This section is from the book "Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics", by W. Hale White. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica Pharmacy, Pharmacology And Therapeutics..
Bitter Almond. The seed of Prunus Amygdalus, var. amara De Candolle (nat. ord. Rosacea).
Western Asia; naturalized in the Mediterranean basin; cultivated.
About 25 mm. long, oblong-lanceolate, flattish, covered with a cinnamon-brown, scurfy testa, marked by about sixteen lines emanating from a broad scar at the blunt end. The embryo has the shape of the seed, is white, oily, consists of two plano-convex cotyledons, and a short radicle at the pointed end, and has a bitter taste. When triturated with water, Bitter Almond yields a milk-white emulsion, which emits an odor of Hydrocyanic Acid.
The chief constituents are - (1) Oleum Amygdala Ex-fressum (see p. 613), 45 per cent., the same fixed oil as in the sweet variety. (2) Emulsin. (3) Amygdalin, C20H27No11, a crystalline glucoside, having a sweetish bitter taste, which yields Oleum Amygdala Amarae. It is very important to distinguish it from the Oleum Amygdala Expressum, which is harmless. The oil of bitter almond is usually very poisonous from admixture of Hydrocyanic Acid; for if moisture has had access to the glucoside Amygdalin, on which in the presence of water, the emulsin in the almond acts as a ferment, the volatile oil of bitter almond (benzaldehyde), glucose and Hydrocyanic Acid are formed. C20H27No11+2H2O=C2H6O (the volatile oil) + Hcn+2C6H12O6. The oil when separated from the Hydrocyanic Acid is not poisonous, and is used to flavor sweets. An artificial oil of bitter almond called Nitrobenzol is often substiiuted, and has caused death.
Bitter Almond is contained in Syrupus Amygdalae.
A volatile oil obtained from Bitter Almond by maceration with water, and subsequent distillation.
A clear, colorless or yellowish, thin, and strongly refractive liquid, having a peculiar, aromatic odor, and a bitter and burning taste. Sp. gr., I.060 to I.070. Boiling point, about 3560 F.; 1800 C. Optically inactive.
Dose, 1/6 to 1/2 m.; .01 to .03 c.c.
1. Aqua Amygdalae Amarae. - Bitter Almond Water. Oil of Bitter Almond, 1; Distilled Water, 999. By solution and filtration.
Dose, 2 to 4 fl. dr.; 8. to 15. c.c.
2. Spiritus Amygdalae Amarae. - Spirit of Bitter Almond. Synonym. - Essence of Bitter Almond. Oil of Bitter Almond, 10; Alcohol, 800; Distilled Water, to 1000.
Dose, 15 to 45 m.; 1. to 3. C.C.