Almond Tree

Synonyms: Sweet Almond
Scientific Name: Prunus dulcis (Mill.)
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Habitat

Subtropical China and Asia Minor

Constituents

54% fatty oil containing oleic acid, linoleic acid and palmitic acid, protein, enzymes.

Description

Almonds likely bring to mind the edible almond kernel we enjoy as a snack, in salads, deserts and candies. But how much do we know about the bare, frost-sensitive tree that bears the nut? The first surprise: the almond tree with its grey bark belongs to the rose family and is thus closely related to the cherry, peach and apricot. We can see this relationship when we look at the tree's pink flowers which appear as early as January in Mediterranean countries. The second surprise: the almond kernel or nut is actually the almond seed inside the 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. Further linking the almond and peach, peach kernels are used to make an imitation marzipan called persipan.

Uses

Containing 18% protein, 16% carbohydrates and 54% fat, plus many minerals and vitamins, particularly of the B group, almonds are a meal in themselves and taste equally good eaten in nut form or as an almond spread. The almond oil expressed from the seeds is a mild skin care oil with strong moisturizing properties. Almond meal, the residue left after expressing the oil, is a gentle skin cleanser.

Related to the sweet almond are the bitter almond and the soft-shelled almond. The latter is also edible, like the sweet almond, whereas the bitter almond contains the poisonous glycoside amygdalin from which cyanide is formed in the intestine. Bitter almond oil, from which amygdalin has been chemically removed, is an aromatic flavoring often used by pastry cooks and cosmetic manufacturers.

The ancient Greek physician The ancient Greek physician Dioscurides believed the bitter almond could heal practically all ills: used externally it would drive away "sun spots in the face."

An extract of the root bark is beneficial for congestion of the liver and insufficient bile production, lack of appetite, constipation caused by a lack of bile, and dry skin diseases. Jam or juice made from the ripe fruits stimulates the appetite. Homeopathy uses potentized extracts of the roots to supplement treatment of disorders of the renal pelvis, hemorrhoids and rheumatic diseases.

induce menstruation, relieve headaches and heal sores. Used internally, it was said to relieve pain, stimulate elimination of water, soften the stomach, promote sleep, help relieve coughs, liver disorders and flatulence... The list is endless.

Interesting Facts

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 generic name Prunus is derived from the Greek "proumon" meaning plum, the almond's relative. The specific epithet dulcis, meaning sweet, refers to the taste of the kernels.

Almonds readily grew during the stone age and their cultivation is thought to date 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 1500 to 1600 BC, the almond tree made its way from its native Asia through Persia to Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. In the 5th century, it travelled further west to Greece and 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 developed from a drop of blood of the Greek

goddess Kybele, 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 of his daughter's behaviour, accused her of theft and had her executed. Allah then transformed the dead princess to the almond tree, giving the country's people sustenance year after year.

The Bible contains several references to the almond, often citing its early blossoming as a sign of awakening. The six-branched candlestick of the biblical Tabernacle, 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," from 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,

which is additionally flavored with cardamom and traditionally eaten 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 "confections" were prepared with sugar to make the bitter medicine more palatable. Marzipan was also known as "heart sugar." Gradually, almond's pleasant taste came to take precedence over its medicinal usage and the almond confection moved from being a medicine to a sweetmeat. In medieval cooking, almonds were not only contained in sweet dishes: savory meat and fish dishes were also prepared with almonds.

The almond tree also gives off a resin which can be collected in the form of tears. In Ancient Greece, these resin tears were burnt as incense to ward off disease and evil spirits. The fine fragrance disinfects, purifies and clarifies.

The Plant at Dr. Hauschka Skin Care

The almonds used for Dr. Hauschka Skin Care products are certified organic, predominently grown biodynamically in Spain. The almond oil is cold pressed in Germany in a traditional oil mill and ground to almond meal. The mild almond oil has a good slip and glide and is taken up slowly by the skin, making it a good conditioning base in Dr. Hauschka Daily Hydrating Eye Cream, Quince Day Cream, Revitalizing Day Cream, Cleansing Cream, Clarifying Day Oil, Hydrating Hand Cream, Lip Care Stick, Lipstick, Sheer LipstickSoothing Cleansing Milk, Rose Nurturing Body Cream, Almond Soothing Body Cream, Rose Day Cream light, Regenerating Day Cream, Regenerating Neck and Décolleté Cream, Regenerating Body CreamFirming Mask, Tinted Day Cream, ConcealerLight Reflecting Concealer and Almond St. John'swort Body Oil. In Cleansing Cream, almond meal binds to dirt particles, gently cleansing the skin.

The almonds used for Dr. Hauschka Skin Care products are certified organic, predominently grown biodynamically in Spain. The almond oil is cold pressed in Germany in a traditional oil mill and ground to almond meal.

♦♦♦♦