Health Benefits of Bitter Almond Essential Oil
The health benefits of bitter almond essential oil can be attributed to its properties like vermifuge, febrifuge, bactericidal, germicidal, fungicidal, sedative, anesthetic, aperient, diuretic, anti intoxicating, anti carcinogenic, antispasmodic etc.
The fifty percent of the oil obtained from bitter almond (scientifically known as amygdalus communis var. amara) contains three basic components, namely, benzaldehyde, glycoside amygdalin and hydrogen cyanide (also known as hydrocyanic acid or prussic acid) while the rest fifty percent contains monounsaturated fatty acids and other components similar to those in sweet almonds. It is very difficult to distinguish bitter almonds from their sweet counterparts just by appearance, except that the bitter almonds are broader and shorter in shape than the sweet almonds.
Bitter almond oil houses some deadly poisons and therefore should be used with utmost care. Most of its medicinal uses are restricted to external applications and internal applications, when needed, are done in very low doses. A little excess amount can be fatal. This oil cannot be called nutritious to health.
Health benefits of bitter almond essential oil
Bitter almond oil has various health benefits. Some of which include:
Febrifuge: As in practice since ages, the bitter elements (e.g. quinine) have always been used as febrifuges. The reason behind it might be that all bitter elements contain alkaline compounds and are more or less toxic in nature. This toxicity and bitterness effectively inhibit the growth of infections (form bacteria, protozoa, virus etc.) in the body, thereby reducing fever. For the same reason, bitter almond oil, in very low doses, has also been in use as a febrifuge for frequent fevers. Such applications, although beneficial from the point of view of lessening fever, have their own adverse and toxic effects on the body.
Vermifuge: The acute bitterness and the poisonous nature of bitter almond oil are very effective in killing intestinal worms, but again, it should be administered in very low potency.
Bactericidal, Germicidal, Fungicidal and Anti Viral: The two components of bitter almond oil, hydrogen cyanide and benzaldehyde, are extremely toxic to animal life as well as to bacteria, germs, fungi and virus and thus can be efficiently employed as a bactericide, anti viral and fungicide. So, it can be used in curing ailments associated with infections from virus, germs and fungus.
Sedative & Anesthetic: The toxic compound glycoside amygdalin, present in bitter almond oil, affect nerves and make them insensitive to any sensation (pain etc.), thus inducing numbness and anesthetic effects. But it should be applied externally for local anesthetic purpose only. Ingestion for total anesthetic purposes should never be attempted.
Aperient: Being toxic in nature, bitter almond oil cannot be digested and if ingested, cause frequent loose motions and vomiting. Thus it has been and is still in use as an effective purgative (Aperient). The only thing is that the dose given should be very low and mild or it may have severe adverse effects.
Diuretic: The body has a natural tendency to remove the toxic substances getting inside the body through sweat, urine and excreta. That is why when bitter almond oil is ingested in very small amount, the body tends to throw it out through frequent urination. This frequent urination helps lose weight and relaxes the body. When combined with the anesthetic and tranquilizing effects of this oil, it successfully brings down the blood pressure.
Anti-carcinogenic: Recent researches have shown that the toxicity of bitter almond oil (particularly due presence of hydrogen cyanide or hydrocyanic acid) is good on inhibiting growth of cancerous cells in certain cancer types.
Antispasmodic: Bitter almond oil is also said to possess antispasmodic properties.
Other Benefits: Application of very low concentration (very mild) mixture with water on skin and hair keeps them free from infections from germs, insects and fungi. Bitter Almond oil, after removal of the toxic components, is used for flavoring edibles. It is used in industries also mainly for flavoring purposes.
Few Words of Caution: Hydrogen cyanide is a deadly poison and so are glycoside amygdalin and benzaldehyde. So, extreme care should be taken in case of both internal and external applications. A small mistake or overdose can really be fatal. It should never be given to babies or children and the old and seriously ill people.
Blending: It blends with Cassia, Orange and Apricot Oil.
This article was contributed by Aparup Mukherjee