Apricot seeds are the smallest kernel enclosed within the wood-like pit at the center of the apricot fruit.
The innermost layers form the large, woody compressed stone that contains at its very center, the kernel, or seeds. When pressed, nearly half of this kernel gives forth an oil very chemically similar to the oil found in sweet almond and peach kernels. This oil contains olein, glyceride of linoleic acid, and a transparent, crystalline chemical compound, amygdalin, or laetrile. This compound is also known as vitamin B17. The oil is chemically indistinguishable from oil of bitter almond. Although the oil from apricot seeds usually breaks down into a toxic substance capable of causing death within the human body, there are also varieties of apricot seeds that are reported to be edible.
Because the oil from the apricot seeds are far less expensive than oil of almond, confectioners use it in place of bitter almond oil for flavoring sweets and as a culinary seasoning. A liqueur manufactured in France is made from apricot seeds and is called Eau de Noyaux.Apricot oil is also used extensively in the manufacture of cosmetics, often being fraudulently added to almond oil.
Chinese Medicine practitioners use apricot seeds as a treatment in respiratory diseases, including bronchitis and emphysema. It is believed to act as an cough suppressant and expectorant and, because of the oil, also used as a laxative. There has been considerable controversy regarding apricot seeds, and specifically amygdalin, one of its components. Since the 1920, in many countries around the globe it has been recognized as a possible cancer preven- tative and malignant cell growth inhibitor. In San Francisco, biochemist Ernst Krebs theorized that amygdalin, with diet and vitamins, could inhibit cancerous growths. In the years since, it has been used in many countries as a cancer treatment, thought to be especially beneficial in the treatment of smoking-related tumors such as lung cancer. Several studies done in the United States throughout the 1970s and early 1980s demonstrated that amygdalin did not kill cancer cells. Review of patients’records where there had been reported cures or remarkable size reduction in tumors did not provide credible evidence of amygdalin ability to treat cancer effectively. There has been significant documentation that amygdalin breaks down into cyanide, a potent poison, in the human body, and when taken in sufficiently high doses, can actually bring on death due to its toxicity.
Chinese practitioners caution using apricot seeds if the person being treated suffers from diarrhea. Headache
and nausea have been reported following ingestion of small amounts. The most serious side effect of apricot seed is potential cyanide poisoning. When large doses of cyanide are ingested, death is almost instantaneous. Toxicity from smaller doses is manifested by vomiting, diarrhea, mental confusion, vertigo, headache, extreme dyspnea, and violent respirations, slow pulse, weakness, glassy or protruding eyes, dilated pupils, and a characteristic (peach blossoms, bitter almond) odor to the breath.