Description: Natural Order, Rosaceae. This is the peach-tree of our orchards, belonging to the same genus as the almond, but valued for the large and luscious development of a fleshy sarcocarp around the drupe. It is too well known to need description.
Properties and Uses: The kernels of the peach are among the pleasantest of all stomachic tonics–promoting appetite at the same time that they soothe irritation. In female difficulties, as leucorrhea, they are especially serviceable, as well for toning the uterine organs and allaying nervousness, as for improving the tone of the stomach. Their power is quite concentrated; and, unless combined with such diffusive tonics as camomile, aralia, liriodendron, etc., they act quite locally. Hence they are best used in small quantities with such articles, both for their agreeable flavor, and to give intensity to the action of the other remedies. Ten to twelve grains of these kernels are a sufficient quantity to use three times a day; or two ounces may be employed in a gallon of any compound preparation. Heat quickly impairs their virtues; hence they should always be made upon some liquor.
The leaves are largely relaxant and somewhat demulcent. They exert a decided and most valuable influence upon the kidneys, bladder, and urethra–promoting the urinary discharge, and soothing all inflammation, tenderness, scalding, and aching of these parts. They are one of the most reliable agents in the Materia Medica for all such purposes, and deserve great attention in acute cases. They may also be used in the urethral and cystic irritation of gonorrhea. In large quantities, they act mildly upon the bowels, securing mucous discharges without pain; and in this act many times leading to the expulsion of worms in their nests. They are best given in infusion–a drachm of the leaves to four ounces of tepid water; dose two fluid ounces every three hours to increase the water of the urine and relieve scalding. At least twice this quantity would be required to affect the bowels. This infusion should be made fresh at least every twelve hours, and used cold. The addition of a moderate quantity of ginger is often an advantage; and when the kidneys are congested, a grain or two of capsicum may be added to four ounces of the infusion, and a fluid ounce given once an hour.
The objection is usually raised to these kernels and leaves, that they are dangerous because of the prussic acid they contain. In the department of Therapeutics, (§32,) as well as under the article on almonds, it is shown that they contain no prussic acid whatever; but this is a product only of chemical changes which take place in the presence of warmth and moisture. This point is clearly proven by all chemical science; and it is admitted by the U. S. Dispensatory, Stille, Pereira, Christison, and all other writers of eminence, that no such product was ever obtained from any of these substances till after their chemical decomposition. But it is gravely asserted that such plants, especially the flowers and kernels of the peach, show by their odor that they do contain prussic acid. This assertion shows great ignorance of this acid, and also of current literature on this subject. Neither peaches, bitter almonds, cherry-laurel, or other plants of like odor, have any of the odor of prussic acid; for the two smells are entirely different. One need go no further than the U. S. Dispensatory to learn this fact; any reliable work on chemistry will tell him the same fact; and Christison says the odors bear no resemblance to each other, but that the distilled waters from the fermented plants retain their peculiar odor "after the acid is thrown down" and totally removed. But it is said to be harmful to eat large quantities of peach kernels, which is quite probable; for they are of difficult digestion, will undergo chemical changes in the presence of the heat and moisture of the stomach, (§39,) and that change will produce prussic acid freely. Before fermentation, they are absolutely safe; after fermentation, they are extremely dangerous.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com