This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics - Vegetable Kingdom", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia Medica And Therapeutics: Vegetable Kingdom.
Active Ingredients. - The almond yields by expression a considerable quantity of oil, which, when compared with olive oil, is found to be more pure, and less liable to become rancid. An essential oil is likewise procurable by distilling almond-water with barytes, so as to separate the prussic acid. In close vessels it is very volatile; exposed to the air it becomes solid, crystalline, and inodorous.
Physiological Action. - Sweet almonds, as the name would imply, have a bland and agreeable flavor. They are nutritive and emollient, but somewhat difficult of digestion through containing so much oil. They have been known to cause nausea and urticaria. Almond oil (usually expressed from the bitter variety, on account of its cheapness, and the higher value of the residual cake) possesses the dietetic and medicinal properties of the other fixed oils, and is, in its local action, emollient. Taken in large doses it acts as a mild laxative. It is also demulcent.
Cases are recorded of alarming symptoms having been produced in the human subject through eating bitter almonds, and others in which death has occurred. Orfila relates the cases of two children, in whom the symptoms of poisoning by these almonds were very marked and rapid. Within a quarter of an hour after eating them, pallor and collapse of the features set in; the pupils became dilated; the respiration sighing, with somnolence and muscular relaxation.
In another case, a man fell down dead very soon after partaking freely of the almonds. He frothed at the nose and mouth, and the eyes became fixed and glistening.
An eruption resembling urticaria often comes out on the skin from the effects of taking bitter almonds.
The volatile oil of bitter almonds is a deadly poison. Taylor says that in one hundred parts of this oil there are nearly thirteen parts of anhydrous prussic acid, one drop of which has been known to kill a cat.
A case is reported by Mertzdorf of a man who swallowed two drachms of the essential oil of bitter almonds; his features became spasmodically contracted; his eyes fixed and upturned, and starting from his head; his breathing jerking and hurried; and death followed in half an hour. On the other hand, several cases are quoted by toxicologists in which large quantities have been taken without fatal results.
Therapeutic Action. - Dr. Pavy has proposed, as a substitute for bread or starchy food for patients suffering from diabetes, cakes made of sweet almonds.
The "mistura" is useful in cough, and as a lotion to allay itching of the skin. It was once a favorite vehicle for the administration of tartar-ized antimony, in doses of 1/8 gr., to subdue inflammatory action of the lungs, and to relieve cough. As a demulcent and emollient in pulmonary affections, it is certainly good, as well as in inflammatory affections of the alimentary canal and of the urinary organs.
Almond-oil may be employed for the same purposes as olive-oil. Combined with an equal volume of syrup of roses, or syrup of violets, it is a suitable laxative for infants.
It is useful also in the preparation of emulsions, and of certain kinds of linctiis.
Bitter almonds, combined with decoction of cinchona, have been extolled as a remedy for intermittent fever.
Six or eight blanched almonds are said to relieve heartburn.
Preparations And Dose. - Aqua Amygdalae Amarae, 3 ij. - iv. (.8 - 15.); Oleum Amygdalae Amar., m 1/6 - 1/2 (.01 - .03); Mistura Amygdalae, 3 j. - iv. (4. - 15.); Syrupus Amygdalae, 3 j. - iv. (5. - 20.); Oleum Amygdalae Expressum, 3j. - iv. (4. - 15.)