Dear Pharmacist,April 23, 2011,
My dad used to eat almonds all the time, he said it helped with his headaches and joint pain. I inherited this condition, lucky me... and I’m not sure if they work or not but I eat them once a week. Is there any medicinal truth to the almond folklore?--C.P., Portland, Oregon
Answer: The National Headache Foundation identifies twenty types of headaches, ranging from simple tension headaches to the dreaded migraine. What they have in common is that they all drive you nuts to one extent or another. But research suggests that nuts is good—or “are” good, in this case. It’s been discovered that almonds, for instance, contain salicin which, when consumed, forms salicylic acid, the primary by-product of aspirin metabolization. We all know what aspirin’s for- don’t we? This is why your dad feels better eating them.
Anecdotal evidence has some headache sufferers claiming that eating almonds daily has a cumulative effect. In other words, regular headaches might become less severe and/or disappear gradually with regular consumption of almonds. Over time, eating 10 to 15 almonds per day might give you relief from that jackhammer in your head.
I say “might” because some people are allergic to salicin, an ingredient in almonds. So if your throat itches, or your tongue and lips swell whenever you eat almonds, then this regal little gem might not be for you. Otherwise, eat up. You can make or buy commercially prepared almond butter. Almond butter is a healthier (and tastier, I think) alternative to peanut butter. It also seems to be lest allergenic than peanuts. In my home, Sam makes me fresh almond milk. I buy raw, organic almonds and soak them overnight in water. Then I skin the almonds and he blends them, then mixes them with a few other ingredients. My video on how to make this is posted on youtube and I’ll also send it via email to those of you who subscribe to my free health newsletter (sign up at my website, www.DearPharmacist.com). The recipe is on page 343 of my book, Diabetes Without Drugs (Rodale 2010).
Besides the natural pain pacifier they already contain, almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps to lessen nerve excitability and increase muscle relaxation. They provide even higher amounts of vitamin E, potassium, and manganese, and a little bit of copper, riboflavin, zinc and phosphorous. Even though a quarter cup of almonds contains 18 grams of fat, eleven of those are the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind. What’s more, emerging research suggests that eating almonds does not result in weight gain, and may even contribute to weight loss due to the nut’s tendency to cause a feeling of fullness after eating them. So next time you feel a headache coming on, go ahead and get a little nutty- with almonds.
Did You Know?
Quercetin is a natural antihistamine, you can buy it in health food stores nationwide if you have seasonal allergies.