Bitter Almond Oil

Bitter Almond Oil (Amygdalus communis/amara)


By Hwaa Irfan


The word “almond” comes from the Greek amygdalos an indicated in its Latin botanical name, whereas al-lawz is reflected in other languages, including Maltese – lewz, and Swahili – lozi. In Farsi, and in the S Sanskrit almonds are called badam, in  Turkish badem, and in Albania bajame. In Portuguese we find almonds are called doce, dolc in Catalan, tihm hahng yahn in Cantonese, and in Russian sladki.


Almonds are of the same tribe of the plant kingdom, the Rosaceae family as plums and peaches as indicated by their seeds. Of course, there are many varieties, which generally fall into two types, sweet and bitter. Of the finest are the Jordanian almonds (sweet). Almond oil is extracted from both the sweet and the bitter almond with the bitter almonds only for external use. A profusion of delicate flowers hang from the Almond tree, which can grow as tall as 30ft., is native to West Asia and North Africa, but can be found cultivated for commercial use around the Mediterranean, and growing freely in Syria and Palestine. Introduced to Europe by the Romans, and could be found in gardens of England during the time of Shakespeare. The oil was being used in Greece and Italy long before it became a culinary delight, and a commodity in Central Europe during the Middle Ages.


Commercial cultivation occurs mainly in Spain, Sicily, Southern Italy, Portugal, South of France, Morocco, and the Balearic Islands. The best bitter almond is produced by Sicily, North Africa, and southern France. Unlike Sweet Almonds, bitter almonds are mainly used for their oil, and as a flavoring agent.


Good quality bitter almond oil appears slightly golden-yellow in color, and is relatively odorless. It is expressed, and it takes 5lb. of almonds to make ⅟₂ ounce of essential oil.


Like most essential oils, one can find adulterated bitter almond oil, often with sweet almond. This might seem unimportant, but any adulteration reduces the therapeutic-medicinal affect. It can also be adulterated with oil from the same family, e.g. apricot. It can also be adulterated with synthetic benzaldehyde.


Chemical Properties


Almond oil is similar in composition to olive oil. It has over ? compounds some of which are:

·        Amygdalin/laetrile (laetrile is actually chemically different to amygdalin, and is often referred to as amygdalin.

·        Emulsin

·        Benzaldehyde (essential oil)

·        Prussic acid

·        Olein

·        Linolic acid

·        Laccase

·        Hydrocyanic acid/prussic acid

·        Betulinic acid

·        Ursolic acid

·        Corosolic acid

·        Protocatechuic acid

·        Maslinic acid

·        P-Hydrobenzoic acid

·        Vanillic acid

·        Quercetin

·        Isorhamnetin

·        Quercitrin

·        Kaemferol

·        Morin

·        Methyquercitin

·        Catechin

·        Resveratrol

Because of the oils ability to soften the hands, it is used much in the production of toilet soap, but it also used in trade as a good lubricant. The chemical amygdalin was first isolated as far back as 1830 by French chemists, and was identified as an anti-carcinogen by Russian chemists in 1845. A derivative of amygdalin is laetrile, which is now banned in the U.S. With hydrocyanic acid, toxicity forms when combined with the enzyme beta-glucuronidase, which is present in the human intestines, thus becoming toxic when consumed in large amounts – ⅟₂₀th gram is lethal for adults!

Therapeutic Qualities

The refreshing floral aroma is affective in cases of depression, and suppressed emotions, and adds an uplifting feeling to the atmosphere when burnt applied as vapor therapy or through a diffuser.


  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-carcinogen
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Aperient
  • Diuretic
  • Sedative
  • Vermifuge
  • Febrifuge
  • Spasmolytic

For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents

This oil possesses a strong synergy with the skin, and can be found widely used in moisturizing creams, anti-ageing creams, sunscreens, and skin cleansers.


The antioxidant properties, which include quercetin, isorhamnetin, quercitrin, kaemferol, and morin, are strong antioxidants, prevents the proliferation of the HIV virus, as well as in general cellular deterioration, and the build of plaque on the walls of the arteries. The triterpenoids: betulinic acid, oleic acid, and ursolic acid are also strong anti-inflammatories, and anti-HIV and cancer.


As a vermifuge bitter almond oil kills worms, and as an antibacterial, anti-fungal, bitter almond oil kills bacterial and fungal infections.


As anti-inflammatory, bitter almond oil desensitizes (as an anaesthetic) the area of the inflammation.


As a diuretic the flow of urine is increased to release the body of excess water, salt and fats from the body as well as toxins. The bitters in almond acts as a febrifuge; thus reducing temperature, and preventing the spread of infections present. Spasms are eased.


Added to massage oils, bitter almond oil hydrates the skin, prevents wrinkles, and eases darkening of areas of the skin.



·        Aging skin

·        Skin/hair infections

·        Bacterial/fungal infections

·        Inflammations

·        Insomnia

·        Muscular spasms



This is one oil that should be mixed when used on the body, by adding one drop of bitter almond oil to 1 ounce of emulsion/carrier oil. The British Pharmacopeia urges the use of Jordanian almonds over bitter almonds. It should be avoided by children, pregnant women, and those on anti-seizure medication.




Can be used in the form of vapor therapy in the form of an oil burner, diffuser, or pillow/cushion.


Cannot be ingested due to its toxicity


Can be added to a carrier oil (e.g. wheat germ, sesame, jojoba, grapeseed) for dilution as a massage oil or oil face mask.


Can be added to an emulsion (cream) for the purpose of the skin and hair.







“Amygdala Amara: Bitter Almond”.

Felter, H. W, and Lloyd, J. “Amydala – Almond”. King’s American Dispensatory, 1898



It All Makes Good Scents!
Amber Oil
Angelica Root Oil
Anise Oil
Basil Oil
Bay Oil
Bergamot Oil 




4 thoughts on “Bitter Almond Oil

    • As with most skin conditions, there is usually an emotionaly element behind it… so far it has been found that element is one of anxiety. If one’s skin condition flares up in hot weather, then if one looks at how one feels about the hot weather, one might be able to identify the stressor… If one sits alone with that feeling and let it take one to the original cause, once one has identified it then one is more able to find a more long term solution. An illness always presents us with the opportunity to correct a deeper problem. When one only deals with the symptom, in this case Rosacea, the problem will only keep re-occurring or get worse depending on what one used to treat the symptom! Hope you find this helpful Leonila…;-)

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