Bitter almond
Bitter almond


Bitter almond (Prunus amygdalus var. amara) is a type of almond. It contains a toxic chemical called amygdalin, which is poisonous when consumed.

The amygdalin in bitter almond turns into poisonous hydrocyanic acid (HCN) in the body. This chemical slows down the nervous system and causes serious breathing problems. Sweet almond (Prunus dulcis), which is the type of almond that is commonly eaten, doesn’t contain these toxins.

People apply bitter almond for stretch marks and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Don’t confuse bitter almond with sweet almond or apricot kernel. These are not the same.
When taken by mouth: Bitter almond is likely unsafe. It contains a poisonous chemical that can cause serious side effects, such as slowing of the nervous system, breathing problems, and death.

When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if bitter almond is safe or what the side effects might be.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Bitter almond is likely unsafe when taken by mouth while pregnant or breast-feeding. There isn't enough reliable information to know if bitter almond is safe when applied to the skin. Stay on the safe side and avoid any use.

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.

Allergies to peanuts and tree nuts: People with peanut allergies are more likely to be allergic to nuts called "tree nuts." Bitter almond is a tree nut. People who are allergic to one tree nut are also more likely to have an allergy to at least one other tree nut. Avoid eating any tree nuts unless you know that you are not allergic to them.


There is interest in using bitter almond for a number of purposes, but there isn’t enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.
Likely effective Effectiveness definitions
Possibly effective Effectiveness definitions
Likely ineffective Effectiveness definitions
Possibly ineffective Effectiveness definitions
Insufficient evidence Effectiveness definitions

Dosing & administration

There isn’t enough reliable information to know what an appropriate dose of bitter almond might be. Bitter almond might also be unsafe. Speak with a healthcare provider before use.

Interactions with pharmaceuticals

Sedative medications (CNS depressants)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Bitter almond might cause sleepiness and slowed breathing. Some medications, called sedatives, can also cause sleepiness and slowed breathing. Taking bitter almond with sedative medications might cause breathing problems and/or too much sleepiness.

Interactions with herbs & supplements

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Interactions with foods

There are no known interactions with foods. has licensed monographs from TRC Healthcare.
This monograph was last reviewed on 31/05/2023 10:00:00 and last updated on 22/09/2014 19:00:21. Monographs are reviewed and/or updated multiple times per month and at least once per year.
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