Synonyms: Sweet Almond
Scientific Name: Prunus dulcis (Mill.)
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Subtropical China and Asia Minor
54% fatty oil containing oleic acid, linoleic acid and palmitic acid, protein, enzymes.
When we think of almonds, several things come to mind: snow and candlelight, marzipan and macaroons, for example. Or perhaps snacks of nuts and raisins or breakfast granola. But whatever the context, what we picture in our mind's eye is the edible almond kernel. But what about the plant that produces it? The first surprise: the bare, frost-sensitive almond tree with its grey bark reaching up to 26 foot tall, belongs to the rose family and is closely related to the cherry, peach, apricot and of course, the rose. We can see its relationship to the rose family when we look at the pink flowers with yellow stamens which appear as early as January in Mediterranean countries. The second revelation: the almond kernels we eat are actually a seed found inside a hard shell or pit. The robust pit is enclosed in the dry, green, bitter and inedible fruit. The almond kernel corresponds to the kernel inside a peach pit or stone. Incidentally, peach kernels are used to make an imitation marzipan called persipan.
Almonds are a meal in themselves containing 18% protein, 16% carbohydrates and 54% fat, plus many minerals and vitamins, particularly of the B group. Almonds taste equally good eaten as they are or in the form of almond butter. In the old days they used to be given to children for coughs. The almond oil expressed from the seeds is a gentle oil for skin care with good moisturizing properties. Almond meal, the residue left after expressing the oil, is a gentle skin cleanser.
Apart from the sweet almonds, there are two other varieties: the bitter almond and the soft-shelled almond. The soft shelled variety is also edible, like the sweet almond, whereas the bitter almond contains the toxic glycoside amygdalin which forms cyanide in the intestine. Once the amygdalin has been chemically removed, bittler almond oil is used as an aromatic flavouring and scent by pastry cooks and skin care manufacturers.
Dioscurides, the ancient Greek master herbalist and physician, believed the bitter almond could heal practically all ills: externally he beleived it could fade sun spots in the face, and recommended it for a plethora of other uses. Internally it was thought to relieve pain, promote sleep, help reduce coughs and flatulence... The list is endless.
All names for the almond in European languages are derived from the Greek amygdale or amygdalos. The origin of this word is no longer known. The prefix al- in the Iberian names (e.g. Spanish almendra) is the imported Arabic article al or el which found its way into many scientific terms during the Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula. The genus name Prunus is derived from the Greek 'proumon', meaning plum, an almond relative. The species name dulcis means sweet, and refers to the taste of the kernels.
Almonds were already grown in the stone age and their cultivation is thought to go back to the Bronze age. The almond is probably the oldest cultivated fruit of the Old World with a success story that continues right up to the present day. In the 17th to 16th century before the birth of Christ the almond tree made its way from its native Asia via Persia to Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. In the 5th century it then travelled further to Greece and to the Roman Empire. Charlemagne contributed significantly to the spread of the almond tree and today we can no longer imagine Mediterranean countries without it. It is seen there as a symbol of vigilance and rebirth because it blossoms in January.
Ancient Greece in particular is the source of many legends in which the almond tree plays a role. In one, the almond is said to have sprouted from a drop of blood of the Greek goddess Cybele, the mother of the gods, who was originally the goddess of the mountains and of fertility in Asia Minor. In other accounts the almond tree is said to have developed from the male half of a hermaphroditic being created by Zeus.
There is an almond tree fairy tale from Morocco in which, the beautiful princess Hatim had such a kind heart that she took money from her father's coffers and gave it to the poorest of her country. The king, having no understanding for his daughter's behavior, accused her of theft and had her executed. Allah understood Hatim's action and transformed the martyred princess into an almond tree which fed the country's people with almonds year after year.
The Bible contains several references to the almond, often because of its early blossoming as a sign of awakening. The six-branched candlestick of the biblical Tabernacle, symbol of the meeting place of God with Moses and his people, is modelled on an almond tree. Later, in Christianity, the almond was seen as a symbol of the immaculate conception. Christ was conceived in Maria as the almond kernel is formed in the still untouched almond (Konrad von Würzburg, 13th century). The almond is probably best known in the form of marzipan, which came originally from the orient and was traditionally made of almonds, sugar and rose water. Baghlaba is the Persian variety additionally flavoured with cardamom and traditionally eaten there during the four-week festivities in celebration of the New Year. In 16th century Germany the production of marzipan was the province of the pharmacists whose confectiones were only prepared with sugar to make the bitter medicine more pleasant-tasting. Marzipan was also known as heart sugar. Gradually the pleasant taste came to take precedence over the medicinal action and the almond confection moved from being a medicine to a sweetmeat. In medieval cooking, almonds were not only found in sweet dishes: meat and fish dishes were also prepared with almonds.
The almond tree gives off a resin which can be collected in the form of tears. In Ancient Greece these resin tears were burnt as incense in the belief they could ward off disease and evil spirits. The fine fragrance has a purifying and clarifying quality.
The plant in our products
The almonds used in Dr. Hauschka skin care products are organically certified, predominently grown using Demeter-certfied biodynamic farming and bought by WALA in Spain. In Germany they are processed in a traditionally operated oil mill to express the almond oil after which the pulp is ground to almond meal. The mild almond oil has a good slip and glide and is absorbed slowly by the skin. The oil is used in the moisturizing base formulation of:
Almond meal binds to dirt particles, lifting them away to gently cleanse the skin. It is found in:
Extracted by soaking almond meal in water and pressing, almond milk has fortifying and nurturing properties. It is found in: