Almonds (botanical name Prunus amygdalus) are the oldest and most widely grown of all the nut crops. Whole almond seeds are eaten raw or roasted, while almond oil is used as massage oil for alleviating dryness in the skin and scalp hair. Almonds are highly regarded in Ayurveda for their nutritional value and Vata – pacifying (Air element-pacifying) effect.
What’s in an almond?
When consumed in moderation, up to ten nuts a day, almonds provide essential proteins and Vitamin E for the body. They are rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and manganese. If taken in excess, they can cause vitiation in the balance of the 3 doshas, thereby leading to gastrointestinal disturbances.
What does an almond do?
Sweet almonds which possess a mild sweet taste and hot potency are the best for pacifying Vata dosha (Air-element) in the human body. As per the science of Ayurveda, almonds lubricate the skin and the micro-circulatory channels and support all the seven dhatus (tissues), especially Shukra dhatu (reproductive tissues) and the Ojas (the overall vitality). Due to their heavy nature, one needs a strong jataara agni (digestive fire), to metabolize them.
How are almonds to be consumed?
The outer skin of almonds can be hard to digest, so Ayurvedic texts suggest prior soaking in water. The best way to prepare them is to soak them overnight and peel the skin off in the morning. This enhances their digestibility to a great extent. If eaten without soaking, they can aggravate Pitta (fire element) in the blood.
In cases of a dry cough (cough not associated with phlegm), dryness of mouth or hoarseness of voice, one can take peeled almonds (which previously have been soaked overnight), and roast them in a small amount of cow’s ghee (clarified butter), until they turn slightly brown and give off their characteristic aroma. They can also be sprinkled with a pinch of table salt. Consumed thus, they give immediate relief.
For a rejuvenated and clear face, a homemade face pack can be used. For making this pack, three to four almonds which have been soaked overnight are taken and made into a paste. To this, milk cream and a teaspoon of sandal powder are added and mixed in a bowl. This paste is applied as a face pack and left until dry. It is then washed off to leave the skin looking fresh and glowing. This can be attributed to the Vitamin E content and the skin penetrating effect of almonds.
Almonds can prove very beneficial for pregnant women for maintaining their health and aiding in foetal development. The combination of 2-3 soaked and peeled almonds, a little red sugar candy and a little saffron, ground well, can be taken along with cold milk every night for optimum results.
Almonds also contain several nutrients than can help to enhance memory and improve brain function. They can be especially beneficial for growing children. A traditional way to incorporate almonds into their daily diet is to consume them in the form of almond milk. It is a much more delicious and healthy alternative to many of the off-the-shelf packaged drinks and easy to make.
Eight to ten almonds are taken and soaked overnight. The peeled almonds are blended along with milk in a mixer/grinder and sweetened with jaggery or honey. One can also add cardamom powder and saffron to it for additional flavor.
Thus almonds offer a host of benefits, and can form an important part of a sattvic diet.