Native to parts of Asia and Europe, Corylus avellana is a shrub reaching a height between ten and fifteen feet. The name itself derives from the Italian city of Avella, a locale widely known for its crop of hazelnuts along with the Greek word for helmet korys. This particular tree is also referred to as the Common Hazel, Corkscrew Hazel, or Contorted Hazel. Turkey is home to the largest crop of hazelnuts in the world, giving rise to the notion that the hazelnut tree originated in this locale and migrated first to Italy and then to other countries.
The Corylus avellana is one of the species found in the genus Corylus. It can grow as a shrub with several trunks reaching a height of seven to eight feet tall, or it can be cultivated into a tree by a skilled landscaper/botanist to a single trunk that grows as tall as twelve feet high. Commonly sold under the name of "Harry Lauder's Walkingstick," this shrub features twisted stems. This highly prized cultivar grows best in well-drained soil and full sun. It is often used for landscaping purposes as a hedgerow.
The trees are ornamental and showy, remaining attractive year round with rich green foliage that eventually turns to a golden hue. In the fall, catkins of a yellow color grow, opening up in the middle of the winter to release an abundance of pollen. In turn, the pollen fertilizes the red flowers, producing nuts, called hazelnut, that ripen in the late summer months of August and September. The hazelnut falls to the ground when fully ripe, but it can be harvested as well to avoid losing the nuts to wildlife. The nuts are edible, and typically, eaten raw or roasted. Hazelnuts are sometimes ground into a paste or made into a butter that can be used in a variety of recipes. Highly refined hazelnut oil is nut edible; however, it is used in various skincare products.
Many people believe that the phrase "in a nut shell" actually arose from the fruit of the Corylus avellana, the hazelnut, since hazelnuts symbolize knowledge and wisdom. One of the first tree nymphs to be associated to a specific tree is Karya, the nymph of the hazelnut tree. Additionally, nine hazelnut trees are said to have surrounded a pool filled with salmon. The hazelnuts were devoured by the fish, which symbolize philosophical retirement when visualized within a pool.
Offering a slight astringent action, Hazelnut oil is suitable for all skin types, particularly oily skin. Offering a consistency of approximately 75% Oleic acid, Hazelnut oil is rich in vitamin E, so it is commonly used in aromatherapy as a carrier. Hazelnut oil is similar to olive oil and sunflower oil in that it is also rich in proteins and minerals. Therefore, it has a long shelf life. Suitable for all types of skin, Hazelnut oil offers astringent capabilities that are especially good for oily or acne-prone skin types. Therefore, it is commonly found in a variety of cleansing oils.
Hazelnut oil is lightweight in consistency, and therefore, it penetrates the skin readily, offering nourishment along with renewed circulation. Hence, it may be useful as a massage oil for those individuals suffering from poor circulation. It is often found in night creams, shampoos, conditioners, and soaps, as well as hand and body lotions and creams. Since hazelnut oil features a high fat content of approximately 40%, it is soothing to irritated or dry skin, helping to speed the healing process.
Hazelnut oil is rich in protein, unsaturated fat, vitamin B6, thiamine, amino acids and small quantities of other B vitamins. Hazelnut oil aids in filtering the sun’s rays from the skin, so it does offer some protection from damage caused by the sun. Therefore, it is often included in sun care products as one of the ingredients. Offering rich emollient capabilities, hazelnut oil helps to make the skin feel smooth and soft. Therefore, it is sometimes used to treat cracked lips and can be found in lipsticks due to its rich moisturizing capability. In Gemmotherapy, hazelnut buds are used to treat the lungs for asthma and emphysema. They are also thought to aid in reversing the hardness of arterial blood vessels.