Amygdalae amarae aqua
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Amygdalus communis (L.) var. amara
The early English name seems to have been Almande: it thus appears in the Romaunt of the Rose. Both this old name and its more modern form came through the French amande, derived from the late Latin amandela, in turn a form of the Greek amygdalus, the meaning of which is obscure.
Interestingly the dutch word "amandel" means as well almond as tonsil (in German too).
English: Bitter almond
Dutch: bittere amandel
Preparation: An ounce of alcohol is added to a pound of bitter almonds, then add six pounds of water, and distil down to three pounds (Joerg).
Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Rosiflorae / Rosidae; Rosales; Rosaceae - Rose Family
The observations of Jörg, made in 1822, hardly deserving to be called a proving, were published in 1825. These were added to a collection of symptoms from the Laurocerasus, the Aqua laurocerasi, and Hydrocyanic acid, and printed in Hartlaub's Mat. Med., in 1828. In 1844 they were printed separately in Noak and Trinks' Handbuch, with the addition of some toxic symptoms.
Allen's Encyclopedia contains all, and a carefully made, almost complete collection of poisonings.
Description of the substance
The Almond tree is a native of the warmer parts of western Asia and of North Africa, but it has been extensively distributed over the warm temperate region of the Old World, and is cultivated in all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. It was very early introduced into England, probably by the Romans, and occurs in the Anglo-Saxon lists of plants, but was not cultivated in England before 1562, and then chiefly for its blossom.
The Almond belongs to the same group of plants as the rose, plum, cherry and peach, being a member of the tribe Prunae of the natural order Rosaceae. The genus Amygdalus to which it is assigned is very closely allied to Prunus (Plum) in which it has sometimes been merged; the distinction lies in the fruit, the succulent pulp attached to the stone in the plum (known botanically as the mesocarp) being replaced by a leathery separable coat in the almond which is hard and juiceless, of a dingy green tinged with dull red, so that when growing it looks not unlike an unripe apricot. When fully ripe, this green covering dries and splits, and the Almond, enclosed in its rough shell (termed the endocarp) drops out. The shell of the Almond is a yellowish buff colour and flattened-ovoid in shape, the outer surface being usually pitted with small holes; frequently it has a more or less fibrous nature. Sometimes it is thin and friable (soft-shelled Almond), sometimes extremely hard and woody (hard-shelled Almond). The seed itself is rounded at one end and pointed at the other, and covered with a thin brown, scurfy coat. The different sorts of Almonds vary in form and size, as well as in the firmness of the shell. The fruit is produced chiefly on the young wood of the previous year, and in part on small spurs of two and three years growth.
The tree is of moderate size, usually from 20 to 30 feet high, with spreading branches the leaves lance-shaped, finely toothed (or serrated) at the edges. The flowers are produced before the leaves - in this country early in March; and in great profusion. There are two principal forms of the Almond the one with entirely pink flowers, Amygdalus communis, var. dulcis, producing Sweet Almonds; the other, A. communis, var. amara, with flowers slightly larger, and the petals almost white towards the tips, deepening into rose at the base, producing Bitter Almonds. Botanically, they are considered merely variations of the one type, and the difference in variety has been supposed originally to be mainly owing to climate, the Bitter Almond being a native of Barbary. The Sweet Almond is the earliest to flower, and is cultivated more largely than the Bitter Almond. It is valuable as a food and for confectionery purposes, as well as in medicine, being rich in a bland oil, and sustaining as a nutriment: the staying power conferred by a meal of Almonds and raisins is well known. It is only the Bitter Almond in the use of which caution is necessary, especially with regard to children, as it possesses dangerous poisonous properties.
The early, delicate flowers of the Almond give it a unique position among ornamental trees, and it should have a place in every shrubbery, for it will flourish in any ordinary, well-drained soil, both in open and somewhat sheltered situations, and does well in town gardens.
There are several varieties, differing in colour and size of the flowers: one dwarf variety, A. nana, a native of the Lower Danube, is especially decorative, and is often planted in the forefront of shrubberies. All the species are deciduous.
Sicily and Southern Italy are the chief Almond-producing countries; Spain, Portugal, the South of France, the Balearic Islands and Morocco also export considerable quantities.
In the southern counties of England it is not uncommon for the tree to produce a fair crop of fruit, though it is mostly very inferior to that which is imported, but in less favoured districts in this country the production of fruit is rare.
The tree is liable to destruction by frosts in many parts of Central Europe. In France and Belgium, when grown in gardens for its fruit, the tender-shelled varieties are preferred, and the cultivation is the same as for the peach.
There are several varieties of the Bitter Almond, the best being imported from the south of France, and others from Sicily and Northern Africa (Barbary), where it forms a staple article of trade. The annual imports of Bitter Almonds to this country amount normally to about 300 tons.
The seeds are used chiefly as a source of Almond Oil, but also yield a volatile oil, which is largely employed as a flavouring agent.
Bitter Almonds are usually shorter, proportionately broader and smaller, and less regular than the Sweet Almonds. They contain about 50 per cent of the same fixed oil which occurs in the Sweet Almond, and are also free from starch. The bitter taste is characteristic.
AMYGDALA AMARA (U. S. P.), Bitter almond. "About 25 Mm. (about 1 inch) long, oblong-lanceolate, flattish, covered with a cinnamon-brown, scurfy testa, marked by about 16 lines emanating from a broad scar at the blunt end. The embryo has the shape of the seed, is white, oily, consists of 2 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"—(U. S. P.).