Botanist's Glossary

Apricot Tree - Prunus armeniaca

  • Description
    • Native to Central Asia, and long cultivated in China, the apricot tree (Rosaceae family) spread along the ancient caravan routes as far as the Middle East. The Romans brought it to Armenia in the 1st century BC, hence its Latin name Prunus Armeniaca. The apricot tree flourishes in mild climates. Its velvet-skinned fruit contains a smooth apricot pit, inside which is the kernel. In some varieties, these kernels can be sweet, but they are often bitter and toxic (cyanhydric acid).
  • Traditions
    • In Arabic medicine, the apricot was considered to be a fruit with the ability to "cool the stomach". The Chinese (no doubt because of its resemblance) believed that it was good for the heart. Apricot kernel oil has been used in beauty products from Central Asia to the Maghreb. In Morocco, apricot kernels are grilled and ground then mixed with rose water to make a mask that is renowned for effectively treating dark spots on the face and lightening the complexion.
  • Properties
    • The oil is extracted from the kernel by mechanical pressing after the pit is cracked open. Rich in vitamin E and with a pleasant aroma, it serves as a natural emollient to soften dry skin. It is also an antioxidant and protects cellular membranes against the damaging effects of free radicals.