Peach Leaves. Leaves of Prunus Persica (L.) Sieb. et Zucc. (Fam. Rosaceae.) Pechier, Fr. Pfirsich, G.—The peach tree is supposed to have been originally brought from Persia, but flourishes everywhere in the warm temperate zone. Peaches are among the most grateful and wholesome of our summer fruits. They abound in saccharine matter, which renders their juices susceptible of the vinous fermentation, and a distilled liquor prepared from them has been much used, in some parts of the country, under the name of peach brandy. The kernels of the fruit resemble, physically and chemically, bitter almonds, for which they are frequently, and without inconvenience, substituted in commerce. The flowers, leaves, and bark also have the peculiar odor and taste of bitter almonds, and yield hydrocyanic acid. The leaves afford a volatile oil by distillation. The distilled water prepared from them was found in one instance to contain 1.407 parts of hydrocyanic acid in 1000, and in another only 0.437 parts in the same quantity. From some experiments it is inferred that the proportion of acid is greatest where there is least fruit. (A. J. P., xxiv, 72.)
Peach kernel oil made by expression has found its way into Western Europe from the Levant, and is used in Italy and Southern France largely as an adulterant of almond oil. It is described as of a light yellow color, having the taste and odor of almond oil. It thickens at -9° C. or -10° C. (15.8° F. or 14° F.), and solidifies at -18° C. (-0.4° F.). The sp. gr. at 15° C. (59° F.) is 0.915. It gives with strong nitric acid a dark brown color, with sulphuric acid a dark brown becoming lighter, with solution of zinc chloride a purplish-brown; forming with the elaidin test in two hours a mass of butter-like color and consistence. Peach kernel oil has a saponification value of 189-192 and an iodine figure of 93.5. (See Oleum Amygdalae Expressum.)
The leaves of the peach are said to be laxative, and have also been used with asserted advantage in whooping cough, irritability of the bladder, etc. The dried leaves may be employed (an ounce to a pint of hot water) in infusion. The flowers of the peach are affirmed to be laxative and vermicidal, in half-fluid-ounce (15 mils) doses when fresh, given in the form of syrup. Cases of fatal poisoning in children from their use are on record. The peach kernels are distinctly active, and when rubbed up with cold water form an emulsion which may be used in place of cherry-laurel water or other preparations of hydrocyanic acid.
The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.