There are a surprisingly large number of carrier oils which are obtained from nuts, including sweet almond, arachis, coconut (fractionated), hazel nut, kukui, macadamia, pecan and walnut. There may well be others, but these are the ones I know about. The first four are covered here, and the remainder will be dealt with in a later post.
Anyone with a nut allergy should avoid all oils derived from nuts, even if they are labelled “refined”.
Strictly speaking, from a botanical viewpoint there are many “nuts” which are not true nuts at all. Many of them are actually drupe kernels. A drupe is what most of us would probably call a stone fruit; the kernel is the fleshy meat inside the stone. To conform with common parlance, I will just refer to them all as nuts. Basically if we usually ignore the fruit itself and eat the kernel instead, most people would consider them to be nuts – so that’s what I’ll call them.
Sweet Almond oil has already been covered in a previous post.
Arachis oil is just a “posh” name for peanut or groundnut oil, derived from the botanical name of the plant from which it is extracted, Arachis hypogaea. Although some production methods are believed to remove the toxin which causes peanut allergy, for obvious reasons people afflicted with this disorder would be wisest to avoid this oil entirely and to advise any masseur or other therapist who uses oil that they are allergic to peanut oil.
Arachis/peanut/groundnut oil is heavy and expensive. For these reasons, it’s usually mixed 50:50 with something else, such as almond oil. Used undiluted, it leaves an oily film on the skin, although this will be absorbed after a time. It is most often used in blends for skin care, arthritis and for sports massage.
Fractionated Coconut (botanical name Cocos nucifera) oil is extracted from coconut meat and then further refined by steam distillation. It is a light oil, and has antioxidant and disinfectant properties. It does not have an oily feel even though it’s extremely slippery. Due to its price it is usually used as an additive at 10% dilution. However, unlike most other oils used in aromatherapy its shelflife means that you can keep it pretty much indefinitely so long as it’s kept in a cool dry place.
Fractionated coconut oil is so pure it can even be used on babies, and is included in treatments for nappy rash. Its most common use in adults is for skin conditions including inflammation and psoriasis.
Coconut oil is also used in cooking, although it’s rare for fractionated oil to be used in this way.
You may find claims for a product called “virgin coconut oil” (or even extra virgin), which is claimed to be superior to fractionated oil. However, the term virgin in relation to oil production means the first extracts by cold pressing. In the case of coconut oil, this results in a butterlike substance, which then has to be refined to produce fractionated oil. I have found that claims which do not make sense (like “virgin coconut oil is superior”) are usually false, so my advice in this case is not to let yourself be bamboozled.
Hazel nut oil is extracted from the hazelnut, Corylus avellana, which is the only true nut included in this post. It is high in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, which can be absorbed by the skin. It also has a pleasant nutty flavor and is used in gourmet cooking and in salad dressings.
Hazelnut oil is a light astringent oil which does not feel oily. Easily absorbed, it is an excellent massage oil and a great toner/moisturizer for all types of skin, including mature skin and broken capillaries. It’s especially useful for oily skin, but can be mixed with other carrier oils for other types. Studies in Chile have revealed that it is a strong natural sun filter, so it is also often included in sun protection creams.
Another use for hazelnut oil is as a way to increase the duration of hair color and strengthen the hair. The oil is rubbed into the hair before shampooing and helps to reduce the stripping effect of the detergent in the shampoo.