Herb: Apricot

Latin name: Prunus armeniaca

Synonyms: Armeniaca vulgaris

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Apricot:

Apricot fruits are nutritious, cleansing and mildly laxative. The flowers are tonic, promoting fecundity in women. The bark is astringent. The inner bark and/or the root are used for treating poisoning caused by eating bitter almond and apricot seeds (which contain hydrogen cyanide). Another report says that a decoction of the outer bark is used to neutralize the effects of hydrogen cyanide. The decoction is also used to soothe inflamed and irritated skin conditions. The seed is analgesic, anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, demulcent, emollient, expectorant, pectoral, sedative and vulnerary. It is used in the treatment of asthma, coughs, acute or chronic bronchitis and constipation. The seed contains "laetrile", a substance that has also been called vitamin B17. This has been claimed to have a positive effect in the treatment of cancer, but there does not at present seem to be much evidence to support this. The pure substance is almost harmless, but on hydrolysis it yields hydrocyanic acid, a very rapidly acting poison - it should thus be treated with caution. In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.

Description of the plant:


9 m
(30 feet)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Most trees growing apparently wild have escaped from cultivation but there are pure stands of the trees in Tibet on mountain slopes in sparse forests at elevations of 700 - 3000 metres.

Edible parts of Apricot:

Fruit - raw, cooked or dried for later use. The best forms are soft and juicy with a delicious rich flavour. Wild trees in the Himalayas yield about 47.5kg of fruit per year.The fruit of the wild form contains about 6.3% sugars, 0.7% protein, 2.5% ash, 2.5% pectin. There is about 10mg vitamin C per 100g of pulp. The fruit is about 5cm in diameter and contains one large seed. Seed - raw or cooked. Bitter seeds should be eaten in strict moderation, but sweet ones can be eaten freely. The bitter seeds can be used as a substitute for bitter almonds in making marzipan etc. An edible gum is obtained from the trunk. The seed contains up to 50% of an edible semi-drying oil.

Other uses of the herb:

An edible semi-drying oil is obtained from the seed. Used for lighting. The oil has a softening effect on the skin and so it is used in perfumery and cosmetics, and also in pharmaceuticals. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. Wood - handsome, hard, durable. Agricultural implements etc.

Propagation of Apricot:

Seed - requires 2 - 3 months cold stratification and is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Sow stored seed in a cold frame as early in the year as possible. Protect the seed from mice etc. The seed can be rather slow, sometimes taking 18 months to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July/August in a frame. Difficult. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Difficult. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Most trees growing apparently wild have escaped from cultivation but there are pure stands of the trees in Tibet on mountain slopes in sparse forests at elevations of 700 - 3000 metres.

Known hazards of Prunus armeniaca:

This species produces hydrogen cyanide, a poison that gives almonds their characteristic flavour. This toxin is found mainly in the leaves and seed and is readily detected by its bitter taste. Usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm, any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.