described because of the way they are produced. Particular parts of certain plants are chopped up and added to a selected carrier oil (usually sunflower or olive) and the mix is agitated gently for some time before placing in strong sunlight for several days. All of the oil-soluble compounds present in the plant material (including the essential oil chemicals) are transferred to the carrier oil, which consequently contains extra therapeutic properties. The macerated mixture is then filtered carefully to remove all the added plant material.
Organic Vegetable Oils - Strictly speaking, organic oils can only be produced from organically grown plant material using approved processes. The rules for organic processing generally exclude the use of chemicals, and a truly organic fixed oil is obtained only from plants which are both organically grown and organically processed.
Vegetable Oils - Vegetable oils constitute the bulk of the mix used to perform an aromatherapy massage. There function is to carry or act as a vehicle for administering the essential oils to the body, hence the term carrier oil. They also act as a lubricant, making it possible to carry out massage movements. All carrier oils are emollient, to a greater or lesser degree.
Basic Vegetable Oils - Sweet almond, apricot kernel, grapeseed, peach kernel and sunflower are among the most common carrier oils, and can be used with or without essential oils for a straightfoward body massage. They are generally pale in colour, not too thick and have very little smell.
Special Vegetable Oils - Certain vegetable oils tend to be more viscous and heavier than basic ones, and can be rather expensive. These include avocado, olive, sesame, rose hip and wheatgerm. The really rich oils such as avocado and wheatgerm are seldom, if ever used on their own. It is more usual to add 10-25% of these two to 75-90% of a basic carrier oil.
Massage Carrier Oils
For massage with essential oils use a carrier oil made specifically for that use. These are all extracted by cold-pressing, ie they are put under high pressure in their natural, raw state when first harvested to squeeze out the oil, and neither heat nor steam is used in the process. This retains the nutrients in the oils ( the proteins, minerals, vitamins, etc) that allow them to be readily absorbed by the skin. Virtually any vegetable oil can be used as a carrier, but anything other than a specific massage carrier will have several drawbacks. All will be too heavy to be easily absorbed by the skin, and most are not cold-pressed and will often contain additives, flavorings or colouring. Ordinary vegetable oils have little or no therapeutic value in themselves, whereas massage carriers will have their own benefits. Baby oils and other mineral oils are not suitable for aromatherapy massage as they are specifically made to lie on the surface of the skin and will not be absorbed.
There are several different massage carrier oils produced, but we have detailed here the most often used carrier oils:
- Sweet Almond
- Peach Kernel
- Evening Primrose
Carrier Oils Storage Information
All oils, essential and carrier, have a limited 'shelf life' and over time will degenerate by oxidisation and become rancid. Adding Wheatgerm to any blend will extend its life, and a blend with essential oils will keep for longer than the carrier alone. The best method is to mix only as much as you will use for one treatment.