Most people are aware of the nutritional and health benefits of apricots. However, less known are the health benefits provided by the apricot seeds or the apricot kernels. These seeds are well known for the presence of amygdalin, also known as vitamin B17 and laetrile, which is a compound considered to have the potential to kill cancer cells without causing any damage to healthy cells or without affecting the health of the patient. Some apricot seeds are sweet in taste and their seeds are consumed commonly in central Asia and Mediterranean countries as a substitute for almonds. Apricot seeds are also used to produce oils and certain chemicals that are used to manufacture medicines.
Apricots have long history and so does apricot seeds. Apricots are believed to be found throughout prehistoric age. The fruit spread to Asia and across Himalayas during period of Alexander. The fruit grows well in cold and dry climate. Turkey, Iran and Uzbekistan leads in cultivation of apricot and apricot seeds.Apricot seeds look very much like small almonds. However they turn rancid very soon and have shorter shelf life. Apricot seeds are good for snacking and used in various recipes just like almonds. They are known by other names like Khubani or Jardalu (Hindi), Albaricoque(Spanish), Armenian Plum, Urumana, Xing Ren (Chinese)
Nutritional value of apricot seeds
Apricot seeds have been a subject of controversy because of the presence of the amygdalin, a nitrioloside that is claimed to be an effective cure for cancer. They also contain pangamic acid, which may be used in treating ischemic heart problems. These seeds offer many nutritional benefits because they are a good source of dietary fiber and protein. Apricot seeds have high amounts of monounsaturated fat. A 1/4 cup serving of apricot seeds can offer you 160 calories and 14 grams of fat. Out of 14 grams of fat, only 1 gram is saturated fat. Also a single serving of these seeds contains 5 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of proteins and 7 grams of carbohydrates. Although apricot seeds are not a rich source of vitamins and minerals, the oil made from the seeds contains vitamin E, which is beneficial to your health in many ways. A negative aspect of apricot seeds is that they contain cyanide, which is a toxic substance. Although small amounts of this substance can be detoxified by your body, the consumption of too much apricot seeds can increase the levels of cyanide leading to cyanide poisoning or even death.
Health benefits of apricot seeds
Apricot seeds have been used for medicinal purposes in many countries since olden times. It is rich in vitamin B-17, which is considered to be useful in curing cancer and in treating many other conditions like arthritis, high blood pressure etc.
Apricot seeds and cancer
Apricot seeds are rich in a substance called Amygdalin, also called vitamin B-17. It is an important nutrient that has gained popularity because of its ability to kill cancer cells. In spite of the fact that there is no conclusive evidence to this finding, it is used in many countries as a potential cure for cancer. According to many studies, the vitamin B-17 in apricot seeds releases cyanide inside your body, which attacks and destroys the cancer causing cells, while keeping the healthy cells intact. As a result your body’s ability to fight the cancer cells is increased by the consumption of apricot seeds. There are several researches that indicate that cancer may be caused by malnutrition and due to the deficiency of vitamin B-17 in the body. It has been found that several different populations who had limited food consumption but regular intake of vitamin B-17 in their diet were able to keep cancer at bay.
Apricot seeds lower high blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension is known to be a silent killer because it does not present any symptoms until it becomes serious enough to cause life threatening complications. Studies reveal that the consumption of apricot seeds helped in the lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. This effect is mainly attributed to the high levels of vitamin B-17 in the seeds.
Apricot seeds help in relieving pain
Apricot seeds have been found to have a natural pain relieving effect. This effect is attributed to the presence of benzaldehyde, which is a well known analgesic. Apricot seeds are a great solution for arthritis. It is useful in alleviating the pain and in reducing the symptoms in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It is also helpful in reducing pain in cancer patients.
Apricot seeds for skin care
Apricot seeds are also used in making facial scrubs that help in exfoliating and removing dead cells from your skin. Home made apricot seed facial scrubs help in cleansing your skin, improving blood circulation and in preventing many skin disorders like acne breakouts.
Apricot seeds for respiratory diseases
Apricot seeds or Xing Ren have been long used in Chinese medicine for the treatment of many respiratory ailments like cold, bronchitis, asthma and emphysema. It is also used as a cough suppressant and expectorant, since it is effective in expelling phlegm.
Apricot seeds help in preventing cellular damage
Apricot seeds are considered to have antioxidant effects that help in fighting the harmful free radicals and in preventing cellular damage. The oxidative stress caused by free radicals is often responsible for premature aging and also in developing many serious health conditions like cancer. Therefore the intake of apricot seeds can protect your body from the damages caused by the free radicals.
Apricot seeds have anti-microbial properties
Apricot seeds have been found to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It is effective in fighting against Candida albicans, which is a type of fungus that can cause many kinds of infections.
Apricot seeds help in maintaining proper pH balance
The pH of your blood is slightly alkaline (7.35 to 7.45). Any change in this range can affect your health and lead to many ailments. Over acidity is a sign that your body is weak and not healthy. Maintaining proper acid base balance is essential for improving your overall health. Apricot seeds are a rich source of vitamin B-17, which is very alkaline in nature. Consumption of these seeds helps in neutralizing mild cases of acidity and in maintaining a good pH balance.
