This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Bitter almonds agree with the sweet in yielding a large quantity of oil, and in being miscible with water into an emulsion. The oil has no perceptible bitterness, and is not in any respect. distinguishable from that of the sweet almonds: the college allow, for medicinal use, the oil of either sort to be taken indifferently. The matter remaining after the expression of the oil, retains all the bitterness, and tastes much stronger than the almond did at first.
Great part of the bitter matter dissolves, by the assistance of heat, both in water and in rectified spirit: and a part arises also with both menstrua in distillation. Spirit seems to extract, and water to elevate, the mod. It did not appear that the whole was dissolved or elevated by either, or by the alternate application of both.
Bitter almonds, and emulsions made from them, have been recommended as aperients, resolvents, diuretics, and anthelmintics. They are, doubtless, of some use in the above intentions, but apparently of too dangerous a kind. The almonds in substance, taken freely, occa-, sion sickness and vomiting: to dogs, and some other animals, they are poisonous. A simple water, strongly impregnated with their volatile parts by distillation, has been found also poisonous to brutes; and there are instances of cordial spirits flavoured by them being poisonous to man.
It is probable, that the directly noxious matter of the almond is that in which its bitterness and flavour reside; and that the activity of this matter is increased, by its separation from the gross oil and farinaceous substance, by which it was enveloped and obtunded in the kernel itself. The kernels of other fruits, that have any bitterness or particular flavour, appear to be impregnated with a substance of a similar nature to this poisnous principle of bitter almonds * (a).
Oleum amygdala-rum Ph. Lond. & Ed.