Bitter almond is a form of the common almond whose botanical name is prunus dulcis or prunus amygdalus.
The almond plant is native to the African and Indian subcontinent as well as some parts of the Middle East. The almond is the seed of this plant which is edible and is widely consumed as a dry fruit all over the world. The same is also used in many food preparations especially the Indian cuisine.
Almonds have been believed to have been the first plants to be domesticated and used for purposes of food.
The name almond, as we know it currently has been a derivation from other words that have come down through various vocabularies over thousands of years. The French used to refer it to as alemande or almande while the Latin called it amandula which was derivation from the Greek word amygdala.
The term amygdala or amygdaloid is commonly used to describe something that is shaped like an almond, and lies somewhere between an ellipse and a triangle.
The wild form of the almond plant, which has now been domesticated is known to have the chemical compound glycoside amygdalin as one of the components of its seeds, the same is released when the seed is crushed and it transforms into prussic acid which is chemically referred to as hydrogen cyanide which is extremely poisonous and can cause death if ingested.
Chemical Constituents of Bitter Almond
Chemically, bitter almond oil is composed of a variety of organic and chemical compounds. These also include certain enzymes such as emulsin which in the presence of water, reacts with the other chemical components such as amygdalin, glycosides and prunasin to form cyanide and glucose.
The bitter taste is mostly due to the presence of benzaldehyde which is almost always available and present in its purest form.
Bitter almonds also contain an extremely lethal and deadly concentration of hydrogen cyanide which can be present to the extent of roughly 10 milligram per almond. This dose can be lethal if consumed and thus the same has to be filtered and completely removed before the oil can be put for any use.
Uses of Bitter Almond
During earlier times, bitter almonds and the oil of the same was widely used for medicinal purposes but it was soon realized that the same was too dangerous to use as the mortality rate owing to poisoning was high.
As a result, most cultivators of almonds now use the sweet variety and the bitter variety has been banned or is grown under strict supervision so that the same cant be misused or put accidentally into the market without prior checking and the requisite filtering process.
Sweet almond oil has a number of cosmetic and medicinal uses and is used widely around the world for the same.
Almonds are also commonly used all over the world in food preparations and also yield almond milk which is very popular and consumed widely all over the world.
Bitter almond oil finds its medicinal use in cases of fever and in eliminating worms from the intestinal tract, especially tape worms.
It is known to have anti fungal, antibacterial and anesthetic properties.
Even though its medicinal properties are known, its application is to be carried out under supervision and it has been prohibited for internal use owing to its poisonous properties.
The use during in women who are pregnant or lactating has also been prohibited.
When consumed internally, as a milder side effect it may lead to vomiting and loose motions.
Thus we can understand and study the properties of the controversial bitter almond oil and how even though it has certain medicinal benefits, owing to its contents the same cant be extensively used or consumed by humans.