Apricot generally refers to the fruit of the Prunus armeniaca tree. The tree is moderately sized with reddish bark. The fleshy fruit encloses a hard nut surrounding a droplet-shaped, reddish-brown seed or pit. Cultivation of apricot in China dates back 3,000 years and spread to Armenia, and then to Europe. The Romans introduced apricots to Europe around 70-60 B.C. through Greece and Italy.
The most commonly used part of the apricot in alternative medicine may be the pit, which is also known as the kernel or seed. Apricot pit contains amygdalin, a plant compound that contains sugar and produces cyanide. LaetrileT, an alternative cancer drug marketed in Mexico and other countries outside of the United States, is derived from amygdalin. LaetrileT remains unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and does not appear to be effective for treating cancer. Apricot pits and/or LaetrileT may cause cyanide poisoning.
Apricot kernels and oils have been historically used to treat tumors. The Japanese folk remedy bainiku-ekisu (concentrated Japanese apricot juice) has been used for the treatment of gastritis (stomach inflammation) and enteritis (bowel inflammation) since ancient times, and has recently been studied as a bacteriostatic (stops the growth/reproduction of bacteria) agent. Amygdalin may also be useful for AIDS patients, psoriasis, and hyperoxia (excess of oxygen).
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Aging, antibacterial, aphrodisiac, asthma, child birth (labor induction), constipation, cosmetics, cough, enteritis (inflammation of bowel), eye inflammation, food additive (baby food ingredient), gastritis (inflammation of stomach), hemorrhage, hyperoxia (excess of oxygen), infertility, intestinal disorders/antispasmodic, mental health (neuropsychometric symptoms in AIDS patients), pharmaceutical vehicle, psoriasis, skin rejuvenator, vaginal infections.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to LaetrileT, apricot, its constituents or the Rosaceae family.
Symptoms of allergy may include urticaria ("hives") or rash.
Side Effects and Warnings
Apricot fruit is likely safe when ingested in food amounts. Apricot kernel oil has Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the United States. Apricot fruits are possibly unsafe when taken by mouth by diabetics, as apricot contains sugars and may affect blood sugar levels. Apricot kernels may also lower blood pressure. Urticaria ("hives") and rash have also been reported.
Apricot pits are not well tolerated and are toxic at low to moderate dosing levels. Multiple cases of cyanide poisonings, some of which were fatal, have been associated with the use of LaetrileT and apricot pits. Cyanide poisoning symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, rapid or irregular breathing, and skin discoloration. Coma, shock, metabolic acidosis (acidic pH in the blood), dizziness, severe headache, dilated pupils, blindness, drowsiness, decreases in white blood counts, hypothermia (lowering of the core body temperature), mental retardation, paralysis, goiter, thyroid cancer, cretinism (stunted physical and mental growth in infants and children due to a lack of thyroid hormone) have also been reported. Furthermore, generalized convulsions/seizures, ataxia (loss of coordination), muscle weakness, muscle spasms or muscle tension have been noted in the scientific literature.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Apricot kernels should be avoided in pregnant and breastfeeding women due to the possibility of being unsafe and the increased risk of cyanide poisoning. LaetrileT is not recommended.
Apricot kernels may cause decreases in blood pressure, and therefore may interact with blood pressure lowering medications. A qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, should be consulted.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Apricot kernels may cause decreases in blood pressure, and therefore may interact with blood pressure lowering herbs and supplements. A qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, should be consulted.
Apricot contains beta-carotene, iron, niacin, potassium, thiamine and vitamin C. Taking apricot with these supplements may have additive effects. Caution is advised.
LaetrileT and apricot kernels both contain amygdalin, and concomitant use may result in cyanide poisoning. Caution is advised.
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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.