Apricot (generic name)
Table of Contents
Top Learning Centers(Recursos en Español)
Alternate TitlePrunus armeniaca
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Amar apricot kernels, Amar apricot seed kernels, amygdalin, amygdaloside, Amygdalus armeniaca, apricot lipid transfer protein, apricot kernel oil, Armeniaca, Armeniaca vulgaris, bainiku-ekisu (Japanese), beta-carotene, Chinese almond, cyanide, cyanogenic glycosides, Hamawy apricot seed kernels, Japanese apricot, Japanese apricot juice, Laetrile™, laevoratory, LPT, madelonitrile, niacin, pickled Japanese apricot, potassium, prunasin, Prunus armeniaca, Rosaceae (family), ume (Japanese), ume-shu (Japanese).
Apricot generally refers to the fruit of the Prunus armeniaca tree. The tree is moderately sized with reddish bark. The fleshy fruit encloses a hard nut surrounding a droplet-shaped, reddish-brown seed or pit. Cultivation of apricot in China dates back 3,000 years and spread to Armenia, and then to Europe. The Romans introduced apricots to Europe around 70-60 B.C. through Greece and Italy.
The most commonly used part of the apricot in alternative medicine may be the pit, which is also known as the kernel or seed. Apricot pit contains amygdalin, a plant compound that contains sugar and produces cyanide. Laetrile™, an alternative cancer drug marketed in Mexico and other countries outside of the United States, is derived from amygdalin. Laetrile™ remains unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and does not appear to be effective for treating cancer. Apricot pits and/or Laetrile™ may cause cyanide poisoning.
Apricot kernels and oils have been historically used to treat tumors. The Japanese folk remedy bainiku-ekisu (concentrated Japanese apricot juice) has been used for the treatment of gastritis (stomach inflammation) and enteritis (bowel inflammation) since ancient times, and has recently been studied as a bacteriostatic (stops the growth/reproduction of bacteria) agent. Amygdalin may also be useful for AIDS patients, psoriasis, and hyperoxia (excess of oxygen).
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Aging, antibacterial, aphrodisiac, asthma, child birth (labor induction), constipation, cosmetics, cough, enteritis (inflammation of bowel), eye inflammation, food additive (baby food ingredient), gastritis (inflammation of stomach), hemorrhage, hyperoxia (excess of oxygen), infertility, intestinal disorders/antispasmodic, mental health (neuropsychometric symptoms in AIDS patients), pharmaceutical vehicle, psoriasis, skin rejuvenator, vaginal infections.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is currently a lack of available scientific evidence to recommend any medicinal dosing for apricot in adults. Apricot kernels (approximately 7-10) taken by mouth may be a lethal dose.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is currently a lack of available scientific evidence to recommend any medicinal dosing for apricot in children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to Laetrile™, apricot, its constituents or the Rosaceae family.
Side Effects and Warnings
Apricot fruit is likely safe when ingested in food amounts. Apricot kernel oil has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the United States. Apricot fruits are possibly unsafe when taken by mouth by diabetics, as apricot contains sugars and may affect blood sugar levels. Apricot kernels may also lower blood pressure. Urticaria ("hives") and rash have also been reported.
Apricot pits are not well tolerated and are toxic at low to moderate dosing levels. Multiple cases of cyanide poisonings, some of which were fatal, have been associated with the use of Laetrile™ and apricot pits. Cyanide poisoning symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, rapid or irregular breathing, and skin discoloration. Coma, shock, metabolic acidosis (acidic pH in the blood), dizziness, severe headache, dilated pupils, blindness, drowsiness, decreases in white blood counts, hypothermia (lowering of the core body temperature), mental retardation, paralysis, goiter, thyroid cancer, cretinism (stunted physical and mental growth in infants and children due to a lack of thyroid hormone) have also been reported. Furthermore, generalized convulsions/seizures, ataxia (loss of coordination), muscle weakness, muscle spasms or muscle tension have been noted in the scientific literature.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Apricot kernels should be avoided in pregnant and breastfeeding women due to the possibility of being unsafe and the increased risk of cyanide poisoning. Laetrile™ is not recommended.
Interactions with Drugs
Apricot kernels may cause decreases in blood pressure, and therefore may interact with blood pressure lowering medications. A qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, should be consulted.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Apricot kernels may cause decreases in blood pressure, and therefore may interact with blood pressure lowering herbs and supplements. A qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, should be consulted.
Laetrile™ and apricot kernels both contain amygdalin, and concomitant use may result in cyanide poisoning. Caution is advised.
This information is based on a professional level monograph edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com): Deena Beneda-Khosh, ND (University of Kansas Medical Center); Rebecca Bramwell, PharmD (Northeastern University); Huong Thien Dang, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Nicole Giese, MS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Erica Rusie, PharmD (Nova Southeastern University); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); William Tobin (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD (Massachusetts General Hospital); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Jen Woods, BS (Northeastern University).