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Updated 18 February 2013

Sweet almond (Prunus amygdalus dulcis)

The almond is closely related to the peach, apricot, and cherry (all classified as drupes). Unlike the others, however, the outer layer of the almond is not edible. The edible portion of the almond is the seed.

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Note: Sweet almond should not be confused with bitter almond, which contains amygdalin and can be broken down into the poisonous substance hydrocyanic acid (cyanide).

BACKGROUND

The almond is closely related to the peach, apricot, and cherry (all classified as drupes). Unlike the others, however, the outer layer of the almond is not edible. The edible portion of the almond is the seed.

Sweet almonds are a popular nutritious food. Researchers are especially interested in their level of monounsaturated fats, as these appear to have a beneficial effect on blood lipids.

Almond oil is widely used in lotions and cosmetics.

EVIDENCE TABLE

Conditions

Uses
disclaimer: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Grade*

High cholesterol (whole almonds)

Early studies in humans and animals report that whole almonds may lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL/"bad" cholesterol) and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL/"good" cholesterol"). It is not clear what dose may be safe or effective.

B

Anxiety (in palliative care patients)

It is unclear whether sweet almond improves anxiety in palliative care patients, but more research investigating sweet almond as the active treatment is needed to make a firm recommendation.

C

Radiation therapy skin reactions (used on the skin)

In preliminary study, an ointment made of sweet almond has not shown a benefit when applied to the skin of patients treated with radiation.

D

*Key to grades: A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

TRADITION

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below. Antibacterial, aphrodisiac, bladder cancer, breast cancer, chapped lips, colon cancer, dilution of injected medications, heart disease, increasing sperm count, mild laxative, mouth and throat cancers, plant-derived estrogen, skin moisturizer, uterine cancer.

DOSING

disclaimer: The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (over 18 years old)

Studies have used 84 to 100 grams of whole almonds daily by mouth with no reported side effects to treat high cholesterol. As a laxative, 30 milliliters of sweet almond oil daily by mouth has been used.

Children (under 18 years old)

Little information is available for the use of sweet almonds in children, aside from the amounts normally eaten in the diet.

SAFETY

disclaimer: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

Allergies to almonds are common and can lead to severe reactions, including oral allergic syndrome (OAS), swelling of the lips and face, and closure of the throat. People who are allergic to one type of nut may also be allergic to other nuts. Avoid use in anyone with known allergy to almonds, almond products, or other nuts.

Side Effects and Warnings

In most reports, sweet almond is generally considered to be safe when taken by mouth. Sweet almond may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.

Sweet almond may have estrogen-like activity. A study in mice reports hair loss and inflammation in the leg joints. There is a report of a fat embolism (fat bubbles traveling through the bloodstream, which is potentially dangerous) due to injection of almond oil into the penis.

Theoretically, increased intake of almonds (and therefore increased intake of unsaturated fat) can lead to weight gain. However, one study reports that consuming approximately 320 calories of almonds daily for six months does not lead to statistically or biologically significant average changes in body weight and does increase the consumption of unsaturated fats.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There is little information about the use of sweet almond during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It appears that almonds in regular dietary intake are safe for most non-allergic individuals.

INTERACTIONS

disclaimer: Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

Based on animal studies, sweet almond may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

Theoretically, almonds and cholesterol-lowering agents may have additive effects when taken together. Sweet almond may also interact with drugs taken for cardiovascular conditions, fertility, or estrogen activity.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Based on animal studies, sweet almond may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

Theoretically, almonds may add to the effects of herbs or supplements that lower blood cholesterol levels, such as fish oil, garlic, guggul, or niacin.

Sweet almond may also interact with agents taken for cardiovascular conditions, fertility, or estrogen activity.

ATTRIBUTION

This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

  • Abbey M, Noakes M, Belling GB, et al. Partial replacement of saturated fatty acids with almonds or walnuts lowers total plasma cholesterol and low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59(5):995-999. View abstract
  • Clemetson CA, de Carlo SJ, Burney GA, et al. Estrogens in food: the almond mystery. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 1978;15(6):515-521. View abstract
  • Evans S, Skea D, Dolovich J. Fatal reaction to peanut antigen in almond icing. CMAJ 1988;139(3):231-232. View abstract
  • Fleischauer AT, Arab L. Garlic and cancer: a critical review of the epidemiologic literature. J Nutr 2001;131(3s):1032S-1040S. View abstract
  • Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ 1998;317(7169):1341-1345. View abstract
  • Hyson DA, Schneeman BO, Davis PA. Almonds and Almond Oil Have Similar Effects on Plasma Lipids and LDL Oxidation in Healthy Men and Women. J Nutr 2002;132(4):703-707. View abstract
  • Kyle G. Evaluating the effectiveness of aromatherapy in reducing levels of anxiety in palliative care patients: results of a pilot study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2006 May;12(2):148-55. View abstract
  • Maiche AG, Grohn P, Maki-Hokkonen H. Effect of chamomile cream and almond ointment on acute radiation skin reaction. Acta Oncol 1991;30(3):395-396. View abstract
  • Schade JE, McGreevy K, King AD, Jr., et al. Incidence of aflatoxin in California almonds. Appl Microbiol 1975;29(1):48-53. View abstract
  • Spiller GA, Jenkins DA, Bosello O, et al. Nuts and plasma lipids: an almond-based diet lowers LDL-C while preserving HDL-C. J Am Coll Nutr 1998;17(3):285-290. View abstract
  • Teotia S, Singh M, Pant MC. Effect of Prunus amygdalus seeds on lipid profile. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 1997;41(4):383-389. View abstract
  • Thomas P, Boussuges A, Gainnier M, et al. [Fat embolism after intrapenile injection of sweet almond oil]. Rev Mal Respir 1998;15(3):307-308. View abstract
disclaimer: Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2011 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions. disclaimer: While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy. disclaimer: The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)



Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
 
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