This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Laurocerasus Pharm. Paris. Cerasus folio laurino C. B. Prunus Lauro-cerafus- Linn. Laurel, Cherry-bay: an evergreen tree or shrub, with large, thick, oblong, glossy leaves, pointed at both ends, and slightly indented: towards the tops of the branches come forth pen-tapetalous flowers, in five-leaved cups, followed by clutters of berries, like cherries or damsons. It is cultivated in gardens, flowers in May, and ripens its fruit in August or September.
The leaves of the laurocerasus have a bitter taste, accompanied with a flavour resembling that of the kernels of certain fruits, as those of black cherries, apricots, bitter almonds, etc. Like those kernels, they communicate an agreeable flavour both to watery and spirituous liquors, by distillation and by infusion; and, like them also, they appear from some late trials to be poisonous. A distilled water, strongly impregnated with their flavour, given in the quantity of four ounces to a large mastiss dog, occasioned in a few minutes terrible convulsions, and within an hour put an end to his life: dogs have been killed also, in a few minutes, by smaller quantities, of the distilled water, of an infusion of the leaves in water, and of their expressed juice, taken into the stomach, or injected by the anus; and there are some in-stances of liquors flavoured with the distilled water being poisonous to human subjects. The dissections of dogs killed by this poifon have shewn no other morbid appearances, or alterations, than such as may be reafonably supposed the immediate effect of the convulsions: when the distilled water, or the leaves in substance, were given in such small quantities as not to kill, and continued for some time, the pulse became quicker, and the blood more fluid, and of a more florid red colour (a). It is said that infusions of the leaves (made probably very weak) are commonly used in Holland in disorders of the lungs (b).
The kernel of the fruit is of the same nature with the leaves. The pulpy part discovers no ill quality to the palate, is coveted by birds, and appears to be innocent.
(a) See Dr. Langrish's experiments on brutes, and No. 418 and 420 ofthe philosophical transactions*
(b) Linnaei Amaenitiat. academic, iv. 40. i. 409.