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COMMON ALMOND TREE.
Class XII. ICOSANDRIA. Order I. MonogyNIA.
rated. Spe. Char. The lower serratures of the leaves glandular. Flowers
sessile, in pairs.
The Almond Tree is a native of Syria and Barbary; it is cultivated likewise in France, Italy, Sicily, and in England; but the warmth of this climate is not generally sufficient to bring it to perfection. It flowers in March and April, and thrives best in a light sandy soil and southern climate. The tree is from fifteen to twenty feet high, divided into many spreading branches, which are covered with a dark grey bark; the fruit is of a peach kind, the outer substance of which is hard, tough, hairy, and marked with a longitudinal furrow where it opens; under this is a thick, rough shell, which contains the kernel or almond.
This tree seems to have been known in the remotest times of antiquity, being frequently mentioned by Theophrastus and Hippocrates; it is probable, however, that this tree was not very common in Italy in the time of Cato, as he calls the fruit by the name of Greek nuts. It was cultivated in England by Lobel previous to the year 1570; and though it does not perfect its fruit in that country, yet it is there very much propagated for the beautiful appearance of its flowers, which are the more conspicuous by showing themselves early
in spring, before the leaves are expanded. The fruit or seeds of most plants produce varieties, differing more or less from the parent plant and from each other; but in the Almond tree this difference is principally confined to the fruit, which is larger or smaller, the shell thicker or thinner, and the kernel bitter or sweet; hence the distinction of bitter Almonds and swect Almonds.
Medical Properties and Uses. Sweet Almonds exercise no other influence upon the system than that of a demulcent; they are said to be useful in catarrhal affections. Bitter Almonds are more energetic although not much in use; they might be employed with advantage in cases to which the hydrocyanic acid is applicable. An emulsion made of them has been successfully used in pectoral affections attended with cough; it is said to have cured intermittents when bark had failed; it operates by diminishing the excitability of the nervous system, and moderating existing irritation. They are also highly recommended for the expulsion of the tape-worm. Bitter Almonds afford by expression an oil equally bland as that obtained from the sweet; but the residue after expression is more intensely bitter than the residue of the sweet. They also yield by distillation a very fragrant, acrid, and bitter essential oil, which is heavier than water, and proves a very active poison to animals; a few drops only is extracted from several pounds of ker-. nels. From the prussic acid which bitter Almonds contain, they aro found to destroy some animals; in the human subject, if eaten freely, they occasion nausea, vomiting, and other distressing symptoms. When administered to animals with a view to their destruction, they become absorbed and carried into the circulation, and eventually act upon the nerves as a sedative. They were used by the ancients in intermittents and for worms, but from the uncertainty of their operation, and the risk attending it, we seldom see them administered by modern practitioners. They are occasionally used to flavor wines, cordials, &c., but are chiefly valued on account of the fixed oil they contain, which is obtained indiscriminately from the two varieties.