The apricot, a fuzzy little fruit, is a popular ingredient enjoyed in delectable Middle Eastern dishes, as a delicious healthy snack either raw or dried. Apricot kernel oil–the oil pressed from its seed, or kernel, has a rich history of uses for skin and overall health. We at the NAA think that everyone can find something to appreciate about this gem of an oil.

History of apricot kernel oil:

The apricot is indigenous to Armenia, the Himalayas, China and few other parts of Asia. It is believed to have first been cultivated before 3000 BC in India. Apricot kernels were prescribed in Chinese medicine for treating emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.

Throughout the history, apricot kernel oil has also been used for treating digestive issues, as well as for enhancing the health of hair and skin. Apricot kernel oil has been used in various complementary and traditional healing systems including Ayurveda due to its enormous therapeutic benefits for dry skin, hair loss, blemishes, symptoms of skin aging, and several internal health conditions.

Apricot kernel nutrition—and controversy

Are apricot kernels dangerously toxic to the body? Are they secret cure-alls? Or are they simply tasty snacks with a shape and flavor similar to almonds?

Depending on whom you ask about the nutritional value of eating apricot kernels, you could get any one of these answers. One of the reasons for this difference of opinion is that there are two distinct varieties of apricot kernels, sweet and bitter, but they’re not always labeled clearly when sold.

Sweet apricot kernels (prunus armeniaca) are ideal for snacking and baking, and they contain vitamin E and other healthy fats. Bitter apricot kernels (prunus amygdalus), however, contain a substance called amygdalin not found in the sweet variety that converts to toxic cyanide in the body. And it’s specifically the bitter varieties that have been touted for amazing, yet unsubstantiated, disease-eradicating benefits.

Apricots, on the other hand, offer nutritional benefits that are completely different from their seeds. Apricots are rich in beta carotene and are known to aid in digestion.

Why choose apricot kernel oil?

apricot-kernelsApricot kernel oil is excellent to use for glowing skin both as a topical skin oil, and a part of a healthy diet. It contains a bioavailable form of Vitamin A, which is beneficial for all skin types and conditions but particularly for those with acne or other skin lesions. It also nourishes the skin with anti-inflammatory and soothing Vitamin E, gamma linoleic acid and oleic acid, and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Apricot kernel oil is an excellent topical emollient, since it absorbs easily into the skin. It lends wonderful slip and spreadability to both anhydrous skin formulas and emulsions due to its lubricating properties. It also has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and naturally anti-bacterial properties.

Solvent extracted oil might contain residue from the solvent used (often hexane), and also may have lost some of its beneficial properties during the extraction process. For these reasons we recommend avoiding it both topically and for internal use. For topical use, we recommend either expeller pressed or cold pressed, unrefined, cosmetic grade apricot kernel oil. We prefer the cold pressed version because it’s less processed than expeller pressed.

We also love apricot kernel oil because it’s non-irritant topically, and is easily tolerated when consumed internally. The only safety consideration is that it is considered a tree nut, so it would not be appropriate for anyone with tree nut allergies.

Best uses for apricot kernel oil

Both expeller and cold pressed apricot kernel oil have a comedogenicity rating of 2 due to its high percentage of oleic acid. Therefore some people with acne or clog-prone skin might experience mild comedogenicity with apricot kernel oil, many do just fine with it in topical preparations. If comedogenicity is a concern, we recommend blending apricot kernel oil with non-comedogenic oils (like hemp seed oil) in oil cleansers and serums, rather than using it at 100% concentration. It’s great for dry, sensitive, and irritated skin (especially for people with eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea); and because of its lubricating properties, it’s ideal for massage oils and lip balms.

As a food, apricot kernel oil brings a light, nutty flavor to salads and stir-fry dishes, and is also great to cook with as it can withstand medium to high heat.

What to consider when using apricot kernel oil:

To get the most advanced skin nourishing benefits from your apricot oil, purchase oils that have the words ‘organic’ and ‘cold pressed’ on the label and store it in a dark bottle, away from light and heat. Be sure to use only food grade apricot kernel oil when consuming it internally–not cosmetic grade.

Apricot oil is a fairly shelf stable oil, due to its antioxidant content, but like most oils, it will last the longest if stored in the refrigerator. If you don’t want to refrigerate your cosmetic grade oil, consider adding additional vitamin E oil to the bottle. Regardless, label your bottle with the date, be aware of its expiration date, and check for signs of rancidity (cloudiness, odor, etc.) before use. Unused oil should be discarded after one year.


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*Photo credit David Avoura King