Apricot Kernel Oil Benefits, Uses, and Properties
The apricot, or Prunus armeniaca, is a small, sweet-tasting fruit that has been grown commercially in Europe and Asia for many centuries. Apricots can be enjoyed on their own, in desserts, or even savory dishes.
What you may not know about apricots is that the oil from their pits, called kernels, also has a range of excellent health benefits. Apricot kernel oil, which is rich in vitamin B17, can be commonly found in health stores and is easy to incorporate into your regular diet.
As you probably already know, doctors recommend choosing foods rich in unsaturated fats over those with saturated fats, since these "bad" fats are associated with an increased cancer risk and heart disease. Fortunately, apricot kernel oil is an excellent source of unsaturated fats, such as oleic and linoleic acids. Other oils high in unsaturated fats include:
- avocado oil
- canola oil
- olive oil
- sunflower oil
- soybean oil
- flaxseed oil
- fish oil
- walnut oil
There are two types of "good" unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Both are better than traditional saturated fats, such as butter and animal fats, because they provide omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids, which can help improve heart health and decrease cholesterol levels. As an added bonus, apricot oil also contains plenty of vitamins A, C, and E, which are excellent for skin and hair health.
Controversy over apricot kernels
Food-grade apricot kernel oil is safe to consume and has numerous health benefits. But there's still plenty of controversy over apricot kernels. The truth is that the kernels themselves contain a chemical compound called amygdalin. When ingested, certain enzymes in your body convert the amygdalin to hydrogen cyanide, which can actually lead to fatal cyanide poisoning.
Despite the health risks, apricot kernels have been used in alternative medicine for many decades, specifically as a cancer cure. Many alternative medicine experts claim that the kernels can help shrink tumors, reduce the physical effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and help boost vitamin levels and the immune system.
Conventional doctors, however, claim that kernels as a cancer medication are not effective. Although many studies have been done on apricot kernels as a treatment, most notably at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the 1970s, there's still no official documentation confirming it actually works. In fact, over the past decade, the controversy surrounding apricot kernels has only increased. Laetrile, which shares many molecular similarities with amygdalin, has actually been banned on the commercial market in the United States, and the Food and Drug Administration has not approved either substance as an effective treatment of disease.
Uses of apricot kernel oil
Despite the controversy over apricot kernels, many people still regularly incorporate apricot kernel oil, or the seeds themselves, into their diet. The greatest danger appears to stem from eating the raw bitter kernels in large amounts. Some health organizations, such as the British Food Standards Agency, have released bulletins advising the public not to consume more than a handful or so of kernels a day.
Cold-pressed apricot kernel oil, however, has many conventional uses and is widely accepted as a safe oil for both cooking and body care. Here are five common uses of apricot kernel oil in the home or kitchen:
Apricot oil is a healthy alternative to using butter in the frying pan. Like sunflower oil and avocado oil, apricot kernel oil is suitable for high-temperature frying due to its high smoke point. It also has a light and nutty taste that does not overpower the natural flavor of other food. Of course, like any high-temperature cooking oil, apricot oil should be used with caution since excess heat from the pan can easily burn your hands.
Apricot kernel oil is a highly refined oil which easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients. The oil can be used as a stand-alone salad dressing, or mixed with other flavors, such as mustard or vinegar, to create a delicious condiment for veggies or meats.
If you have exceptionally dry hair, then apricot kernel oil can be a life-saver. Using a small amount of oil on your tips adds shine and helps cure split ends. It can also be used on the roots of the hair to soothe the scalp and promote hair growth. Feel free to use apricot kernel oil alone, or in combination with your regular shampoo or conditioner.
Apricot kernel oil is also commonly used in aromatherapy since it is a great "carrier oil," meaning it helps blend other oils together. It can also be mixed with other essential oils, such as lavender or sandalwood, to create a do-it-yourself massage oil.
Lastly, apricot oil is often found in beauty products since it easily absorbs into skin and won't leave it feeling overly sticky. Using apricot kernel oil for at-home skin care is easy: simply squeeze a small amount into your palm and then apply it anywhere that feels dry or scaly. A dime-sized amount of oil is a great way to re-moisturize and soften skin after showering or bathing. Apricot oil is also often used in commercial face lotions because of its anti-aging properties. In addition, it's proven to reduce bumps and red marks on the skin and can be used to treat sunburn, razor burn, eczema and psoriasis.
You can easily make your own skin care products using apricot kernel oil, like in the video below.