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Apricots are a stone fruit like peaches and plums. The fruit itself is rich in vitamins and minerals but, did you know that the stone itself is a great source of nutrients as well? Apricot kernels are widely used in Chinese medicine and research shows that it could have great effects on our general health. Not to mention, it has some brilliant uses in the beauty and cosmetic world as well.
Does It Work As A Cancer Treatment?
Apricot seeds are most commonly sought out for their reputation as a cancer treatment. Apricot kernels contain a compound called laetrile. Laetrile is composed of a chemical called amygdalin which is commonly known as vitamin B-17. In the past, doctors hypothesized that these compounds would help target cancer cells and potentially save lives. Modern research remains mixed as some studies show it to be effective while others claim that it has no effect at all. In any case, the drug was never tested or FDA approved.[ref]Drescher, Gregory P. “What’s in an Apricot?: The Seeds of Life and Death.” (1995).[/ref]
That’s because this potentially life-saving compound, laetrile, converts to cyanide in the body. Experts theorize that this cyanide only targets and kills cancer cells but the risk of poisoning is still a possibility if you consume too many of these seeds.
How Should You Buy Them?
Apricot seeds which are grown in parts of Asia, have a higher amygdalin content but an increased risk of poisoning. They may not be labeled properly with nutritional information which makes it hard to tell what the concentrations of amygdalin may be present. They are called bitter apricot seeds. Sweet apricot seeds, on the other hand, have a lower amygdalin concentration. These have a mild pleasant flavor similar to almonds.
The oil extracted from them is often used in Italian desserts. If you are buying the oil, make sure you buy cold-pressed, organic oil from a reputed source and that it says ‘edible’ on the label. Those made for cosmetic purposes may have stabilizers added to increase shelf life.
1. Boosts Immunity
Apricot seeds have been shown to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. This helps prevent the body from damage and helps fight existing infections. In lab tests, the extracts from bitter apricot kernels were seen to be especially effective against bacteria that cause food poisonings like Staph and E. coli.[ref]Yiğit, D., N. Yiğit, and A. Mavi. “Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of bitter and sweet apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) kernels.” Brazilian Journal of Medical and biological research 42, no. 4 (2009): 346-352.[/ref] The extract from sweet apricot kernels showed significant antioxidant activity.
2. Reduces Blood Pressure
Extract from sweet apricot kernels has been shown to reduce the amount of angiotensin-converting enzyme or ACE. ACE increases blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. Studies show that apricot kernel extract has the potential to counter this effect.[ref]Ghorab, Hamida, Carmen Lammi, Anna Arnoldi, Zahia Kabouche, and Gilda Aiello. “Proteomic analysis of sweet algerian apricot kernels (Prunus armeniaca L.) by combinatorial peptide ligand libraries and LC–MS/MS.” Food Chemistry 239 (2018): 935-945.[/ref]
3. Increases Insulin Sensitivity
The extract from sweet apricot kernels seems to increase glucose uptake stimulation.[ref][ref]Ghorab, Hamida, Carmen Lammi, Anna Arnoldi, Zahia Kabouche, and Gilda Aiello. “Proteomic analysis of sweet algerian apricot kernels (Prunus armeniaca L.) by combinatorial peptide ligand libraries and LC–MS/MS.” Food Chemistry 239 (2018): 935-945.[/ref] This suggests that it could increase insulin sensitivity and keep blood sugar levels stable. As a result, it’s likely to help prevent spikes in blood sugar.
4. Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The apricot kernel shows great promise as an anti-inflammatory.[ref]Durmaz, Gökhan, and Mehmet Alpaslan. “Antioxidant properties of roasted apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) kernel.” Food chemistry 100, no. 3 (2007): 1177-1181.[/ref] It has compounds that will fight the activity of free radicals which oxidize lipids in the body. In simple terms, what this means is that it helps prevent the natural damage and deterioration that happens in the body from happening in excess. This prevents inflammation which reduces the likelihood of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.
5. May Help Treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Thanks to the antioxidant activity, apricot kernel extract and oil showed a reduction of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in rats. While there have been no human studies on the subject, existing research shows that it may have potential as a complementary treatment for IBDs like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.[ref]Minaiyan, M., A. Ghannadi, M. Asadi, M. Etemad, and P. Mahzouni. “Anti-inflammatory effect of Prunus armeniaca L.(Apricot) extracts ameliorates TNBS-induced ulcerative colitis in rats.” Research in pharmaceutical sciences 9, no. 4 (2014): 225.[/ref]
6. May Reduce Dandruff
The oil will help hydrate an itchy and dry scalp if that is what’s causing the dandruff on your scalp. Some forms of dandruff are caused by a yeast-like fungus. Studies show that the apricot kernel oil has anti-fungal properties which may help fight this form of dandruff if that is the case.[ref]Geng, Huiling, Xinchi Yu, Ailin Lu, Haoqiang Cao, Bohang Zhou, Le Zhou, and Zhong Zhao. “Extraction, Chemical Composition, and Antifungal Activity of Essential Oil of Bitter Almond.” International journal of molecular sciences 17, no. 9 (2016): 1421.[/ref] Mix together 1 tbsp of apricot kernel oil and 1 tbsp castor oil in a bowl and place the bowl in a pan of warm water to heat up. Then massage this into your scalp and leave on for 15 minutes before shampooing off.
7. Reduces Acne
Many people swear by the acne-clearing effects of apricot kernel oil. Thanks to its anti-microbial effect, the oil can help kill and clear acne-causing bacteria. Mix together two parts coconut oil, one part apricot seed oil, two drops of lemongrass, and two drops of rosemary. Apply this to your face as you would a moisturizer.
It’s clear that these unassuming kernels pack a whole lot of punch when it comes to the health front. If you want to experience this for yourself, just make sure to buy your seeds and oil from a reputed source.