Herb Library

Back to Herb Menu     Back to Index

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

Apricot, CommonApricot, Japanese

aka Apricock, Bitter Almond, Wild Apricot
(Prunus armeniaca syn Armeniaca vulgaris)
[xing ren]
image image
Also see: Almond, Bitter

CAUTION: Excessive eating of the kernal can result in HYDROCYANIC POISONING. Excess causes central nervous system depression and respiratory failure. The toxicity of amygdalin is reduced by stir-baking or steaming and can be neutralized by a decoction of the outer bark. Hydrocyanic (prussic) acid is a GENERAL PROTOPLASMIC POISON even at a dose of 2.5 g. For children as few as 10 kernals can be LETHAL and for adults 50-60. Licorice or jujube taken with it helps as an antidote (also applies to wild cherry bark or peach seed).

CONTRA-INDICATED: Not used for diarrhea (wild cherry bark is used).

A small hardy tree of temperate zones which bears stone fruit. It was introduced into England from Italy during the reign of Henry the VIII. Kernals are a source of laetrile which is used in cancer therapy in Mexico and Germany (peach seeds are used in Chinese medicine to dissolve tumors and for some types of cancer). The Japanese scientists are currently reinvestigating laetrile for this purpose.

NOTE: Laetrile therapy is illegal in the United States, Canada and many other nations. Laetrile is mainly amygdalin isolated from the kernals of apricot, almond, peach and related rose family species. When pure, amygdalin is almost harmless, but in the presence of water it yields HCN or hydrocyanic acid (a rapid acting poison). Symptoms of poisoning are dizziness, difficulty thinking, headache, palpitation, difficult breathing, unconsciousness with violent convulsions.
Originally patented in the United States in 1961, it is not the same compound that is in current use (1997). Originally known as mandelonitrile glucuronide, but was very difficult to procure. A closely related compound - amygadalin (mandelonitrile B-d-gentiobioside) became the laetrile of commerce in 1971.
In 1980 the National Cancer Institute began clinical studies of laetrile in cancer patients. The results were that it did not make cancer regress, did not extend lifespan, did not help patient to gain weight or to become more physically active.

CONTAINS: Active constituents of kernal are Amygdalin (yields hydrocyanic acid, glucose and benzaldehyde). Also contains sitoserol. The kernals will yield 40 to 50% expressed fixed oil consisting mainly of Olein with small amounts of glyceride of linolic acid.
Three small apricots have about 2,770 I.U. of beta-carotene (more than 50% of the RDA). The dried fruit contains beta-carotene, potassium, boron, 20% of the RDA for iron (in 1/2 C.). It is higher in fiber than the fresh fruit.

NOTE: Purchase dried fruit in a health food store and be cautious about labels...look for the presence of sulfites and avoid those dried fruits that contain them. Some people are seriously allergic to sulfites. Better yet, purchase a dehydrator and make your own.

PROPAGATION: By seed in autumn; by softwood cuttings or semi-ripe cuttings in summer.
NEEDS: Well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in full sun. Prune to restrict growth and encourage formation of fruit buds.
HARVEST: Unripe fruits in summer and then dry for decoctions. The seeds are crushed for oil.
PART USED: Fruits, kernals [xiang ren], flower, seeds, inner stem bark, and root.


Bittersweet, warming, lubricant, expectorant, controls cough, laxative. Affects lung and colon.
Kernals considered anti-tussive, expectorant, sedative, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, demulcent, pectoral and vulnerary and are used for common cold, coughs, bronchial asthma, rheumatism, tumors, and constipation in the elderly.
Flowers considered tonic and used to promote female fertility.
Seeds have been used as a pain killer. A beverage [hsieng-jen t'ang] is made by crushing the seeds in boiling water and has been used for asthma, catarrh, cough and also injected into acupuncture loci for aquapuncture therapy for chronic bronchitis
Inner stem bark has been used for treating apricot kernal poisoning.
Root has been antidote to the kernal.
Has been used internally for dry coughs, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and dry constipation. Is more demulcent than wild cherry bark and has been used as a mild laxative for dryness in the colon.
The dried ripe kernal has been used medicinally in Chinese medicine. It is considered tonic and purgative. It is used to control spasms, and to expel phlegm from respiratory passages.
Has been used in Europe since at least 500 AD against tumors and the oil has been in use for the same purpose since about the 17th century.
In Mexico the constituent Laetrile (contains benzaldehyde) is used in cancer therapy. The belief in this highly controversial therapy is that the laetrile breaks down into several compounds (including cyanide) which acts on a tumor material, but not healthy cells.
Fruit or the juice is a valuable source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) which helps protect against cancer.

