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Almond essential oil is extracted from both bitter and sweet almond kernels. The oil is native to the Mediterranean climate of the Middle East, but is cultivated throughout the world and is used on skin, in cooking, and for aromatherapy. There can be some mild side effects in the consumption of sweet almond oil for diabetics or people who are taking medication to monitor blood sugar, but in most cases raw sweet almond oil has been found to be quite safe. On the other hand, bitter almond essential oil in its raw state does contain the toxin Amygdalin, which is used in the creation of cyanide. For this reason, bitter almond oil should be out of the oil before it can be used.
These two types of almond oil do come from two different trees. The sweet almond tree is the prunus dulcis amygdalus, and produces the almonds many people like to eat. Prunus dulcis amara produces the almonds that bitter almond oil is extracted from.
Among the uses for almond essential oil, skin care is the most popular. Sweet almond oil is commonly used in natural skin-care products, as it is able to moisturize without clogging pores. It can also be used in massage oils since it generally has a soothing scent. Bitter almond oil is typically used only for its stronger scent in aromatherapy products, or its flavor in other products.
Holistic practitioners may also recommend almond essential oil as a natural and mild laxative. Some natural blends will contain almond oil for daily use to soften stool and treat constipation. Certain injectable drug medications may also use sweet almond oil as a carrier, if the medicine deteriorates in water.
Other uses for almond essential oil include cooking, wood conditioning, and lubrication of working pieces of machinery. In cooking, the oil is used for its flavor and as a good source of protein. Wood absorbs the oil; therefore, it is often used to oil woodwind instruments, such as the oboe. Small metal-working devices, such as watches, have been known to utilize almond oil for lubrication, because certain chemicals in other lubricants might harm the device.
As with most homeopathic remedies, there is not sufficient clinical data from scientific research to prove most of the health-benefit claims of almond essential oil. Most sources agree it is a mild oil that is beneficial to all skin types and may be beneficial if ingested, but the possibility of side effects differs slightly from one source to the other. Almond essential oil’s most prominent side effect is in people who have almond allergies and typically need to avoid it on the skin or in food.