Apricot seeds

Chinese: 杏仁

Pinyin: Xìng Rén

Parts used: Dried ripe seeds

TCM category: Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: Large intestineLung

Scientific name: Prunus armeniaca, Prunus sibirica or Prunus mandshurica

Use of apricot seeds (Xìng Rén) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove the seeds from the apricot and dry them.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Stops cough and wheezing caused by either Heat or Cold. Lubricates the Intestines and relieves constipation.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which apricot seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Coughing Asthma Bronchitis Dry cough Constipation

Contraindications*: This herb should be used with caution when there is Yin Deficiency and with infants. It should not be used when there is diarrhea. Eating too much may cause cyanide intoxication because apricot seeds contain hydrocyanic glycosides.

Common TCM formulas in which apricot seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind apricot seeds' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), apricot seeds are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. Herbs that relieve coughing and wheezing treat branch symptoms of this Stagnation and tend to have antitussive, expectorant, diuretic or laxative properties.

Furthermore apricot seeds are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that apricot seeds tend to help people who have too much "cold" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much cold in their body are said to either have a Yin excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition apricot seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Apricot seeds also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like apricot seeds tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such apricot seeds are thought to target the Large intestine and the Lung. In TCM the Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on apricot seeds

Methanol and water extracts of sweet and bitter apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) kernels display significant antimicrobial, and antioxidant activity.1

Sources:

1. D Yiğit, N Yiğit, A Mavi (2009). "Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of bitter and sweet apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) kernels". Braz J Med Biol Res, Volume 42(4) 346-352

Use of apricot seeds as food

Apricot seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Apricot Amaretti Cookies.