Bitter Almond

Other Name(s):

Almendra Amarga, Almendro Amargo, Amande Amère, Amandier Amer, Amandier à Fruits Amers, Amendoa Amarga, Amygdala Amara, Amygdalus communis var. amara, Amygdalus dulcis var. amara, Bitter Almond Oil, Bitter Almond Tree, Bittere Amandel, Bittere Mandel, Bittere Mandeln, Bittere-Amandelboom, Bittermandel, Bittermandelbaum, Bittermandeltræ, Bittermandeltraed, Huile d'Amande Volatile, Huile d'Amande Amère, Karvasmanteli, Mandorla Amara, Mandorlo Amaro, Mindal' Gor'kii, Prunus amygdalus var. amara, Prunus communis var. amara, Prunus dulcis var. amara, Volatile Almond Oil.


Almonds are a familiar type of nut. They can be sweet or bitter, depending on the type of tree that produces them. Sweet almond is produced from one type of almond tree (Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis) and does not contain poisonous chemicals. Bitter almond comes from a different type of almond tree (Prunus amygdalus var. amara) and does contain toxic chemicals.

Despite serious safety concerns, people make medicine from the center (kernel) of the bitter almond. It is used for spasms, pain, cough, and itch.

“Bitter almond” volatile oils can also be produced from other related fruit kernels including apricot (Prunus armeniaca), peach (Prunus persica), and plum (Prunus domestica). Similar to bitter almond, these volatile oils are considered poisonous.

How does it work?

There is not enough scientific information available to know how bitter almond might work for any medical condition. Bitter almond contains a poisonous chemical called hydrocyanic acid (HCN), which can cause serious side effects.


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Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Spasms.
  • Pain.
  • Cough.
  • Itch.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of bitter almond for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Do not use bitter almond. Bitter almond is considered LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth. It contains a poisonous chemical called hydrocyanic acid (HCN). Serious side effects can occur such as slowing of the nervous system, breathing problems, and death.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

It is LIKELY UNSAFE for anyone to use bitter almond, but some people have extra reasons not to use it:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It's LIKELY UNSAFE to take bitter almond by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Surgery: Bitter almond can slow down the nervous system. Anesthesia and other drugs used during surgery do this as well. Using bitter almond along with these medications can slow down the central nervous system too much. Stop using bitter almond at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


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Sedative medications (CNS depressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Bitter almond can be toxic and might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking bitter almond along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.


The appropriate dose of bitter almond depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for bitter almond. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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