Herb: Siberian Apricot


Latin name: Prunus sibirica


Synonyms: Armeniaca sibirica


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Siberian Apricot:

The seed is analgesic, 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:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

Flovering:
March

Habitat of the herb:

Dry sunny slopes amongst shrubs. Forests, thickets, hill grasslands, river valleys and dry sunny slopes at elevations of 400 - 2500 metres.

Edible parts of Siberian Apricot:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A good size, it is about 25mm x 25mm and contains one large seed. Sour and scarcely edible. The fruit is occasionally eaten. Seed - raw or cooked. A bitter taste, they are normally used as an almond flavouring. Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter - see the notes above on toxicity. An edible oil is obtained from the seed - it is used as an almond flavouring. The oil resembles olive oil.

Other uses of the herb:

A potential rootstock for apricots. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.

Propagation of Siberian 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:

Dry sunny slopes amongst shrubs. Forests, thickets, hill grasslands, river valleys and dry sunny slopes at elevations of 400 - 2500 metres.

Known hazards of Prunus sibirica:

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.