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Almond oil

The plant: The almond tree (Prunus amygdalus, Rosaceae) is a native of the eastern Mediterranean, but is now established in other warm countries. It was introduced to Britain during Roman times, and its nuts were a common ingredient in medieval cooking.

The oil: The fixed oils of almond are extracted from two types of almond tree, the bitter almond (P. amygdalus var. amara) and the sweet almond (P. amygdalus var. dulcis). Only the latter is used in therapy. The nuts contain about 50 - 60 per cent oil, which is also used in baking and confectionery.

The oil is a lovely clear pale yellow, more or less odourless with a slight nutty note. Olein is its principal constituent, with a tiny proportion of glyceride and linoleic acid. It has a definite action on the skin as a softening agent, being a good lubricant, nourishing and revitalizing. Shop-bought oils are often adulterated, so beware.

Its uses: An almond remedy is wonderful for dry, wrinkled hands, but is also very beneficial for eczema and skin irritations of any kind. Warm some almond oil gently in a bain-marie then dissolve in it the same amount of cocoa butter. Remove from the heat, mix until paste-like and apply to the hands. Put on some cotton gloves and allow the oil to penetrate for at least an hour (or overnight). back