Prunus armeniaca / Abrikoos
CTFA name: Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil
Apricot trees can grow as tall as 30 feet with oval, finely serrated leaves, and clusters of white, five-petaled flowers.1 The tree blooms in February and early March, most often during a cold rainstorm, and the fruit ripens from June through July.2 The fruit can be anywhere from yellow or orange to purple.1 Most apricot trees were grown from seedlings until the nineteenth century when selection for varieties began.3 Apricot trees prefer regions with dry spring weather because spring frosts can be detrimental.2 The fruit of different varieties have different color and size as well as flavor. The apricot is native to China and Japan, but it is cultivated in the warmer areas of the world; mostly California, Australia, South Africa, Southern Europe and the region from Turkey through Iran. The fruit is eaten fresh or dried and in jams.
History and Cultural Significance
The Greeks wrongly assumed that the apricot originated in Armenia, hence the botanical name, Prunus armeniaca. The fruit is referenced in the Bible and in some places was used as a source of payment.1 In folklore the nectar of the apricot was the first choice of the Greek and Roman gods. In eastern countries it is known as ‘Moon of the Faithful’.4 Apricot is a folk medicine remedy for infertility and bleeding as well as eye inflammation and spasms.1 Apricots have been cultivated in China for 3000 years and were probably brought to the east coast of the U.S. by English settlers, while Spanish Missionaries most likely brought them to California where most of the current commercial production occurs.3
Apricot kernel oil is commonly found in cosmetic products such as creams and soaps.5 It is a light seed oil, high in vitamin A and B, which has been used traditionally to help with rejuvenating skin cells.6 It has been used for all skin types, including aging and sensitive skin.6 The kernel oil is also found in flavorings, confections and juices.1
There are currently no studies available on the topical uses of apricot kernel oil. It is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) for use in food in the U.S.5 The whole fruit contains vitamin K, C, beta-carotene, thiamine, niacin and iron.1
There are specific rare varieties of apricot that are not commercially cultivated, but are greatly needed as a genetic resource for apricot breeding; many are on the verge of becoming endangered due to the expansion of local cultivars.7 Commercial apricot production is relatively recent and there is much to be learned before it becomes efficient. The knowledge about apricot flowering, fruit development, training and technology is very limited, as is information on handling, storage, and transportation of the fruit.
1 DerMarderosian A, Beutler A. eds. The Review of Natural Products. Facts and Comparisons: St. Louis, MO; 2002.
2 University of California. 1998-2000. Available at: http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/Apricot.shtml. Accessed February 19, 2005.
3 Tri-County Produce Guide: The Apricot. Available at: http://www.tricountyfarm.org/oregon_apricots.asp. Accessed February 19, 2005.
4 Onstad D. Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks Curious Shoppers and Lovers of Natural Foods. Chelsea Green: White River Junction, VT: 1996.
5 Barnes J, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines. Pharmaceutical Press: London; 2002.
6 Cookley V. Aromatherapy: A Lifetime Guide to Healing With Essential Oils. Prentice Hall: Paramus, NJ; 1996.
7 Apricot Industry in China. Available at: http://www.sardi.sa.gov.au. Accessed February 19, 2005.