Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Almond
ALMOND, a tree, eminent both for its fruit, and for the ornament which it affords to a shrubbery. It is the original of the ancient genus amygdalus, and by the botanic characters of the flowers, comprehends also the peach and nectarine. Botanists admit but of one real species of the common almond tree, which they term Amygdalus communis.—Not being indigenous, we shall omit its particular description, and proceed to state the properties and effects of its fruit on the human body.
Sweet almonds are supposed to afford but little nourishment, and are not easily digested, unless thoroughly triturated. Six or eight if them peeled and eaten, sometimes give immediate relief in the heart-burn. In medicine, they are chiefly used for preparing emulsions, as they abound not only with an oil, but likewise with a mucilage fit for incorporating oil and water. We have already observed that this fruit is difficult of digestion, on account of the oil it contains, which quickly becomes acrid in the stomach; hence it is particularly improper for bilious constitutions. The various preparations of almonds are liable to similar objections: and it is therefore absurd to give almond milk as a common diet-drink to febrile patients; for, as it consists entirely of oily and insoluble parts, it not only heats and vitiates the stomach, but at the same time occasions an accumulation of bile.
Almonds, as well as nuts, ought to be eaten only while fresh, and without their skins. They should be well chewed; for every piece swallowed entire, is indigestible. The use of a little salt, however, renders them miscible with our fluids, as a saponaceous mass; but, if indulged in to excess, they are productive of alarming, and sometimes fatal disorders.
The expressed oil of bitter almonds, is, in cases of poison, recommended preferably to all others; but care must be taken not to use the chemical, instead of the natural oil, as the former is itself a poison.
Bitter almonds are now generally disused. They have been found to destroy some kinds of animals; hence modern physicians prescribe them with more caution; they are, nevertheless, frequently employed, for making orgeat and other liquors, without producing any bad effect.