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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Glycosides

Almond oil is a fixed oil obtained by expression from the seeds of Prunus amygdalus (Rosaceae) var. dulcis (sweet almonds), or P. amygdalus var. amara (bitter almonds).




Biological Source


Almond oil is a fixed oil obtained by expression from the seeds of Prunus amygdalus (Rosaceae) var. dulcis (sweet almonds), or P. amygdalus var. amara (bitter almonds).


Geographical Source


The oil is mainly produced from almonds grown in the countries bordering the Mediterranean (Italy, France, Syria, Spain and North Africa) and Iran.




Almond trees are about 5 m in height. The young fruits have a soft, felt-like pericarp, the inner part of which gradu ally becomes sclerenchymatous as the fruit ripens to form a pitted endocarp or shell. The shells, consisting mainly of sclerenchymatous cells, are sometimes ground and used to adulterate powdered drugs.


The sweet almond is 2–3 cm in length, rounded at one end and pointed at the other. The bitter almond is 1.5–2 cm in length but of similar breadth to the sweet almond. Both varieties have a thin, cinnamon-brown testa which is easily removed after soaking in warm water. The oily kernel consists of two large, oily planoconvex cotyledons, and a small plumule and radicle, the latter lying at the pointed end of the seed. Some almonds have cotyledons of unequal sizes and are irregularly folded. Bitter almonds are found in samples of sweet almonds; their presence may be detected by the sodium picrate test for cyanogenetic glycosides.


                (a) Bitter almond, and (b) Sweet almond

Chemical Constituents


Both varieties of almond contain 40–55% of fixed oil, about 20% of proteins, mucilage and emulsin. The bitter almonds contain in addition 2.5–4.0% of the colourless, crystalline, cyanogenelic glycoside amygdalin.


Almond oil is obtained by grinding the seeds and express-ing, them in canvas bags between slightly heated iron plates. The oil is clarified by subsidence and filtration. It is a pale yellow liquid with a slight odour and bland nutty taste. It contains olein, with smaller quantities of the glycosides of linoleic and other acids. Bitter almonds, after maceration on hydrolysis of amygdalin yield a volatile oil that is used as a flavoring agent. Sweet almonds are extensively used as a food, but bitter almonds are not suitable for this purpose.


Essential or volatile oil of almonds is obtained from the cake left after expressing bitter almonds. This is macerated with water for some hours to allow hydrolysis of the amygdalin to take place. The benzaldehyde and hydrocyanic acid are then separated by stem distillation.


Almond oil consists of a mixture of glycerides of oleic (62–86%), linoleic (17%), palmitic (5%), myristic (1%), palmitoleic, margaric, stearic, linolenic, arachidic, gadoleic, behenic and erucic acid. Bitter almond oil contains benzaldehyde and 2–4% of hydrocyanic acid. Purified volatile oil of bitter almonds has all its hydrocyanic acid removed and, therefore, consists mainly of benzaldehyde. The unsaponifi-able matter contains β-sitosterol, ∆5-avenasterol, cholesterol, brassicasterol and tocopherols.




Expressed almond oil is an emollient and an ingredient in cosmetics. Almond oil is used as a laxative, emollient, in the preparation of toilet articles and as a vehicle for oily injections. The volatile almond oils are used as flavouring agents.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparations known as Baidyanath lal tail (Baidyanath Company), Himcolin gel, Mentat, Tentex Royal (Himalaya Drug Company) and Sage badam roghan (Sage Herbals).


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