Apricot seeds for relieving constipation
Apricot seeds are considered to have laxative properties and hence some doctors recommend apricot seeds for making the bowel movements regular and in relieving constipation.
Apricot seed as aphrodisiac
Just like almonds, apricot seeds are considered aphrodisiac. In Europe they have traditional reputation of increasing sexual drive. References are found in writings of William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and John Webster. However no scientific study have verified such claims.
Other uses of apricot seeds
Apricot seeds can be bought from supermarkets or food stores or can also be ordered online. They can be eaten raw or in the cooked state. Some people grind these seeds into a fine powder form and add them to vegetables, cereals, soups, fruit juice and curries. In additions to having many medicinal properties, these seeds are used in making apricot jams, liquor, Italian amaretto cookies and imparting flavor to many recipes. Oil is made from apricot seeds, which is used in cooking. Being a natural and very mild oil, it is safely used in skin products, baby products and as massage oil. It is also high in fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A and sterols, all of which are beneficial for your skin health. Hence it is used widely in many cosmetic products such as soaps, moisturizers, creams, aromatherapy blends and skin lotions. One advantage of apricot seeds oil is that it does not leave your skin oily and sticky. As such, it is popularly used as an effective sunbathing and massage oil.
Uses of Apricot kernel oil
Apricot seeds contain about 40-50% of oil which can be extracted by cold pressing the dried apricot seeds. This oil contains many essential vitamins like vitamin A, Vitamin C and vitamin E that are highly beneficial for the health. The fatty acids in apricot seed have high percentage of healthy unsaturated fatty acids. Concentration of cyanides in apricot seeds has been major worry. However food grade apricot seed oil often finds culinary uses. It is used for high temperature frying as it has high flame temperature. It is also used in salad dressing and blends well with other flavors. Oil from Siberian Apricot seeds complies with standards for biodiesel. Research has shown antimicrobial and cardio protective properties of apricot kernel oil. Apricot seed oil has uses in cosmetic industry and used in manufacture of creams, soaps and skin lotions. Apricot oil is uses as home remedy for ear ache. It is used for curing stomach ulcers in Britain, while Chinese use it for curing constipation and respiratory disorders.
Skin benefits of Apricot kernel oil
It is also a wonderful moisturizer that helps in hydrating and increasing the elasticity of your skin. Application of this oil can help you have a beautiful and glowing skin. Unlike most other oil, apricot seed oil does not leave your skin oily. This makes it useful for people with oily skin. Apricot seed oil offers essential nutrients like omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids along with vitamin E and Vitamin A required for healthy skin. These nutrients help keep skin moist and firm. It reduces signs of wrinkles and aging. It has antimicrobial action to protect skin from infections and helpful in diseases like eczema, scabies, and psoriasis. Some good ways to enjoy benefits of apricot seed oil for skin
- Massage your skin with apricot oil at night. This shall make your skin radiant.
- You can mix this with other oils like coconut, almond or olive and enhance benefits to skin. This works great for dry skin.
- Make apricot facial mask at home by mixing mashed avocado, with teaspoon of apricot oil. Add couple of drops of aromatic oil like lavender oil. Apply to your face and allow oil to penetrate for 30 minutes. Wash your face with lukewarm water.
- Apricot oil can be applied to your lips when dry.
- Apricot seed oil blends well with aromatic oil like lavender, rose, jasmine or chamomile and can be used as carrier oil in aromatherapy.
Apricot seed oil for hair
Apricot oil offers essential nutrients which are required for healthy hair and scallop. Massaging apricot oil along with amla or coconut oil helps to keep scalp healthy. It also promotes growth of hair and helps prevent hair from damage. Fatty acids in apricot seed oil ensures hydration of scalp and keeps it moist. Apply apricot seed oil after shampoo for conditioning effect.
Storage and shelf-life of apricot seeds
Many factors influence the shelf life of apricot seeds. These seeds when kept at room temperature without removing their shell will stay without damage for almost 3 years. But once the shell is broke open, the seeds are exposed to oxygen and other contaminants and from then onwards, the shelf life would depend on how the seeds are stored. Apricot seeds will keep for around two years if stored in a sealed container and refrigerated. However, without refrigeration the shelf life is reduced to about 6 months.
Side effects of apricot seeds
Apricot seeds are well known for the presence of amygdalin, a compound that is claimed to have anti-cancer properties. Even though many laboratory studies support this claim, it is not yet approved. A major side effect of apricot seeds is that it can release cyanide in your body. Therefore too much consumption of these seeds may lead to cyanide poisoning. Some of the mild symptoms associated with cyanide poisoning include nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness. Severe cyanide poisoning can lead to reduced amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, diminished alertness, ptosis, nerve damage and low blood pressure. It can also lead to damage of your liver. In some cases it can cause coma and even death. Consumption of apricot seeds with vitamin C or foods like carrot, celery, peaches etc is not recommended because these foods contain enzymes that promotes the release of cyanide in your body, thus intensifying the toxic effects.
Apart from having the ability to fight against cancer, apricot seeds are packed with nutrition that helps in maintaining overall health and well-being. In spite of the fact that the claims to cure cancer with apricot seeds are quite controversial, the nutritional benefits of these seeds do not stop people from eating it.Image Credits: Wikimedia - Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, Flickr - David Avoura King