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The Benefits of Apricot Kernel Oil

How can oil made from a stone fruit that contains cyanide be good for you? It’s true that cyanide is naturally synthesized from sugars in the raw seeds of certain fruits, like apricots. But, when cold-pressed, apricot kernels yield a light, mildly fragrant oil that is perfectly safe and loaded with fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins. This nourishing oil is good for every body of every age  – inside and out.

Apricot kernel oil is cold-pressed from the dried seeds of the fruit of the apricot tree. This natural oil is light-colored and fragrant, imparting a somewhat nutty aroma. This oil is excellent to use for high-temperature frying and cooking and to make salad dressings According to James A. Duke, Ph.D., apricot kernel oil is rich in fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E.  This makes the oil highly nutritious. The oil is also commonly used in the cosmetics industry in the production of various personal care products, particularly skin care formulas. Apricot kernel oil is also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory skin disorders, often in combination with other botanical materials.

What’s in It?

Semra Turan and fellow scientists at Abant Izzet Baysal University in Turkey published a paper in the Dec. 26, 2007 issue of the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” that detailed the compositions of oils obtained from nine different varieties of apricots grown in the Malatya region of Turkey. Collectively, all of the apricot kernels contained between 40.23 and 53.19 percent oil. In addition, the samples contained up to 70.83 percent oleic acid, 21.96 percent linoleic acid and smaller amounts of palmitic and stearic acids.

Nutritional Benefits

Due to a high oleic acid and linoleic acid content, apricot kernel oil is considered a good source of unsaturated fats. As the American Heart Association notes, this makes the oil healthier to use in cooking since fats “saturated” with hydrogen atoms -- otherwise known as saturated fats -- contain more energy, which translates into more calories from fat. Although the chemical structure of apricot kernel oil makes it more susceptible to turning rancid from lipid peroxidation, the presence of natural antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, help to offset decomposition and extend shelf life. The oil is also encapsulated for use a dietary supplement because it is an excellent source of essential fatty acids and antioxidants.

Cosmetic Use

Apricot kernel oil is found in many different types of cosmetics and personal care products, including soaps, creams, lotions, ointments, shampoos and conditioners. Unlike some oils that remain on the surface of the skin, apricot kernel oil is readily absorbed without leaving a greasy residue. If you tend to experience dry, itchy skin after bathing or showering, this is the perfect oil to lightly apply to damp skin before toweling off.


Since apricot kernel oil is moisturizing and quickly absorbed into the skin, it is often used as massage oil. Using a good quality oil can considerably enhance the benefits of massage, which range from reducing stress, pain and inflammation and instilling an overall sense of well-being. Apricot kernel oil is also very mild and non-irritating, making it suitable for children and infant massage.


Generally, the use of apricot kernel oil is very safe. However, if you buy the oil to use for culinary purposes make sure the label says “edible” or contains other language that indicates that it hasn’t been adulterated. The reason for this is because some manufacturers add stabilizing agents to apricot kernel oil intended for cosmetic use to extend shelf life, chemicals that you don’t necessarily want to share with family and friends at the dinner table.

There is another specific caution regarding apricot kernel oil worth noting. Until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibited the import of amygdalin-based products from Mexico marketed under the names “vitamin B-17” and a semi-synthetic product called “laetrile” in the 1970s, they were widely touted as anti-cancer treatments. According to the National Cancer Institute of the U.S., amygdalin, which is found in apricot kernels and other fruit seeds, is a plant sugar that creates cyanide. The institute also says that there is no scientific evidence that this substance inhibits cancer. Unfortunately, even under the threat of criminal prosecution, Internet sales of these products continue. So, while consuming apricot kernel oil is safe, stay clear of “vitamins” that contain raw apricot kernels or amygdalin.

Ready to experience the rich, nourishing benefits of apricot kernel oil? Here are a few ways to get started…

Exotic Massage Oil Blend

Sensual and romantic, the oil carries sweet notes and earthy undertones.

1/2 cup apricot kernel oil
20 drops lavender essential oil
15 drops cedar essential oil
8 drops bergamot essential oil
2 drop ylang ylang essential oil

Pour the apricot kernel oil into a small, clean glass bottle. Add the essential oils. Roll bottle between palms to blend, or stir with a spoon or swizzle stick. Shake before each use.

Basil ~ Orange Massage Oil

This oil is mentally stimulating and physically energizing.

1/2 cup apricot kernel oil
20 drops basil essential oil
10 drops sweet orange essential oil

Pour the apricot kernel oil into a small, clean glass bottle. Add the essential oils. Roll bottle between palms to blend, or stir with a spoon or swizzle stick. Shake before each use.

Apricot & Aloe Eye Cream

Rich and creamy, this formula will help to minimize fine lines. Apply nightly before bed.

1 teaspoon apricot kernel oil
1 teaspoon grated beeswax
1/2 teaspoon pure aloe vera gel
3 drops grapefruit seed essential oil
1 vitamin E capsule

Place the beeswax and apricot kernel oil in the top of a double boiler. Heat gently until the beeswax has completely melted; remove from the heat. Using a wooden spoon, blend in the aloe gel. Allow to cool slightly and add essential oil and the contents of the vitamin E capsule. Stir well to combine everything, then pour the mixture into a small jar. Let cool and cap tightly.

Lavender Foot Scrub

This scrub is soothing and refreshing for tired feet!

1/3 cup apricot kernel oil
1 cup Epsom salt
1 tablespoon liquid castile soap
6 drops lavender essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Soak your feet in hot water for several minutes.  When ready, scrub the soles of your feet with the prepared mixture. Rinse well and pat feet dry.

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