Herb: Manchurian Apricot
Latin name: Prunus mandschurica
Synonyms: Armeniaca manschurica
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Medicinal use of Manchurian Apricot:The seed is antiasthmatic, antiseptic, antitussive and emollient. It is used in the treatment of coughs, asthma, acute or chronic bronchitis and constipation. The seed contains amygdalin and prunasin, substances which break down in water to form hydrocyanic acid (cyanide or prussic acid). In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Open well illuminated stony or rocky slopes. Mixed forests, thickets, mountain regions and open sunny slopes at elevations of 200 - 1000 metres.
Edible parts of Manchurian Apricot:Fruit - raw or cooked. Not usually very palatable raw but it is all right cooked. Occasionally the fruit is sweet and is then acceptable for dessert. The wild forms are usually slightly fleshy to dry, sour or somewhat bitter, though there are large-fruited forms with a pleasant tasting fragrant flesh. Small, juicy, sub-acid to sweet, they can be eaten out of hand, cooked or made into preserves. A reasonable size, the fruit is up to 25mm in diameter with one small seed. Seed - raw or cooked. It usually has a bitter flavour, though there are plants with sweeter seeds. The seed is a possible almond substitute. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity.
Other uses of the herb:A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit. A very frost-resistant plant, it has the potential for use as a rootstock. Wood - very hard, durable and attractive.
Propagation of Manchurian 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. Softwood cuttings from strongly growing plants in spring to early summer in a frame. Layering in spring.
Cultivation of the herb:Open well illuminated stony or rocky slopes. Mixed forests, thickets, mountain regions and open sunny slopes at elevations of 200 - 1000 metres.
Known hazards of Prunus mandschurica:Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, it belongs to a genus where most, if not all members of the genus produce 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. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but 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.