Must be infused in cold water. A standard infusion is used OR 3-9 grams of crushed seed (precautions must be observed!!!)

Taken first thing in the morning to stimulate the organs. Wash and remove the pits from 12 apricots and discard. Place pitted fruit in blender and add 12 oz. of water. Blend together until thoroughly smooth and drink. OR: Soak a package of dried apricots overnight in bottled water. Add honey and powdered cinnamon to taste and then blend to a smooth consistency.

Fruits are eaten fresh and dried, made into jams and jellies, preserved, and used to make juice.
Fruits are used to make brandy and liqueurs.
Apricot juice can be used in place of water when making pancakes.
Juice can be poured over cooked oatmeal. It can also be used in place of water when cooking curried lamb and salted rice.

FACIAL MASK 1 = Mash fresh or dried (rehydrate overnight) apricots mixed with warm olive oil to form a spreadable paste. It moisturizes dry skin and provides vitamin A.
FACIAL MASK 2 (face-lift regimen) = In blender place enough fresh apricots with a tiny bit of water to measure a total of 1 cup. Coarsely chop or slice a peeled, halved avocado without the pit and place in the blender. Blend until the mixture is a smooth, even consistency. Then add a dollop of olive oil and blend for another minute or two. Apply this mask in thin uniform layer over the face and neck and throat and leave on for 45 minutes. Rinse off with water. This is best done in the early evening (2 or 3 times per week). Each evening put a little heavy dairy cream or half-and-half into a bowl with the juice of half a lemon. Blend well. Before retiring for the evening and using only enough to cover areas previously cleansed with the mask, use a cotton ball to gently massage the skin using a rotating action. Go to bed and in the morning gently bathe face with barley or oatmeal soap.
FACIAL MASK 3 (for dull skin) = Mash a fresh apricot to a pulp and pat on the skin. Do this every other day. Allow to remain for 10 minutes and then rinse.
FACIAL MASK 4 (using dried apricots) = Be sure the fruit is free of sulphur dioxide (used as a preservative). Soak overnight in enough water to cover the fruit. The next day cook gently at a low temperature til soft. Mash the warm stewed fruit to a soft pulp and apply a thin layer to the face and throat. Wear for 10 minutes and then rinse away.

Oil is used in cosmetics for its softening action on the skin. It is also used in the manufacture of soaps, cold creams and products of the perfumery trade.

aka Japanese Flowering Apricot
(Prunus mume)
image image


A small hardy attractive tree native to China and SW Japan and is a popular bonsai subject. The flesh of the fruit is sour and bitter.

CONTAINS: Each 100 grams of fruit contains: 388 calories, 9.7 g. protein, 13.4 g. fat, 67.9 g. total carbohydrate, 10.4 g. fiber, 9.0 g. ash, 82 mg calcium, 269 mg phosphorus, 13.4 mg iron, 60 mg sodium, 2,328 mg potassium, 149 ug B-carotene equivalent, 0.37 mg. thiamine, 0.37 mg. riboflavin, 3.73 mg niacin and 75 mg of vitamin C.

PART USED: Unripe fruit [wu mei], flower petals, roots and bark, and leaves


Astringent, vermifuge, stimulates bile flow.
The unripe fruit has been used for abdominal complaints, coughs, diarrhea, dysentary, and intestinal worms. Also used to control fever, spasms, vomiting, chronic diarrhea, irregular blood pressure and roundworm infestations.
The dried flower petals have been used in decoction for fever and sore throats. The white flower buds have been used for glandular TB, phlegm in the chest, poor vision and summer colds.
Roots and bark have been used to treat jaundice. Also used externally for fungal skin infections, corns, and warts.
Leaves have been used for flux and menorrhagia.
The dried green fruits have been used for abdominal pain, achlorhydria (absence of free hydrochloric acid in the stomach), cough, diarrhea, dysentary, fever, intestinal worms, rectocele (protrusion of the rectum into the vagina often seen with women have given birth) and roundworm.
The half-ripe smoked fruit (called wu mei) are believed to be antispasmodic, carminative, febrifuge and have been used in cholera, fluxes, intestinal worms, malaria and nausea. Their infusion has been used in cases of thyphus.
The green fruits have been pickled in brine and then dried (called pai mei) and applied externally to cancer of the breast and to wounds. Also used for cholera, epilepsy, flux and menorrhagia.>
The fruits in combination with Fructus crataegi, Folium loti, Rhizoma polygonati, Fructus canarii and Herba tararaci have been used for treating pneumonia which is characterized by debility, lowered resistance and functional disturbances of the gastro-intestinal tract.
The dried root has been used for jaundice, colds and flux.

Fruits are pickled and used to make plum wine and liqueurs.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH