Claim: A Facebook post claims almonds are an alternative to aspirin in relieving headaches.
Although almonds and aspirin contain salicin, there is no scientific evidence to show that almonds cure headaches or are an alternative to aspirin. Hence, this claim is false.
Almonds are seeds of Prunus dulcis, commonly called the almond tree. Almond nuts contain vitamins, minerals, protein, and fibre with several health benefits.
A Facebook user Mike De HotGenius odu shared an image with the claim that almonds are an alternative to aspirins in the relief of headaches. According to the image, 10-12 almonds is the equivalent of two aspirins.
DUBAWA researched almonds and aspirins with focus on their properties to see if we can find common properties.
Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a medication used to relieve minor aches, pains, and fevers. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory or a blood thinner. Its use was first recorded around 4,000 years ago.
Aspirin is a Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID) and the first of this class of drug to be discovered. It contains salicylate, a compound found in plants like willow tree and myrtle.
Aspirin is synthesised by the action of salicylic acid on acetic anhydride. It is an esterification reaction. In this reaction, when salicylic acid reacts with acetic anhydride, the hydroxyl group of salicylic acid converts into an ester group. This results in Aspirin and acetic acid.
Almonds and its properties
Almonds are edible nuts that can be eaten raw, toasted as a snack or added to dishes. Almonds are also available in sliced, flaked, slivered forms or as flour, oil, butter, or almond milk.
A Handful of almonds (1 ounce of almonds) contain one-eighth of an individual’s daily protein needs.
This report by healthline highlights 9 evidence-based health benefits of almonds. They include its high nutrient value, antioxidant content, vitamin E, its ability to control blood sugar, and its magnesium content which benefits blood pressure. Almonds also help lower cholesterol level, prevent harmful oxidation of LDL cholesterol, lower overall calorie intake as it reduces hunger, and are effective for weight loss.
This article explains that the reason why almonds are said to relieve headaches is because of its salicin (salicylate) content.
What is Salicin?
Salicin is a naturally occurring compound found in the bark of several species of trees.
It is an anti-inflammatory component found in aspirin while magnesium helps ease nerves and muscles that are caused by stress.
A keyword search led to a report by The Indian Express which highlighted foods like Almond can relieve headache. Another article by abcNEWS identified almonds as one of the top five headache-healing foods.
Similarly, another article on how to prepare almonds for headaches noted almonds are effective against headaches because they contain salicin and magnesium.
Contrary to this, an article by Cleveland clinic named almonds as one of the foods that can cause/trigger headaches in susceptible people.
We found a 2001 study which showed salicylate inhibits prostaglandin production in vivo (research done with or within a living organism); it only weakly inhibits cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 or -2 activity in vitro (research outside a Living organism).
A 2015 study noted headache is one of the illnesses almonds have been used to cure traditionally but the research did not look into this aspect. However, a study in 2020, noted that overuse of salicylates in all forms may cause headaches.
We also found a fact-check by thipmedia which rated this as half true. One of the experts quoted in this fact-check, Dr Saurabh Gaba, an associate consultant, internal Medicine, Paras Hospitals, Panchkula, dispelled this claim as a myth.
“The claim that almonds can replace aspirin in curing some health conditions is a myth. Though almonds are considered as healthy food, there is no scientific evidence that can prove their use as a remedy in headaches,” the fact-check reads.
These articles still leave us with the question whether almonds relieve or trigger headaches. So we spoke to some experts.
A senior registrar at the National Hospital in Abuja, Jeremiah Agim, said this is new to him and that he has no experience with almond use. He also said that he would not recommend its use because it is not standardised.
“I don’t have personal experience with it. Even if I have, I can not recommend it to a patient until it has been standardised,” he added.
Another medical officer, Arinze Obiadazie, said there is no scientific evidence almonds cure headaches.
“…there’s no evidence based medicine or scientific proof to almonds curing headaches,” he said .
He also noted that a headache is not a diagnosis but a symptom that can be caused by different medical conditions, thus making it important to seek the cause before treatment.
“Headache isn’t a diagnosis, it’s a symptom, a pointer to something possibly sinister. So it’s ill-advised to try to suppress a headache, especially if it’s not stress related. There are a thousand causes of headaches, from stress to a brain bleed. It’s advisable to seek treatment and try to identify this cause and treat accordingly, as opposed to eating almonds,” he added.
Our findings and experts’ perspectives reveal that although almonds and aspirin contain salicin, there is no scientific proof almonds cure headaches and if it can be an alternative to aspirin. This makes the claim false.