Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Amar apricot kernels, Amar apricot seed kernels, amygdalin, amygdaloside, Amygdalus armeniaca, apricot lipid transfer protein, apricot kernel oil, Armeniaca, Armeniaca vulgaris, bainiku-ekisu (Japanese), beta-carotene, Chinese almond, cyanide, cyanogenic glycosides, Hamawy apricot seed kernels, Japanese apricot, Japanese apricot juice, Laetrile™, laevoratory, LPT, madelonitrile, niacin, pickled Japanese apricot, potassium, prunasin, Prunus armeniaca, Rosaceae (family), ume (Japanese), ume-shu (Japanese).
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. Laetrile™, an alternative cancer drug marketed in Mexico and other countries outside of the United States, is derived from amygdalin. Laetrile™ 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 Laetrile™ 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.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*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 against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. 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 health care professional.
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 below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is currently a lack of available scientific evidence to recommend any medicinal dosing for apricot in adults. Apricot kernels (approximately 7-10) taken by mouth may be a lethal dose.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is currently a lack of available scientific evidence to recommend any medicinal dosing for apricot in children.
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 Laetrile™, 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 Laetrile™ 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. Laetrile™ is not recommended.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. 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.
Interactions with Drugs
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.
Laetrile™ and apricot kernels both contain amygdalin, and concomitant use may result in cyanide poisoning. Caution is advised.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Araya E, Rodriguez A, Rubio J, et al. Synthesis and evaluation of diverse analogs of amygdalin as potential peptidomimetics of peptide T. Bioorg.Med Chem Lett. 3-1-2005;15(5):1493-1496. View Abstract
Bhatti RA, Ablin RJ, Guinan PD. Tumour-associated directed immunity in prostatic cancer: effect of amygdalin. IRCS Med Sci 1981;9(1):19.
Hill GJ, Shine TE, Hill HZ, et al. Failure of amygdalin to arrest B16 melanoma and BW5147 AKR leukemia. Cancer Res 1976;36(6):2102-2107. View Abstract
Laster WR Jr, Schabel FM Jr. Experimental studies of the antitumor activity of amygdalin MF (NSC- 15780) alone and in combination with beta-glucosidase (NSC-128056). Cancer Chemother Rep 1975;59(5):951-965. View Abstract
Lea MA, Koch MR. Effects of cyanate, thiocyanate, and amygdalin on metabolite uptake in normal and neoplastic tissues of the rat. J Natl.Cancer Inst. 1979;63(5):1279-1283. View Abstract
Moertel CG, Fleming TR, Rubin J, et al. A clinical trial of amygdalin (Laetrile) in the treatment of human cancer. N.Engl.J.Med. 1-28-1982;306(4):201-206. View Abstract
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Ovejera AA, Houchens DP, Barker AD, et al. Inactivity of DL-amygdalin against human breast and colon tumor xenografts in athymic (nude) mice. Cancer Treat.Rep 1978;62(4):576-578. View Abstract
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Smith FP, Butler TP, Cohan S, et al. Laetrile toxicity: a report of two patients. Cancer Treat.Rep 1978;62(1):169-171. View Abstract
Syrigos KN, Rowlinson-Busza G, Epenetos AA. In vitro cytotoxicity following specific activation of amygdalin by beta-glucosidase conjugated to a bladder cancer-associated monoclonal antibody. Int J Cancer 12-9-1998;78(6):712-719. View Abstract
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Wodinsky I, Swiniarski JK. Antitumor activity of amygdalin MF (NSC-15780) as a single agent and with beta-glucosidase (NSC-128056) on a spectrum of transplantable rodent tumors. Cancer Chemother Rep 1975;59(5):939-950. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
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.
March 22, 2017