Sturdy deciduous tree growing to 33 ft (10 m). Has finely serrated oval leaves, clusters of white (or, rarely, pink) 5-petaled flowers, and lightly freckled pale yellow to deep purple fruits.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to China and Japan, apricot is now cultivated in Asia, North Africa, and California. The fruit is collected when ripe in late summer.
Fruit, seeds, bark.
Apricot fruit contains fruit sugars, vitamins, and iron. The seeds contain up to 8% amygdalin, the cyanogenic glycoside that yields laetrile and hydrocyanic (prussic) acid. The bark contains tannins.
History & Folklore
In India and China, the apricot has been appreciated for well over 2,000 years. Dong Feng, a physician who practiced at the end of the 2nd century ce, is said to have asked for his payment in apricot trees.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Apricot fruit is nutritious, cleansing, and mildly laxative. A decoction of the astringent bark soothes inflamed and irritated skin conditions.Though the seeds contain highly toxic prussic acid, they are prescribed in small amounts in the Chinese tradition as a treatment for coughs, asthma, and wheezing,and for excessive mucus production and constipation.
An extract from the seeds,laetrile, has been used in Western medicine as a controversial (and illegal in the U.S.) treatment for cancer. The seeds also yield a fixed oil, similar to almondoil (from P. amygdalus), that is often used in the formulation of cosmetics.
Chinese trials show that apricot seed paste helps combat vaginal infection.
Apricot seeds are highly toxic in all but the smallest amounts and should not be consumed.