There are over 200 species of deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs in this genus, which occurs throughout northern temperate regions, the Andes of S America, and SE Asia. It includes many economically important fruit and nut trees, and numerous ornamentals that are grown mainly for their blossom. Both P. armeniaca and P. persica are probably Chinese in origin; the former reached Italy in Roman times and the latter, which has been cultivated in China for over 2500 years, was recorded in Greece as early as the fourth century BCE. Prunus dulcis is the world's most widely grown nut tree. Prunes are dried plums from cultivars of P. domestica subsp. domestica; they have large, oval, black-skinned fruits, a rich flavor, and a high sugar and finer content that allows drying without fermentation or loss of flavor. Prunes were apparently brought to France by crusaders returning from Syria; in 1856 they were taken to California, where 70 percent of the world's crop is now produced. Prunus laurocerasus, a shade-tolerant species, is extensively grown for hedging and screening. Its many cultivars include low, spreading variants that make excellent groundcovers. Prunus mume is the classic winter flowering "plum blossom", used for Japanese bonsai. Many species are used medicinally, yielding a range of therapeutic products, from emollient oils to cough cures and laxatives. The Chinese species ahve a particularly long history of use: P. armeniaca and P.mume were first mentioned in medical literature c.CE500, and references to P. japonica date back to the Han dynasty (206BCE-CE23). Most of the medicinal properties result frmo the presence of amygdalin and prunasin, which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide). In small amounts, the exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion, and gives a sense of wellbeing. Also present is benzaldehyde, which gives the typical almond scent. This is now synthesized as a substitute for bitter almond oil in food flavoring. Prunus africana (African Cherry, red stinkwood), a montane forest species, entered international trade in the 1960s, when it was found to contain a liposoluble complex, whcih has proved effective in treating prostate glad enlargement. The bark has long been used by traditional healers, but large-scale demand and destructive harvesting have led to serious depletion of wild populations, especially in Cameroon. Prunus africana received international protection as an endangered species in 1997; plantations have been established in Kenya to provide material for the pharmaceutical industry, and the propagation technique of marcotting has been used successfully to increase stocks. The fruit stalks of P. avium (wild cherry, gean) and P. cerasus (sour cherry) are infused to make a diuretic astringent remedy for cystitis, edema, and diarrhea. Prunus serotina was used by the Cherokee people to relieve labor pains, and first listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1820 as a sedative and anti-tussive. It is still widely used, in the form of wild cherry syrup, in cough remedies.

Bitter almond differs from the sweet almond that we commonly eat in that it contains a compound called amygdalin, from with the alternative cancer drug laetrile is made. For the most part, it has been found that amygdalin has no significant activity against tumor cells and can be lethal if taken in excessive amounts.

Deciduous tree with lanceolate, tapering, finely toothed leaves, to 13cm (5in) long. Pink or almost white, solitary or paired flowers, to 5cm (2in) across, appear before the new leaves, followed by pale green, ovoid, velvety fruits, 4-6cm (1½-2½in) long, containing a single seed.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Amygdala Amara, Badama, Bitter Almond, Vatadha.
Botanical Name:
Prunus dulcis syn. Amygdalus communis, P. amygdalus
Native Location:
Syria to N Africa
Well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil in sun. Prunus laurocerasus tolerates shade. Prunus spinosa (blackthorn) is a useful plant for hedging in cold, exposed, or coastal ares. Prune fruiting specimens in summer to restrict growth and encourage formation of fruit buds. Trim P. laurocerasus in spring. Leaves and young shoots are often attacked by aphids and caterpillars. Likely diseases and disorders include peach leaf curl, bacterial canker, chlorosis, witches' broom, and honey fungus. Many Prunus species are relatively short-lived. P. laurocerasus may be affected by leafspot and powdery mildew. Most Prunus species are shallow-rooted and will sucker if roots are damaged. Early-flowering species are prone to frost damage.
By seed sown in autumn (species only); by greenwood cuttings in early summer (deciduous species); by semi-ripe cuttings in summer (P. laurocerasus). Cultivars are budded in summer or grafted in early spring.
Leaves (P. persica) are picked in summer and dried for infusions, or (P. laurocerasus) distilled for aqueous extract (cherry laurel water). Bark (P. africana, P. persica, P. serotina) is stripped in autumn and winter and dried for infusions, liquid extracts, powders, syrups, and tinctures; bark of P. africana is also processed for pharmaceutical extracts. Flowers (P. persica) are gathered in spring, and unripe fruits (P. armeniaca, P. domestica, P. mume, P. persica) in summer, and dried for decoctions. Fruits are picked ripe or unripe, depending on use; prunes (cultivars of P. domestica) are often left on the trees to dry. Seeds from ripe fruits are dried for decoctions (P. japonica) or crushed for oil (P. armeniaca, P. dulcis, P. persica).
Is vigorous but small growing, with white flowers late in the season, and heavy crops of good-quality nuts. Self fertile.
(Bitter Almond)

Has bitter, poisonous seeds (nuts) that are detoxified for culinary use.
Has pale pink flowers and large fruits, to 8cm (3in) long.
8m (25ft)
8m (25ft)
Parts Used:
Fruit, Seeds, Oil
A soothing, laxative herb that relaxes spasms.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for kidney stones, gallstones, and constipation. Externally for dry skin conditions.
To treat cough and itching; as a local anesthetic.
Possible Side Effects:
Bitter Almond's side effects include depression of the central nervous system.
Drug Interactions:
Taking bitter almond with these drugs may cause excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine)
Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Amobarbital, (Amytal)
Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tuinal)
Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
Brotilozam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
Buprenorphine and Naloxone, (Subonoxe)
Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
Butalbital, Acetominophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
Butalbital, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Fiorinal)
Butorphanal, (Apo-Butorphanal, Stadol)
Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes)
Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Librium)
Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Dihydrocodeine, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol)
Estazolam, (ProSom)
Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
Haloperidol, (Haldol, Novo-Peridol)
Hydrocodone and Acetominophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Hydromorphone, (Dilaudid, PMS-Hydromorphone)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperidine and Promethazine)
Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
Oxycodone and Acetominophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
Paregoric, (Paregoric)
Pentazocine, (Talwin)
Pentobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
Prazepam, (Prazepam)
Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Propofol, (Diprivan)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Propoxyphene and Acetaminophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
Propoxyphene, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
Quazepam, (Doral)
Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
Secobarbital, (Seconal)
Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
Thiopental, (Pentothal)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Zaleplon, (Sonata, Stamoc)
Zolpidem, (Ambien)
Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
Culinary Uses:
Seeds (nuts) are eaten raw, roasted, salted, and ground into paste (marzipan); also ground and diluted with water to make almond milk, and pressed for oil, which is made into almond butter. Almonds are an ingredient of many sweet and savory dishes, especially pilafs, cakes, pastries, cookies, and candy.
Economic Uses:
Sweet almond oil is used in the manufacture of emulsions for medicines, massage oils, skin care products, and cosmetics. Detoxified bitter almond oil is used in commercial food flavoring, especially in cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, maraschino cherries, liqueurs, and marzipan.
All parts of P. laurocerasus, notably the leaves and seeds, are harmful if eaten. Bitter-tasting kernels of Prunus species may be fatally toxic in excess.
The Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp. 331-333
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg, MD and Barry Fox, PhD Copyright ©2007 By Barry Fox, MD Pp.71-72