The bark of Prunus virginiana, Mill. (Prunus serotina, Poir.), a native of North America has long been used in the preparation of aromatic beverages and of domestic remedies. It was made official in the first edition of the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. That the distillate of the bark contained an oil with hydrocyanic acid was recognized by St. Procter2) in 1834. In 1838 Wm. Procter3) ascertained that the oil was not contained in the bark as such but results in a manner similar to that of bitter almond oil. More detailed investigations of the bark were undertaken by F. B. Power jointly with H. Weimar4) and C. W. Moore5).
After having been mashed, the powdered bark yields 0,2 p.c. of oil that resembles that of bitter almonds. It consists largely of benzaldehyde and is rich in hydrocyanic acid0). Specific gravity 1,045 to 1,050.
According to Power and Moore the bark contains 1-mandelo-nitrile glucoside (amygdonitrilglucoside), the same glucoside which Herissey7) had isolated several years previously from the closely related Prunus Padus, L.
These investigators obtained, though in very small amounts, 1-mandelonitrile glucoside (m. p. 145 to 147° from acetic ether; [a]D - 29,6°) from the water soluble portion of the alcoholic extract of the bark. The acetyl derivative of the glucoside, the tetracetyl 1-mandelonitrile glucoside, melted at 136 to 137° after having been recrystallized from alcohol; [a]D - 24,0° (in acetic ester).
1) Report of Schimmel & Co. April 1913, 111.
2) Americ. Journ. Pharm. 6 (1834), 8.
3) Ibidem 10 (1838), 197.
4) Pharm. Rundschau (New York) 5 (1887), 203.
5) Journ. chem. Soc. 95 (1909), 243. 6) Schimmel's Report April 1890, 48.
7) Journ. de Pharm. et Chim. VI. 26 (1907), 194. - Arch, der Pharm. 245 (1907), 475, 641.
Upon distilling the alcoholic extract with water vapor they isolated, in addition to benzoic acid, a volatile oil. The yield, however, was so small that the boiling point only (100 to 120° under 5 mm. pressure) could be determined. The odor was pleasantly aromatic, but quite distinct from that of benzaldehyde. The bark contained 0,075 p.c. of hydrocyanic acid.
The leaves of this species likewise yield an aqueous distillate that contains hydrocyanic acid1).