This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
AMYGDALA AMARA, Bitter Almonds; AMYGDALA DULCIS, Sweet Almonds.
MEDICINAL PART. The kernels.
Description. -- The almond tree is from ten to eighteen feet high, with a pale-brown rugged bark, and dividing into many branches. The leaves are of a bright light green, two to four inches long, and about three-fourths of an inch wide. Flowers are moderately large, pink or white, sessile, in pairs, and appearing before the leaves. Calyx reddish, petals variable in size. The fruit is a hoary drupe; stone oblong or ovate, hard in various degrees, always rugged and pitted with irregular holes. Both the bitter and sweet almonds come from this tree.
History. -- The almond tree is indigenous to most of the southern parts of Asia and Barbary, but is cultivated in Southern Europe. The best of the sweet kind comes from Malaga. The sweet kernel is without odor, and of a pleasant flavor; that of the bitter is also inodorous, unless rubbed with water, when it exhales a smell similar to Prussic acid. Its taste is similar to that of peach-meats. Both varieties contain oil -- the sweet a fixed oil, the bitter both a fixed and an essential oil, impregnated with Prussic acid. The oil of bitter almonds has a golden color, an agreeable odor, an acid bitter taste, combustible, and is a poison acting in the same manner as Prussic acid. One drachm of this oil, dissolved in three drachms of alcohol, forms the "essence of almonds" much used by confectioners, perfumers, etc. The oil is also much used by soap-makers.
Properties and Uses. -- Triturated with water, sweet almonds produce a white mixture called emulsion, or milk of almonds, bearing a remarkable analogy with animal milk. It is used as a demulcent and vehicle for other medicines. The oil is demulcent in small quantity, in larger doses laxative. It is frequently employed in cough, diseases dependent upon intestinal irritation, and for mitigating acrimonious urine in calculous affections.
Dose. -- Of the oil, a teaspoonful.